Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Failure of the Contemporary Yeshivot

The contemporary yeshiva structure, with its thousands of young men sitting and learning for years, is a tremendous thing. It has massively increased the number of men learning seriously, and the amount of Torah studied overall. Since Torah is the heart and soul of Judaism, this is all to the good. But what was the goal of such mass learning, unprecedented in Jewish history?

It should be clear by now that R' Dessler's advice, which is the foundation of the modern movement for everyone to sit & learn all day, was empirically wrong. He advised, to replace the gedolim lost in the War, that we throw a thousand into the mill of the yeshiva, in hopes of producing one godol, and if we lose a few along the way, the price is worth it.

The problem is, gedolim are not trained by mass yeshiva learning. That may be how to start out, but the potential of true gedolim is generally recognized at an early age, and they are pulled out of the yeshiva and given private tutelage, to maximize their potential.

We see this today. We have no gedolim like the prewar Gedolim, no real Yiftach in our generation as it were. Not in any school of thought. We have ideologues, we have partisans, we have all kinds of hacks, but no real Gedolim who are looked to by all branches of Orthodoxy.

It sounds like R' Aharon Kotler, in calling Lakewood a "sh'at hadechak", a temporary measure, understood that R' Dessler's advice was meant to be temporary, an experiment, to remedy a one-time loss. But by now, too many interests are entrenched for the Charedim to find a better, more productive way in both Torah and communal life. Also, the desire to avoid army service and its corrupting social influence, for many Chareidim, means that they *have* to take the exemptions for lerners.

It will take massive social changes to undo this system, find a way for more than a few Chareidim to serve in the IDF or National Service, return Chareidim to the workforce (which is what Chasidism was meant to help - the working Jew, the hoi polloi - while learning is a goal, all-day learning is not necessarily for everyone) so that they can support the next generation of Chareidim in better than abject poverty, and recognize true genius and support it to create the next generation of gedolim.


Philo said...

Yes, but how will that happen? The charedi world rejects logic when it comes to the problems of the kollel system. If you suggest changes, you are seen as anti-Torah right off the bat.

micha said...

There are two issues here, once you mention the army. Yes the army an alternative to spending the time in yeshiva. But it's also exposure to people as they behave when under stress -- not necessarily their most sexually moral, using the cleanest language, etc... The army is also indoctrination into valuing Zionism, something else Chareidim would want their youth to avoid.

Speaking of R' Aharon Kotler... That also brings up the differences between American yeshivish and Israeli chareidim, the latter being far far more extreme in their isolationism. But in any case, in RAK's day, kollel was for a maximum of 3 years, 5 if you were going into the rabbinate. RAK didn't believe in the lengths of kollel lives we had today.

It's not just that chareidim aren't willing to change to ackwnoeldge the end of the crisis that caused their lifestyle. They are actually more extreme than they were at the time of the crisis.

That said, the information age has brought a whole new crisis...

מתנאל said...

i think the combine of both
army and torah can go together