by Rabbi N. Z. Grossman
The Old-New Campaign
The first part noted that from time immemorial, the goal
of every chareidi family has been that its sons should grow
up to become Torah scholars. Those who were compelled to earn
a livelihood, never viewed what they had to do as the
fulfillment of an ideal. In recent years however, proposals
to arrange professional training have been surfacing, whose
true goal is to idealize leaving the beis hamedrash
and involvement in external studies.
HaRav Dessler writes, " . . . in the cases of some of
those whom they were forced to allow to leave, they ensured
that they would become shopkeepers or follow other pursuits
that are not professions, which . . . do not attract the
hearts of the talmidim." Rav Dessler writes that this
was also the view of the Chazon Ish zt'l, who was most
emphatic about it.
Recalling HaRav Shach's Determination
In a hesped that he delivered at the time of HaRav
Shach's first yahrtzeit (which appeared in the Pesach
edition of our paper), HaRav Shmuel Auerbach ylct'a,
Rosh Yeshivas Maalos Hatorah, spoke about this very point.
The following excerpts are highly relevant to our present
HaRav Auerbach mentioned the extent to which HaRav Shach
strengthened Torah study throughout his life and that, "he
also anticipated problems and took early measures to prevent
them from arising. Neither would he allow avreichim to
seek other pursuits or solutions so that they would `have
what to live on' etc. The source of all this was his
wholehearted conviction that, `We have nothing left but
Torah' -- that's all we have!"
HaRav Auerbach mentioned that, "the great Reb Chaim Halevi
ztvk'l wrote a well-known letter after haskoloh
had begun to spread. Part of haskoloh's power to
draw people away from Torah stemmed from their concern over
tachlis and parnossoh which bewildered many.
Reb Chaim wrote that it was important to be aware that the
fact that one sees -- and will always continue to find --
sincere, Heaven-fearing baalei batim in Klal
Yisroel, men who are not wholly occupied with Torah yet
who are wholeheartedly religious, is solely because these
people's foundation and the basis of their entire education,
their early years and the homes that they established, was
Torah. To begin with, when they started out in life, their
only ambition was `to dwell in Hashem's house all my life.'
In time, though they were unable to continue that path due to
the difficult conditions that once prevailed, they remained
sincere and faithful baalei batim."
A Matter of Survival
HaRav Auerbach added, "It is hard for me to speak in these
terms but one must address the issue of Torah's survival.
Divrei Torah always need strengthening (Brochos
32) and Chazal have told us that, "They are as easy to
lose as [fragile] glass vessels." A person should never feel
confident of his ability to withstand spiritual challenges
because even Torah that he acquired at great personal cost
can be lost.
"Chazal have said that divrei Torah are `easy to lose'
and the same is true of feelings, goals and character traits
that one has worked on. One can have toiled to develop a high
awareness of Torah's value and one can lose that too.
"Today there are parties working in their own interests, for
financial gain, that organize various initiatives. It is
possible that they are acting without malicious intent
chas vesholom, but simply from a lack of
understanding, yet the message that they convey in their
advertisements and their communications is, `Not everyone is
going to emerge a rosh yeshiva anyway,' and they,
consequently, offer alternatives, chas vesholom.
"One should be aware that it is literally forbidden to listen
to such things. This is how, beginning with small things, one
can move from a situation where Torah is genuinely being
upheld, to its neglect and to the destruction of religion
"We ought to rejoice over the swelling of the ranks of those
studying Torah and be wary of any influence of Pharaoh's
frame of mind, `lest they multiply' (Shemos 1:10).
These ideas were always deeply embedded in our national
consciousness. Jews always knew that the very greatest merit
was to study Torah. They always knew that Torah itself is the
solution to all problems."
The Rosh Yeshiva then cited several examples of how deeply
rooted Torah's supremacy used to be in the minds of even
ordinary Jews, men and women alike. "They knew that nothing
takes precedence over Torah. Neither the Rebbetzin a'h
of ylct'a . . . HaRav Eliashiv . . . nor my own mother
a'h, when they married bnei Torah, had any
thought or dream of marrying them because they would emerge
as the poskim of the generation. They didn't think
about that at all. They didn't give a thought to the future
or to positions and the like. They were deeply imbued with
the straightforward conviction that the husband sits and
learns Torah because one has to study Torah for its own sake
and that this is our purpose.
"Grandmother a'h always used to say that when they
rocked the babies' cribs to put them to sleep and sang,
`Lernen Torah, Torah iz die beste sechoirah' (To learn,
Torah, Torah is the best merchandise), that was when they
infused them with the awareness that Torah study itself is
the ultimate purpose. That was the common dream and goal. [It
was modified only] if individuals encountered problems,
chas vesholom, and felt that their situations were so
difficult that they simply couldn't continue.
"We saw that our own forbears did not leave Torah even when
they hungered for bread but even those who were not on such a
level of self-sacrifice, did not easily make the decision [to
leave learning] because they had been brought up not to see
this [path] as their future. Even when there was literally no
choice, they took the step with dreadful pain. I still heard
from Yidden who got to the stage where there was no
food left at all, yet when they parted from the gemora
it was literally Tisha B'Av for them!
"Granted, one can't give guidelines that fit each and every
individual situation. Only Hakodosh Boruch Hu is
capable of judging each case on its own merits . . . What I
am talking about is something else entirely. We are not just
dealing with this or that individual who finds things hard
and decides to leave. There are people with personal agendas
who are creating an atmosphere that can chas vesholom
develop into an outlook, of [legitimizing] seeking other
solutions and who are elevating and valuing their idea. This
is a terrible blow, for here we are dealing with Torah, the
Jewish religion's heart of hearts.
"This approach is a dreadful insult and a disgrace to the
ideals to which our teachers devoted themselves. How much
blood has been spilled -- how much have we fought through the
ages -- in order to acknowledge that Torah is the main thing
and that we have nothing else? Truly, we have nothing left
but this Torah!"
The Dangers and the Dividends
"The danger is not confined to the weakening Torah study. It
is well-known that the beginning of all spiritual
deterioration is a diminishing of toil in Torah. When there
is a drop in the fulfillment of, `If you proceed in
[accordance with] my statutes -- that you should toil in
Torah' (Vayikra 26:3, Rashi), the very worst
manifestations of, `lest your hearts turn and you stray'
(Devorim 11:16) are in the offing.
"Chazal say that as soon as one strays, chas vesholom,
a descent to the very depths is immediate. Chazal tell us
that the words, `and you stray' apply to someone who parts
from Torah and the following words in our eternal Torah are,
`and you stray and serve other gods.' Even though the
urge to serve idols has been neutralized, the descent that
follows any parting from Torah is of the same order of
severity, with all that entails.
"This has always been a foundation of Jewish living. Never
before have men whose sole aim is to reap profits tried to
introduce the idea that anything other than this can serve as
a starting point. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is running the
world. Even in our times, with all the dreadful deterioration
that has followed the fearsome, unparalleled destruction, He
has granted us the opportunity of being able to dwell in the
tents of Torah -- and may He help us to do so in greater
comfort, rather than in penury.
"Each and every individual has his own portion in Torah. It
is well known that even famous gedolim were not
necessarily especially gifted; they fully exploited their
portion in Torah and grew tremendously in so doing. When a
person reaches the stage at which he is able to continue his
growth, the yetzer hora starts putting thoughts into
his mind like, `What will become of you?' and `What will you
achieve?' The response to this should be to tell oneself,
`What will turn out? This is what is turning out! My
own Torah attainments and my own portion in Torah! Continue
with renewed vigor and with great joy and you will develop
wonderfully!' . . .Even if it appears to us that we won't
develop as we would have liked, every day that we can spend
learning is cause for the greatest imaginable joy.
"Let us resolve then, that `we have nothing left but Torah.'
Let us both increase Torah study and swell the ranks of those
who engage in it, in the awareness that `lest they multiply'
was Pharaoh's fear and should not be ours."
Our Present Duty
We have quoted at length from HaRav Auerbach's remarks and
his citation of the fundamental lessons that our teachers
have taught us, as a rejoinder to those who advocate
vocational training for avreichim. The Torah world
shall continue treading the time-honored path that has been
transmitted to us by previous generations, and shall always
reject such proposals out of hand. For, as HaRav Dessler
writes about our teachers' approach to those who had to go to
work, "in the cases of some of those whom they were forced to
allow to leave, they ensured that they would become
shopkeepers or follow other pursuits that are not
professions, which do not require training and do not attract
the hearts of the talmidim. As for those whose hearts'
desire was to go and learn a profession and certainly those
who chose an academic profession -- they had nothing
whatsoever to do with them."
As Rav Dessler explains, this approach was intended to
prevent the pursuit of a profession from becoming generally
attractive and to emphasize the axiom that earning a
livelihood is simply part of the curse of Odom Horishon and
that our attitude to it should reflect this.
The struggle against mistaken notions has now become all-
encompassing. Even those who have not merited living a life
of single-minded devotion to Torah now understand the
potential dangers. People are generally aware that all the
proposals and offers that are supposedly being extended to us
out of concern for our well-being, are really intended to
uproot all that has been carefully cultivated over the past
decades. This pattern is reflected throughout Jewish
Now that our would-be benefactors are hardening their
attitudes, we all feel that it is a time of religious
persecution, in the form of their efforts to minimize Torah
study. This makes it even more important that we strongly
oppose all their "generous" offers to assist the families of
avreichim by drawing their husbands and fathers "out
into the workforce."
See Part 1
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