Aviad Kleinberg
Aviad Kleinberg

Haredi sea of mediocrity

Op-ed: Intensive Torah, Talmud studies not for everyone, but haredim have no choice

The senselessness of the notion that allows a growing part of Israel’s population to evade work is clear. The foolish law on yeshiva student allowances is bad for seculars (because it’s discriminatory, and because it boosts the burden – which is great as it is – born by the secular sector.) However, the income supplement law is bad for the haredim as well: It simultaneously encourages laziness and mediocrity.


The scholarly haredi community is a society where those who wish to make a living by working are condemned for not being a part of the collective project, that is, endless, Sisyphean study of the Torah (and the entire Talmud in fact.) However, the intensive study of the Torah is suitable only for a few.


Think for a moment about what would happen had all Israeli citizens been required to study, day and night, the theories of great French philosophers. We can assume that a small group of scholars may have been able to get something out of these studies – new, more complex interpretations, new sensitivities, and original insights. However, most people would waste their time and energy for nothing. They would not benefit much or produce anything valuable. They would be bored.


Studying complex texts such as the Talmud is not for everyone. It is no wonder that the haredi scholarly community has produced very few valuable texts, despite the massive investment in studying. Instead of schools that are hard to get into because of strict demands, these educational institutions have turned into colleges without any admission criteria – they are now mandatory for the talented and the talentless, for interested parties and for uninterested parties.


Hence, even the talented students find themselves mired in a sea of mediocrity, where motivation is more important than the outcome.


Producing compliance

Yet if these yeshivas do not produce important spiritual insights, what do these intellectual printing machines, which keep printing more and more bills of decreasing value, produce? They produce compliance. They create a community where those in power – a dangerous alliance of rabbis and functionaries – force their will upon everyone else.


In the haredi community, where members are strictly forbidden from acquiring the tools that would enable them to be free of their masters’ bear hug, the vast majority has deteriorated into a forced situation of ongoing childhood – economic, social, and spiritual dependence on the spiritual leaders.


The result of this kind of dependence cannot be creativity and vitality. Instead, it gives off a scent of fear and mediocrity. If you ask me, this scholarly community constitutes genuine danger to Judaism’s spiritual development, beyond the danger it poses for the State of Israel’s wellbeing.


Of course, nobody in the haredi sector cares about my views. This patient is uninterested in a cure. What is infuriating here is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is aware, just like me, of the grave damage this law will cause. An immense rise in public idleness is an economic threat. Creating an immense sector where frustration and despair are the norm is a social threat.


Netanyahu made it clear that he is aware of all that when he cut government allowances during his tenure as finance minister in the Sharon government. It’s unlikely that he changed his views since then. Indeed, 61-year-old people do not easily change their minds. Yet Netanyahu fears for his job, and because of this he is willing to act in a way that endangers Israel’s security.



פרסום ראשון: 10.27.10, 18:02
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