Thursday, July 05, 2007

Your choice: a talmid chacham with average parnasa or a rich am ha'aretz

If you read this blog regularly you probably know I have little appreciation for the pragmatism that has infected Judaism in lieu of ideology. This article is the latest evidence of the trend: a celebration of the power of Jews to make money [yes, you did read that correctly]. Instead of brushing off the “hondling gene” as an anti-semitic pejorative, it is applauded as a typically Jewish attribute. The article quotes from a Satmar Chossod, “An education is helpful for earning a living, but it’s irrelevant if you want to make MONEY.” [caps in the original] Yes, I know – there are wonderful things you can do with money, and the more money you have, the easier it is to help have that yeshiva built, dedicate a hospital wing, and what not, activities which undoubtedly are fulfilling and rewarding endeavors. But should a Jew set his sights on making "MONEY", or should a Jew be satisfied “earning a living” and dedicating the rest of his time to avodas Hashem? Is every Jew considered capable of engaging in limud haTorah and avodah on some level, which should be a priority after their living needs are met, or do some Jews now have a blanket heter to devote themselves 150% to making “MONEY” because they are incapable of learning and that is there only possible outlet for avodah? Is celebrating "MONEY" a Jewish value?

Let’s put it this way: given the choice to raising your child to be a talmid chacham but with average parnasa, or a rich am ha’aretz who can devote himself to good causes, which would you prefer? (I wish I was convinced that the answers to this were going to be as clear cut…. Please prove me wrong!)

24 comments:

  1. Big fan of your blog.

    I believe that you have broken this down too much, thereby viewing it solely within a black or white prism.

    You allow only 2 choices - rich am haaretz or average parnasa talmid chacham. Certainly, one may strive to be a rich talmid chacham. I am certain that there are many out there, many in the neighborhood within which you live. As for the last type, the average parnasa am haaretz, it goes without saying that such group is, by far, the most populous.

    Do not limit one's vision - one may have their cake and eat it too.

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  2. Yes, it would be nice to have your cake and eat it, but the article in question is not celebrating talmidei chachamim who happen to have made enough $ to engage in big tzedaka projects - it celebrates people who are (or think of themselves) as incapable of being talmidei chachamim and instead have devoted themselves to business and engaged in good works. Given the context, I want to frame at least the theoretical question of whether of goals - is the article celebrating a tolderable b'dieved, or is this something seriously to strive for?

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  3. Surely the do-gooder am haaretz is better.

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  4. XGH,

    You've lost every singly argument about religion I've seen you participate in. It really seems like you just don't care about the truth - unless your just continuing to act like this for schtick.

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  5. Yehuda R12:34 PM

    RE the first paragraph of this blog posting.I was present when someone asked Rav Nosson Vachtfogel Zt'l (former Lakewood Masgiagh)for a brocah that he should make money.He answered (basicly) that he would give a brocah that one have hatzalacha in making parnosah but not money.(Parnosh implies one is seeking to do tzedoka b'chol b'chol eis by supporting his family.Money does not)
    Re the second paragraph.I don't understand what the article refered to was trying to say altogethger.There are many variables in the question of being a rich am haaretz askan or poor talmid chochem so my prefence would have to be decided on a case by case basis.In general however one groomed to be a talmid chocom with avarage parnossah is probably more likely to reach his goal and potential then one groomed to be an am haaretz askan is.

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  6. kishnevi1:52 PM

    Aren't both necessary? What good is learning without mitzvot? And don't mitzvot require learning?

    I would vote for a talmid chacham with enough parnasa to do at least some good deeds. But everyone is different, and it's impossible to make a hard and fast rule. For some people, doing mitzvot is the better route than learning.

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  7. Bob Miller2:03 PM

    Any community needs both earners and learners, including those who do both in varying proportions.

    Of course, even the greatest earners need a working knowledge of Torah.

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  8. Bill Selliger3:21 PM

    What I wish for my children, in order of importance:

    1) Health and Happiness (tie)
    2) Security (mental, emotional, physical, financial, etc.)
    3) Good Jews

    Call me a kofer, but that's the way it is to me.

    So, to answer your question, if the children truly desire MONEY and will not be secure without it, let them make their money; even at the expense of learning Torah.

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  9. given the choice to raising your child to be a talmid chacham but with average parnasa, or a rich am ha’aretz who can devote himself to good causes, which would you prefer?

    What if you could raise your father-in-law, which would you prefer? :)

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  10. As a businessman all my life, making money has always been an important aspect. I however always feel and felt guilty about the importance I gave to that but still continued doing it. I would feel a hypocrite if I was to tell others not to see making money as important. I however believe it is overrated and I many times wish I had chosen the academic path rather than the one I am on.

    I hope to make enough money any day now so I can retire and spend my days learning and writing. :-)

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  11. poor in cedarhurst9:43 PM

    money all the way, tuition in our community for 3 kids can go as high as 50k.

    and dont tell me I need to move just because i cant afford tuition. that seems backwards.

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  12. >>>and dont tell me I need to move just because i cant afford tuition. that seems backwards.

    I wouldn't tell you that, but we were told the same by a certain school administrator in the community. I am about to start ranting, so let me just cut myself off with one observation: community rabbonim who encourage people to devote themselves to torah and avodah will have no credibility if on the other side of its mouth community leaders emphasize MONEY to the exclusion of other values.

    >>>What if you could raise your father-in-law, which would you prefer? :)

    L'olam yisa adam bas talmid chacham.

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  13. Anonymous12:10 PM

    L'olam yisa adam bas talmid chacham.

    But what if that means you yourself won't be, because nobody is going to support you?

    My brother asked this question of his RY, who answered that it depends if the f-i-l in question is an Am Haaretz 'D'Oraysa' or 'D'Rabbanan'.

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  14. L'olam yisa adam bas talmid chacham.

    But what if that means you yourself won't be, because nobody is going to support you?
    __________________

    I think there are many examples of self-supported talmidei chachamim (look at the baal ha-blog!). And why is this chazal of choosing a bas talmid chacham instead of bas gvir not given the same accord as others?

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  15. >>>But what if that means you yourself won't be, because nobody is going to support you?

    Chazal did not see poverty to having to work as an obstacle to being a t"ch; they did see not being married to someone who will appreciate torah (i think that's what bas t"ch means, not stam yichus) as one.

    See the quote in full (pes 49) - "l'olam yimkor adam kol mah she'yesh lo v'yisa bas t'Ch". It is worth seling all your possessions (i.e. living in poverty) to be married to a bas t"ch. QED.

    To the degree that the 'ba'al hablog' can accomplish anything in learning it is only because of the invaluable encouragement of his wife, not because he is free from the burden of parnasa.

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  16. So that's why you told me to read the comments on this post! ;-) You left out the references to the brother of the girl one is considering ....

    As for those who believe "having one's cake and eating it too" is the ideal, that is ignoring the fact that it is highly improbable. Rav Yehudah HaNasi is lauded for "Torah uGedula bemakom echad" precisely because it is so rare.


    I also recall a Chazal warning one on how to treat the poor, for from them shall spring Torah scholars.


    You know Chazal say, "Harotzeh lehachkim yardim," that one who want to become wise [in Torah] should tilt toward the south in directing his prayer. Material wealth, on the other hand, are associated with the north side. Is it possible to face north and south at the same time? I would infer that one must choose a direction and cannot claim to be pursuing BOTH equally. That does not mean that one cannot earn a livlihood while devoting himself Torah but that one cannot claim to be an aspiring talmid chacham and aspire to be top macher at the same time.
    Many who claim they want MONEY [all in caps] in order to be able to support yeshivas, etc., are possibly rationalizing or are also motivated by the honor that is accorded to the donors.

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  17. Anonymous3:53 PM

    I didn't say that NOBODY could be a Talmid Chacham if you support yourself, I said what if SOMEONE can't because he has to support himself?

    Also, who knows what the Ba'al Hablog could accomplish if he could learn 16 hours a day. And if he can't, what about the person who can but can't because he has to support himself?

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  18. Anonymous3:53 PM

    I didn't say that NOBODY could be a Talmid Chacham if you support yourself, I said what if SOMEONE can't because he has to support himself?

    Also, who knows what the Ba'al Hablog could accomplish if he could learn 16 hours a day. And if he can't, what about the person who can but can't because he has to support himself?

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  19. >>>I said what if SOMEONE can't because he has to support himself?

    Everyone could learn more if they had 16 hours a day to do it in instead of having to go to work! Chazal must have known that too, but they seemed to think that marrying a bas t"ch is more important. Chazal often praise the value of work even though it obviously costs time. What are you saying????

    Chazal say a poor person will have to give a din v'cheshbon on his not learning as poverty is no excuse, as we see from Hillel (IIRC), and a similar din v'cheshbon applies to the nisyonos of a rich person, which are also no excuse. A person CANNOT ta'anah "Well, I'm different and I just can't do it!" The whole point of Torah is that a person must overcome the obstacles and do they best that they can.

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  20. Anonymous4:51 PM

    Everyone could learn more if they had 16 hours a day to do it in instead of having to go to work!

    Let us assume, for the sake of clarifying the stakes here, that there are only two options available to an individual:

    a) Learn full time and be supported, becoming Baki in Shas and Poskim.

    b) Work 8-9 hours a day five days a week (spending 4-6 years of many hours a day in school preparing for those 8-9 hour a day workdays) making enough to pay your bills, and do the best you can re learning.

    Which do we prefer?

    It is not AT ALL Pashut that we prefer the latter if someone can become a major T"C being the former and can't do that doing the latter. It is Pashut to RMF, in fact, farkert. (IM YD IV:36)


    Hillel is no Ra'aya since he worked K'dei Chayav Mamash - making a bare subsistence level in very little time per day, which today is not Shayach.

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  21. >>>It is not AT ALL Pashut that we prefer the latter if someone can become a major T"C

    Please show me the person who knows b'nevuah that they will become a major t"ch if only they had full financial support, and can say that with no personal negiyos. I know if no such person. I do know many t"ch who have never said anything like this and have struggled with major problems of every sort and overcome them to become the gedolei yisrael who they are. The bio of just about every single gadol b'yisrael comes to mind. Amazing coincidence that the people who by your theory are least equipped to become gedolim somehow are the very ones who managed to do so!

    I would also venture to say the type person who needs pampering and cannot learn unless someone else foots their bills will soon discover that life offers many other distractions to learning - tza'ar gidul banim to name an obvious one - and unless a person learns to cope with difficulty they will amount to a big nothing. Witness the tremendous # of people today who do have financial support and are far from beki'im in shas and poskim despite their hours of freedom from financial pressure.

    >>>which today is not Shayach.

    Why not? Should we erase that Chazal from the books?

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  22. Anonymous5:05 PM

    BTW, I'm not disagreeing with you that having a wife who is Machshivah Torah is perhaps even more critical, and not even with your take on Bas T"C, (after all, a girl was a product of her home) which makes the question posed re which f-i-l to choose all the more valid, and the answer making the Chilluk between an Am HaAretz D'Oraysa or D'Rabonon makes quite a bit of sense.

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  23. Anonymous5:26 PM

    Please show me the person who knows b'nevuah that they will become a major t"ch if only they had full financial support,

    You don't have to know that b'nevuah. You don't have to be a genius to know that if you're 20 and you spend the next 20 years working 8-9 hours a day vs. learning full time that you have a very slim chance of becoming a major T"C, (and slim is probably not in town) and if you learn full time you have a chance of fulfilling the Tosfos re why R' Akiva becoming a Gadol was Hataras Nedarim with Nolad.

    The bio of just about every single gadol b'yisrael comes to mind. Amazing coincidence that the people who by your theory are least equipped to become gedolim somehow are the very ones who managed to do so!

    That's a tremendous Guzma at best. How many Gedolei Yisrael worked professionally for 8-9 hours a day? How many were supported in learning in Kollel or by their f-i-ls?


    I would also venture to say the type person who needs pampering and cannot learn unless someone else foots their bills

    like everyone in Kollel?

    Witness the tremendous # of people today who do have financial support and are far from beki'im in shas and poskim despite their hours of freedom from financial pressure.

    but compare the # of those who do have this support, and who are, vs. those who work 40 hours a week who are?

    Why not?

    You know people subsisting on an hour or two a day of work? I know very few, and they aren't Talmidei Chachamim. Except one who is supremely wealthy.

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  24. Anonymous5:28 PM

    why R' Akiva becoming a Gadol was* Hataras Nedarim with Nolad.

    * Should be "was not".

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