Monday, January 16, 2006

A visit to a gadol

I recently had the privilege of visiting one of the Gedolim in his house in Bnei Brak. The visit reminded me of a famous story about the Chofetz Chaim. A wealthy man once visited the Chafetz Chaim. He was shocked that the Chofetz Chaim had no furniture in his house. The Chafetz Chaim explained as follows. He asked the rich man where is your furniture? The man answered at home in my house, now I am just travleing. The Chafetz Chaim answered I am also just traveling through this world to get to the next world, therefore I have no furniture here.

I felt like I was reliving this story. We walked into a dingy old apartment that you and I would never live in (in fact, we would call it a dump). The only furniture was a table, some chairs, and bookcases full of sefarim. It is clear that the gadol doesn't see things the way we do and has no problem living in this kind of apartment. After all, he has a chair a table and a bed (I am being serious).

This was very inspiring to me. I realized that this man was so far above me and that all his life was torah and only torah and the material things in this world did not concern him 1 bit. However, it scared me as well. Will there be anyone in the next generation willing to live like that, or are we all too spoiled? Who in our generation is willing to sacrifice for Torah like that?


Shmuel said...

I certainly allow that man to live his life the way he sees fit, certainly, but what of the tens of thousands of frum Jews in Israel who are in grinding, generational, impossible-to-break-out-of poverty? The poverty in Israel among chareidim is so extreme and intractable, and it seems it was created by the spiritual guidance of men like you described. A society like that can't last much longer, it seems to me, and already it's changing, though the rabbinical authorities probably oppose such efforts; after all, what more do you need than a chair, a desk and a bed?

Anonymous said...

Ive been to Rav AYL Shteinman, Rav Elyashiv, Rav Yisroel Elya Weintraub, Rav Gershon Edelshtein (RY of Ponovezh).... and they seem to be the same.

Ive heard the same about Rav Shach and rav SZ Auerbach.

And its not just here in EY, in America, i think Rav Moshe lived in a similar way.

I think there will always be people living on bare minimum in terms of Gashmiyus in exchange for extreme ruchniyus. Dont know where he is... but ID like to find him

Anonymous said...


Is there any reason you didn't reveal the name of the gadol?

bluke said...

To maintain my anonymity and it didn't seem that important

Shmuel said...

Reb Moshe didn't live such a spartan life. I was in his apartment and davened mincha with him. It was a perfectly nice apartment, with nice appointments, perhaps even a chandelier in the living room, decent furniture. No way you'd walk in there and drop your jaw that the man was living in a hovel. It wasn't gaudy, but by no means was it a monk's cell, either.
And could someone please address my issues, raised above, of exasperating Israeli charedi poverty, created by men who demand that everyone learn Torah and never work or serve in the army or do anything? They created a system of thousands of young men who have no business learning Talmud 14 hours a day but doing so in order to a) get a shidduch; b)allow their siblings to get a shidduch; c) avoid working forever. Every day in my out -of-town community we see men from Israel collecting money. This morning I saw a guy who couldn't be more than 35-40 years old. I read his tzedakah sheet: 5 children, some of whom need special education. Of course it's sad, and I gave him, but I couldn't help wonder: why not just get a job in Israel, instead of flying over to the USA? Why not open a business? Why not do anything? We do. So should he. But it's not allowed in chareidi society. And that's one reason why Israel's not for me. The other is that I would probably touch off a chareidi riot in Ramat Bet Shemesh for not being orthodox enough, like the recent web stories report. Can't charedim in Israel grow up and pretend to be adults, and live responsible lives, or is that not the Torah way?

Bill Selliger said...

Who in our generation is willing to sacrifice for Torah like that?

Someone will step up. They always do. Who knows, it may be your kid, it may be mine. It's one of the benefits of being a member of the am hanivchar. Someone always fills the hole.

Anonymous said...

I live in Israeli Chareidi society (though ud never know it, since i use the net for work and sometimes for blogging when Im on hold) and let me assure you that it IS indeed allowe for chareidim to work. Chareidim own stores (ever been to Meah shearim or har nof?) they have small businesses etc.

What is not allowed is college. However, Classes are offerred and there are always more and more of them opening up.

In terms of poverty, there is poverty here. There are more people than jobs available.
In addition, a guy who gets geshmak out of learning, and makes lets say $500 from his kollel isnt going to jump ship and work to make $700 per month. He will just try to get by on the $500, and do what he loves. Problem is, and I agree with YOU on this, that $100 a month for 4 years (lets say) adds up to $10,000... a not so minor sum when you only make $500 for a whole year.

It IS a problem and it IS being dealt with, albeit at a Israeli Chareidi pace....

Jake said...

Did you ask him why he banned R' Slifkin's books?

Shmuel said...

I'm glad things are being addressed, if only at a snail's pace, but it was untenable to begin with to create a chareidi society so beholden to Israeli government handouts, overseas schnorring, and wealthy in-laws. That's not how to create a viable society. With every new election in Israel we hear yelps from the chareidim that they're going to lose funding for their heilige moisdois. I'm tired of that. Become self-sufficient already. Grow up. Destigmatize work and entrepreneurial activity. Kick out the freeloaders from the yeshivas. Administer exams. Prove you've actually learned something with all the public funds you've taken. Publish something. Go on the equivalent of Project SEED and teach beginners around the country. Lead a Shabbat service for beginners. Do something to justify all the cigarettes you've smoked and coffee you drank over the years. Revamp the kollel scene in Israel, make it really worthy, and you'll have plenty of donors who'll want to be affiliated.
But no. Instead, all must learn Talmud non-stop, even they're not cut out for it. And plenty are not cut out for it, but they do it anyway. And the poverty is severe. And there's little hope.
I wish Israeli yeshiva and kollel guys well. I just think they're lemmings who suffer dire poverty for no real good reason, that's all. And this gadol you reference is not a good enough reason.

Shmuel said...

Oh, let me clarify: by chareidim I include Yeshivish people, but you may not. So when you write, "Charedim work and own stores, ever been to Meah Shearim lately?' you're quite right. Chassidim do indeed work and own stores. But thousands of Litvishe yeshiva guys would never dream of taking a job: too demeaning, it shows you failed out of learning, etc. And it's precisely that stigma which ought to change for the betterment of Israeli socity.