Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bnei Torah and a sense of entitlement

Jonathan Rosenblum has a very important article whose focus is that boys learning in yeshiva need to help clean for Pesach as well. In fact, the article raises a much more important and fundamental issue, that many Bnei Torah feel a false sense of entitlement just because they are learning Torah.

The second major reason not to grant draft exemptions from Pesach cleaning is that it fosters a sense of entitlement that can work against true striving in Torah. Contrary to the common impression among yeshiva bochurim, limud Torah is not a general exemption from all responsibilities in life. As one who was zocheh to learn in kollel for nearly 15 years, I view the expansion of kollel learning as the glory of our generation. But nothing will ever come from one who views yeshivah or kollel as life with an E-Z Pass.
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But acceptance of the yoke of Torah must come first. One does not demand that one be freed from responsibilities in order that one can learn. Nor does the yoke of Torah provide one with a right to demand from others that they take on one's responsibilities.
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More and more, especially in shidduchim, we hear the attitude expressed that a ben Torah is entitled to be spared all life's worries and to be able to live in comfort in order that he can learn in peace. Such an expectation is both unrealistic and dangerous. It is impossible to protect oneself from all worries: illness strikes, fathers-in-laws' businesses go bankrupt, wives who undertook the burden of parnassah find that they are no longer physically or emotionally capable of doing so six children later, or that the children are suffering from having a permanently drained and part-time mother.

The quest for comfort can be inimical to spiritual growth in general and to growth in Torah learning in particular. When the Mishnah in Avos (6:4) describes the way of Torah – "bread with salt shall you eat, water by measure shall you drink, on the earth shall you sleep" – it is hardly describing a life of comfort.
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An acquaintance told me recently that her brother had been advised against a certain shidduch by his friends. They had pointed out that the girl's parents were already in late middle-age, and that she had only one sister, so she might end up having to take care of her parents one day. At least her brother was embarrassed when she pointed out: "Oh, so you expect your in-laws to support you for twenty years, but, chas v'Shalom, you should ever have to do anything for them." No doubt such bald-faced selfishness is rare, but the extreme examples often reveal more than we care to admit.


Based on what he said above, we could say the same thing about draft exemptions from serving in the army or not working for a living.

One does not demand that one be freed from responsibilities in order that one can learn. Nor does the yoke of Torah provide one with a right to demand from others that they take on one's responsibilities.

Are not the draft exemptions exactly that? A demand that other's take on the responsibility of defending the country while they sit and learn? Is not sitting in kollel and expecting others to support them a demand that others work while they sit and learn?

11 comments:

Chanoch said...

Draft exemptions are different. The people holding up the world, securing the borders and the cities are none other than those learning.

This is aside from the immoral activity which is unfortunately rampant in the army. This is aside from the chillul shabbos which is rampant in the army. This is aside from the kashrus issues. This is aside from the internal hatred that the "upper echelons" in secular iaraeli society has for the chareidim, which would make the army a most uncomfortable experience for a charei soldier.

I like a lot of your posts. Even those that I disagree with still make sense as a different point of view. On this one, though, I think you missed the mark.

bluke said...

All the issues that you mentioned about the army can be taken care of, in fact, they are in the Nachal Charedi.

david said...

Are you saying that there should be no draft exemptions, period, or that they are being abused? If it's the former, then we can say that there are world class Gedolim who would disagree.

bluke said...

That they are being abused. That every person thinks that he is entitled to a draft exemption.

Chanoch said...

Im not familiar with nachal chareidi, but does everyone agree that these issues are being taken care of?

And there is still the first reason - that the bnei torah are the ones prtectign klal yisroel. During wars, for example, the real battles are waged in the botei medrash and the botei kneses. This is where klal yisroel fights the best, and this is what helps us defeat our enemies. Sure, you need hishtadlus - but dont forget which is the ikar and which is the tafel. When a person "makes" a good parnasah and "makes" some good deals - who is really "making"| the parnasah?

bluke said...

There is a chiyuv hishtadlus. In fact, the gemara says that the tzadikim are the ones who are supposed to go war. By a milchemes reshus we send back someone who has even an aveira d'rabbanan like talking between the tefillin shel yad and shel rosh.

bluke said...

Here is a quote from an article of R' Aharon Lichtenstein on exemptions for yeshiva students (Tradition, Fall 1985):

Finally, even if we grant that the Rambam's statement does imply a categorical dispensation in purely halachic terms, it remains of little practical significance. We have yet to examine just to whom it applies. A levi [sic] is defined genealogically. Those who are equated with him, however, literally or symbolically, are defined by spiritual qualities; and for these the Rambam sets a very high standard indeed. He present an idealized portrait of a selfless, atemporal, almost ethereal person - one whose spirit and intelligence have led him to divest himself of all worldly concerns and who has devoted himself "to stand before God, to serve Him, to worship Him, to know God; and he walks aright as the Lord has made him and he has cast off from his neck the yoke of the many considerations which men have sought." To how large a segment of the Torah community - or, a fortiori, of any community - does this lofty typology apply? To two percent? Five Percent? Can anyone... confront a mirror and tell himself that he ought not to go to the army because he is kodesh kodashim, sanctum sanctorum, in the Rambam's terms? Can anyone with even a touch of vanity or a concern for kavod contend this? Lest I be misunderstood, let me state clearly that I have no quarrel with economic aspiration or with normal human foibles per se. again, least of all do I wish to single out b'nei yeshivot for undeserved moral censure. I do feel, however, that those who would single themselves out for saintliness should examine their credentials by the proper standard

In essence, RAL's point is that requires a tremendous amount of hubris for a person to say that my learning is so important that I don't need to go to the army and fight, especially when in many other areas the person doesn't show such great faith (as RAL describes). It is very nice for a person to say that they are joining Shevet Levi, but who says that they were accepted?

Chanoch said...

Agreed there is a chiyuv hishtadlus. But I would equate it with the chiyuv for parnasa. And as you point out, more (chareidi) people that hishtadlus much more seriously. However, if someone is already providing for you, is there a chiyuv hishtadlus? A 14 year old boy, whose father gives him what needs - does he need to go to work as well? I wouldnt think so, though Im no poseik. But if my theory is correct, then once there is a fully functioning army, why does any one individual have to go? Someone else is taking care of it on my behalf. I have heard that the army wouldnt know what to do with 100,000 chareidim who showed up one morning ready to go to the army. There is no need for that many more people. They would just cause problems with their "halachos".

Moreover, I dont think that the Rabbonim fully concede to you that this nachal chareidi is the answer to the army issue on a grand scale.

There is a tremendous amount of distrust between the 2 parties (chareidi and secular). I couldnt see any (and for sure not many) chareidim believing some secular commander, that such and such activity has been approved by the rabbonim to perform on shabbos. Despite the fact that the commanders have been known to lie, and make frum soldiers feel uncomfortable as much as they can, there is no trust. Zero. None. No desire to trust. The secular feel that the chareidim would love to get rid of them - either thru kiruv, or having them just move away. And the chareidim feel that everything the secular does is either to throw more of the yoke of Torah off (personally and as a country) or to try to make sure that this country doesnt look to Jewish. Call it non-american. Youre right. Its not american. Its Israel. And its not too good. But do you see it otherwise?

jewish-man said...

>Are not the draft exemptions exactly that? A demand that other's take on the responsibility of defending the country while they sit and learn?

Marty, have a look in Yoreh Deah 243:2 that anyone who is Torah Um'noso is Patur from paying for the security (walls, watchmen etc) of the city since "Sh'ein Tzrichin Shmirah, She'toroson Shmi'roson".

The same should equally apply for the draft.

bluke said...

R' Zevin pointed out that that this is a fallacy. That is talking about times of peace. In times of war no one says that they don't need shemira

daat y said...

bluke well done.Great quote from R.Lichtenstein.Let all who want exemptions take bechinos to qualify.