Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Cheshvan 5764 - November 5, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
The Old-New Campaign

by Rabbi N. Z. Grossman

Part II

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 discussion.

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 chas vesholom.

"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."

Common Knowledge

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 history.

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

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.