Tzarich Iyun > “Seder Iyun”: Deliberations > Kollel Today: Challenge and Opportunity

Kollel Today: Challenge and Opportunity

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Rabbi Yaakov Botchkovsky Rosh Kollel and Author of Several Seforim

The exponential growth in the number of Kollel students ensures that each student knows his changes of finding a Torah-related occupation are negligible. This reality has changed the nature of the Kollel from a waystation for finding a Torah occupation to an independent setting in which the student resides, sometimes indefinitely. Some see the situation as a crisis. But alongside clear challenges, it also presents tremendous opportunity.

Shevat 5780, February 2020

After undergoing exponential growth in recent years, especially in Israel—latest figures indicate numbers of over 135,000 students—the “Kollel world” is experiencing huge changes, in terms of both size and basic identity. While various attempts have been made to capture the quantitative aspects of these developments, such as recent studies on the correlation between government subsidies and growth rates, such studies shed precious little light on the deeper processes at play. Powerful dynamics have led to dramatic and fundamental changes to both the self-conception and public view of “learners” (lomdim)—men engaged in full-time Torah study. Given the centrality of Torah learning in our community and the proximity of Kollel life to so many of us, these developments are pivotal for the entire Charedi public.

Many Kollel men face a challenge that is virtually a built-in feature of the Kollel system. Take a young newlywed, perhaps twenty-one or twenty-three years of age, who learned in a reputable Yeshiva and duly acquired recognition as a serious, high-achieving student. Befitting his social status, he married into a respected family, and wife and family naturally expect him to continue his studies in a Kollel institution—as the beaten (and almost exclusive) track in today’s Charedi society. All efforts were made in advance to ensure the smooth transition of our young Torah scholar from Yeshiva to post-Yeshiva (Kollel) studies. Following popular custom, the sheva berachos week even provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for rabbinic teachers and friends to heap praise upon him as a potential Gadol in the making. His radiant Torah future was right around the corner.

Yet just as our young man was beginning to believe his own excessive praises, the week of sheva berachos comes to its end, and he is struck with a stark reality: the reality of becoming an ordinary Kollel student—entirely ordinary in fact, just the same and many thousands before him, and many after him. Assuming he finds a Kollel (not as easy today as it once way), he will quickly realize that there is no immediate “demand” for anything he has to offer. True, he studied hard and well during his Yeshiva years, but he’s by no stretch of the imagination the first to do so. In Yeshiva he acquired reasonable social status, finally becoming a budding Torah scholar sufficiently in demand to attain a high shidduch rating. To put it bluntly, families were willing to pay enormous sums of money for his hand in marriage. But all of this is now in the past.

Assuming he finds a Kollel (not as easy today as it once way), he will quickly realize that there is no immediate “demand” for anything he has to offer. True, he studied hard and well during his Yeshiva years, but he’s by no stretch of the imagination the first to do so

By contrast with the idyllic Yeshiva existence, Kollel-life makes some pretty significant demands of our young and inexperienced Torah man. His self-respect might propel him to continue learn studiously well and maintain a full Kollel schedule, while attempting to be a good husband and devoted father. His sense of responsibility will drive him to ensure his family is taken care of and the bills are paid. Eventually, he will also need to learn with and teach his children Torah, alongside tending to many other household and community chores and functions. For these he will receive no accolades or recognition. He is an ordinary Kollel student, one of thousands struggling to keep up with almost identical demands. Just doing the same as everyone else, he finds it hard to sense that he’s making a tangible contribution. Certainly—and this is often the hardest part—he receives no appreciation for his efforts.

In the ever-growing Kollel world, he is but one individual lost in the crowd of many, many thousands, all doing the same thing. The highlight he looks forward is taking his turn, once in three months on a rota basis, to deliver the Friday night Torah sermon in Shul. Over time, his sense of isolation and lack of relevance is only deepened, ultimately reaching a state of burnout, frustration and even exasperation. As a young Kollel student recently told me, “I can’t go on like this; I feel like I’m descending together with everyone into a sinkhole.”

So much for describing the challenge and its proximate causes. These, however, are consequences of larger shifts in the Kollel world, which must be carefully examined if we are to truly understand the fundamental issues at play. Below, I will attempt to outline the original defining character of the Kollel institution and its student body, and how it has evolved over time, both numerically and conceptually. As noted above, I will not focus here on the raw statistics, fascinating as these might be. I am rather interested in capturing the beating pulse and central identity of this unique world.

 

Kollel: Capstone to Yeshiva Learning

First generation Kollel students were largely attached to the Yeshivas, their Talmudic alma maters. Effectively, Kollel students were Yeshiva graduates who remained under the wing of the Yeshiva, to one extent or another, and whose institutional affiliation remained that of the Yeshiva. In a limited sense, this general structure continues to thrive at Beis Midrash Govoha in Lakewood and Mir in Jerusalem.

In the original Kollel, students were animated by a desire to spread Torah. Still drawing upon the Yeshiva spirit, early Kollel students sought the charged learning atmosphere surrounding the Rosh Yeshiva, the youthful passion driving unrelenting critical analysis of the most minute and intricate Talmudic detail, and mastery of the tractates being studied. Indeed, the Yeshiva was the center of the world for these young men; they looked to remain in its embrace even after marriage—though no longer as mere students. Ultimately, they saw themselves developing into educators and spreaders of Torah in their own right, representing the Yeshiva whether within or beyond its formal boundaries.

Kollel students had the ultimate responsibility of perpetuating Torah learning, not as students but as teachers. Remaining “in Kollel” indefinitely violated the basic mission

Most renowned of such initial Kollels was the Ponevezh Kollel. Rav Kaheneman, the Ponevezher Rav, was the first to establish a Lithuaninan-style Yeshiva in the slowly developing Charedi settlement in Israel, early in the twentieth century. To the Ponevezher Rav, Kollel was a temporary waystation on the student’s path to a Torah profession. A student of his, today a respected Rosh Yeshiva in his eighties, told me that his teacher would not allow men to remain in Kollel beyond a certain age. Kollel students had the ultimate responsibility of perpetuating Torah learning, not as students but as teachers. Remaining “in Kollel” indefinitely violated the basic mission. Thus, in its original conception, the Kollel existed not as an independent institution, but as an extension of the Yeshiva, and solely as a necessary step towards realizing the important goal of disseminating Torah further.

Organizing Kollels as an extension of the Yeshiva had implications for the broader Charedi community. Kollel students, who saw themselves as student-graduates of Yeshivas rather than as participants in a distinct community, had little need for building up independent social institutions. Thus, in Bnei Brak of forty years ago there were virtually no shuls of Lithuanian Kollel students. Kollel men prayed in and availed themselves of the services the Yeshivas had to offer. Not only a matter of convenience, a Kollel student expected and was assumed to be attached to a Yeshiva as a basic part of his identity.

That the Kollel student saw himself as a future Yeshiva Rabbi and educator undoubtedly created a sense of purpose that motivated him to fully apply himself to his learning. A concrete objective to aim for provided him with the energy and vigor to reach considerable achievement. A Kollel student, conscious of the limited time at his disposal to prepare for his future position, invested heavily in acquiring the tools and resources required to succeed.

A noted teacher of Torah, also approaching his eighties, shared the following with me:

Everyone hears stories about the enormous diligence (hasmadah) exhibited by the previous generation’s greatest Rashei Yeshiva when they were young students. Without taking anything away from their greatness, the subconscious knowledge that studying well will open opportunities to teach Torah doubtless encouraged and drove their youthful efforts. This was a feeling of work, of responsibility, whereby someone is expecting you to produce and where your effort will bear fruit on the ground. When we were young, everyone knew that studying diligently will all but ensure a respectable Torah position. There were even those who prepared their future lectures; they only question was where they would ultimately be delivered. A high-level youngster knew he would be in demand, knew the world needed him. Yeshivas were opening everywhere and the generation needed Rabbi-educators.

This then was the Kollel’s origin: an inseparable extension of the Yeshiva, in which young men rounded out their learning and development with an eye towards a future as a teacher or rabbinic figure.

 

The “Shtetl” Crisis

The supply of rabbinic positions is not infinite. But while the number of available positions dwindled over the decades, the pipeline of Kollel students graduating from these Yeshivas continued to expand, resulting in an inevitable change. No longer was a Kollel man guaranteed future work as a teacher, rabbi, or Rosh Yeshiva. In the twenty-first century, the reality is that demand for a Torah job far exceeds the supply of open positions. Wars are fought by tens and hundreds of candidates over every fraction of a job in a Yeshiva. Despite its welcome growth in size, the Yeshiva community does not (and cannot) generate a corresponding increase in the number of available positions for its graduates.

While this crisis presents itself as an exercise in basic economics—scarcity of supply versus excess demand—it has profound implications for the Yeshiva community. Whereas the Kollel student previously saw himself on a fulfilling path in life, one that infused his learning with a sense of purpose and immediacy, many of today’s learners feel stuck. Realistic opportunities for advancement are elusive, so that entering Kollel offers our young men little promise of a clear direction in life or a rewarding occupation.

Whereas the Kollel student previously saw himself on a fulfilling path in life, one that infused his learning with a sense of purpose and immediacy, many of today’s learners feel stuck

The social and psychological implications of this pattern hardly need to be enumerated. People want to feel productive, to create and conquer. After several years of intensive Torah study and personal growth, it is only natural that young people will want to go out into the world and wield a degree of influence, to offer their talents and knowledge to the next generation, and to transition from recipients to givers. Limited outlets stifle this impulse, to the loss of the individuals themselves and the community at large.

The situation also involves tremendous economic consequences. In the past, as his family grew, the Kollel student would find a position teaching Torah or as a Rabbi, generating income with which to provide for his family, and allowing his wife to care for home and children. Today’s Kollel student can expect no more than his tiny Kollel stipend; even as his family grows, avenues for advancement or supplementing his income are few and far between.

In the words of Rabbi Rubin, Rabbi of Har Nof (Hannukah 2013-4):

Historically, Kollels would raise a generation of Torah scholars who, by the nature of things, would eventually set out to find suitable jobs. Back then, there were few Kollel students; a Torah scholar could readily find a position as a rabbi, a dayan, a shochet, a mohel, and so on. When Yeshivas were founded, the cream of the Torah crop became Torah teachers and and Rashei Yeshiva. Up until a few decades ago, the model remained very clear: those who continued their studies in Kollel knew that sooner or later they would go on to serve the community in some capacity.

Over the past twenty years, however, the situation has changed drastically. Thank God, the Torah world has grown to enormous proportions, and every Yeshiva student remains in the beis midrash for many years of further study. But Torah positions are not to be found. A Yeshiva principal told me that in response to a simple newspaper advertisement posting an opening for a high school [Talmud] teaching position he received several thousand applications within two days!

A cold calculation of the odds will inform any Kollel student that his chances of securing a Torah-based position are negligible, particularly given that in many cases family relationships trump more objective criteria. A thirty-eight-year-old man told me that not a single member of his class in Yeshiva, a group numbering over one hundred people, has secured any Torah position, though this class was known to be composed of serious and talented students.

Ambition for a community leadership position does not necessarily point to an internal drive for honor or prestige; it is primarily a need for self-fulfillment. Each person, as they approach a certain age, is hard-wired to seek self-actualization. When this ambition is not realized, the person descends into self-inflicted slumber and intense frustration.

Cracks in the system are becoming more and more apparent, and those outside the system are already beginning to claim that the only solution is to close the Gemara and go to work. Their argument sounds fair

These struggles seem insoluble, and the outside observer might argue that a full systemic collapse looms in the not-distant future. Cracks in the system are becoming more and more apparent, and those outside the system are already beginning to claim that the only solution is to close the Gemara and go to work. Their argument sounds fair: It is hard indeed to believe that the Kollel system will succeed in maintaining itself over time if the student lacks a positive horizon for development and fulfillment. It is hardly surprising to see growing numbers of Charedi men enrolled in academic institutions, to see various training programs for Yeshiva and Kollel graduates sprouting everywhere, and a job market with an increasing proportion of former Kollel men who wish to provide for their families.

But despite these trends, the fact remains that the number of Kollel students has never been higher, and they continue to rise from year to year. Are all these precious students doomed? Have they no hope for their realizing their potential?

 

A Kollel Crisis?

I believe the grim view presented above is inaccurate; it makes sense to the external onlooker, while an insider observation paints an altogether different picture. In parallel with the undeniably growing numbers of Yeshiva graduates going on to higher education and professional careers, there is also a continued vitality within Kollel institutions. As times change, so does the form and substance of Kollel study, and many fresh and productive Torah initiatives have emerged in recent years.

For example, thirty years ago there was little focus on the need to master Shas. Nobody entertained the idea that young Kollel students would complete and be tested on the entirely of the Talmudic corpus. Yet, over the past fifteen years, the global “Dirshu” organization has led a revolution in this area. Thousands of Kollel students are tested monthly on thirty folios of Gemara, completing the entire Shas repeatedly. The crown jewel of this project is known as “kinyan shas,” in which thousands of Kollel students are tested on hundreds of folios at once, and once every seven years are tested on the entire Shas in a single examination.

Students in numerous Kollel institutions today are forming groups to address and discuss topics such as education, personal growth, and spiritual advancement. These are but a few examples, and they reflect a broad trend of renewal and internal growth

In the generation that preceded ours there was little emphasis on meticulous observance of halacha, certainly not in areas outside the well-known topics of Orach Chaim and Yoreh De’ah. Mastery of halacha and its practical application were foreign to the world of Yeshiva-trained Kollel students, whose world was one of abstract theoretical analysis. Today, scrupulous focus on halachic observance has developed considerably, predominantly on account of Kollel students who have become specialists in specific areas of halacha, collectively spanning a wide range of halachic genres. These include issues such as interest accrued on pension funds, a range of eiruvin issues, carefully constructed mikva’os, and much beyond. From personal knowledge, I can add that many new halachic initiatives were developed by Kollel students who studied the subject matter and then attempted to apply their learning in the field ground with great dedication and responsibility.

Additionally, in previous generations there was far less focus on issues of personal mission and purpose—on the always-echoing question of “What does Hashem your God demand of you?” Although mussar and chassidus were important features in some Yeshiva institutions and Chassidic courts, these did not approach the level of public discourse as found today in the Kollel environment. Students in numerous Kollel institutions today are forming groups to address and discuss topics such as education, personal growth, and spiritual advancement. These are but a few examples, and they reflect a broad trend of renewal and internal growth. Those observing from the outside may not discern this activity, but those inside the system can recognize these developments with clarity.

What then is actually happening within the Kollel world? On the one hand, many Kollel students experience significant hardship attempting to actualize an unrealistic vision—that of the Kollel avrech training for a Torah leadership role within his community. At the same time, there is also undeniable vitality and renewal within the Kollel community. How do these phenomena coexist? By way of explanation, I will attempt below to paint a picture of community walls being breached and fortified simultaneously; these, indeed, are but two sides of the same coin.

 

Kollel: From Waystation to Independent Value

The developments I have described above are results of a severing process, over several decades, of Kollel institutions from their original “home” within the protective framework of the Yeshiva structure. Previously, the Yeshiva system offered a well-trodden path that suited its student needs perfectly. The student embarked upon his journey in kindergarten, went on to Yeshiva studies which concluded at marriage, and following a few years at his “waystation”—the Kollel—would advance to a job befitting for a mature man: fulfilling work and the capacity to earn a livelihood.

No longer providing “full-service” to everyone, the convenient and comfortable Yeshiva framework now became increasingly less helpful as the graduate approached the age of thirty or so. Reaching this point, the Kollel student might look himself in the mirror and ask: Now what?

Moving through this system did not demand especially hard work or intense personal growth. It was entirely possible to meander along the various stages with small effort alone, in much the same way as people do all over the world. Success in life rarely requires deep introspection and growth, and the Torah-based Charedi community was hardly different. Basic investment in the proper steps was required, but no more.

As Charedi society and its market forces evolved, Torah-based community jobs became scarce and the system fundamentally changed. No longer providing “full-service” to everyone, the convenient and comfortable Yeshiva framework now became increasingly less helpful as the graduate approached the age of thirty or so. Reaching this point, the Kollel student might look himself in the mirror and ask: Now what? Indeed, this question, though it confronts each individual in the context of his unique circumstances, is essentially a society-wide conundrum, one that reverberates throughout the Yeshiva and Kollel world.

Our young men have no choice but to engage in serious introspection if they are to successfully resolve this challenge and choose a direction for their own future. Questions of personal identity, life goals and basic priorities need to be surfaced and addressed. Is he looking for a career and material advancement, or a commitment to full-time Torah study even if this entails a life of privation and struggle.

At this juncture Kollel students must choose the path that is right for them. Some will conclude that “the Kollel path does not work for me; I cannot stay on a track without prospect of advancement and fulfillment or hope of a regular paycheck.” Indeed, ample opportunities now exist outside the Yeshiva and Kollel system for such individuals. But there are the Kollel students for whom leaving the beis midrash is inconceivable. This is the home they have chosen (or which has been chosen) for themselves, and they are unprepared to leave it. Practically, taking this approach is far from easy. It exacts a personal cost, one barely fathomable for those who has not tasted the sweetness of full immersion in Torah study. Absent a deep connection to Torah study, simply remaining in the beis midrash for the long haul is unbearable.

This juncture, when accurately perceived, offers the Kollel student a loyalty test, as it were, so that whoever chooses to remain within the study hall is driven by a full commitment renewal and achievement in learning. Hence the flourishing of new initiatives—mastering Shas, specializing in halacha, and other similar focuses. In other words, for those who choose to remain, the conscious decision is not simply to occupy a seat in Kollel, but to strive for advancement and fulfillment within the Kollel setting.

At least, this is how it ought to be.

 

Noah’s Ark or Communal Life

Thus far, I have addressed the dynamic confronting the Kollel community and its individual members on its own terms. But nothing exists in a vacuum. The tensions and changes of the Kollel institutions bear consequences for the overall character of the Charedi community, particularly in Israel. In its early years, the Litvish community in Israel (and to an extent even the Sephardic and Chassidic communities) was organized around Yeshiva institutions. The community drew its spirit and spiritual identity from the Yeshiva experience and its intense commitment to learning. Dislodging the Kollel from its home in the Yeshiva milieu has profoundly impacted the community’s identity and character.

Until recently the Yeshiva was the ultimate focal point, radiating spiritual identity and energy outward in expanding circles to the entire community. The character of Torah life was inherently “yeshivish.” In turn, public discourse addressed (in the main) issues appropriate for Yeshiva students: strengthening Torah study, analyzing the learning styles, and so on.

So long as Charedi society was animated by the spirit of the Yeshivas, the ethos of detachment extended to the entire community, resulting in a degree of isolationism and rejection of the “real world” in favor of the black-and-white, theoretical world of the Yeshiva

By design, a Yeshiva is a sterile environment, detached from the world and its shadowy complexities. It was elegantly described by the Chazon Ish as a “Noah’s Ark.” Young people see the world in black and white, and their discourse is inevitably dichotomous, lacking depth and nuance. So long as Charedi society was animated by the spirit of the Yeshivas, the ethos of detachment extended to the entire community, resulting in a degree of isolationism and rejection of the “real world” in favor of the black-and-white, theoretical world of the Yeshiva. A Kollel, by contrast, incorporating a beis midrash, is far more integrated in the rhythms of daily life. Its members must pursue their learning while still contending with the business of “real” life: paying bills, raising children, and nourishing their relationships.

As time passes and the Kollel community becomes increasingly independent of Yeshiva alia maters, the Torah discourse it produces likewise evolves. No longer a mere extension of the Yeshiva, the Kollel beis midrash has developed its own interests and pursuits, subjects foreign to the Yeshiva experience. Thus, we now have robust, Torah-informed discussions of sensitive, complex, and more pressing issues: community and neighborhood interactions, relationship issues, education, youth at risk, and so on. Public discourse has matured, leading to initiatives aimed at confronting issues and ideas of critical importance to a successful, sophisticated Torah life.

One such prominent effort is the development of neighborhood frameworks to support Yeshiva students. Many students need more than the resources offered by their Yeshiva. They need to share their troubles and concerns with an attentive and understanding soul who is not necessarily an authority figure. Yeshiva staff cannot always provide a response to the personal struggles of each student; nor are student homes always the right address for providing solace and clarity.

In recent years, dozens of neighborhood systems have emerged in which dedicated Kollel students work with Yeshiva students as guides and counselors. These counselors are often more attuned to the struggles of young students than the typical Yeshiva mashgiach, whose primary responsibility is for imposing and maintaining a rigid institutional decorum. By contrast, Kollel student counselors are free to employ a softer approach, and can employ an altogether different vocabulary in conversation with Yeshiva students in need of a listening ear.

Another manifestation of the subtle change in the status of the Kollel is the development of stronger communities and community institutions. Charedi neighborhoods have recently seen the emergence of entire communities of Kollel families. Every neighborhood shul appoints a Rabbi, but Rabbis in Kollel communities today do not merely grant halachic rulings and deliver sermons on Shabbos. They do far more, supplying an address for every issue that arises among the young and the old alike. Moreover, the community shul provides Kollel students not only a Rabbi and guide, but also a supportive social circle.

These latter phenomena developed in response to the breaking away of Kollel institutions from the original Yeshiva setting. Leaving the Yeshiva framework can be distressing for many young Kollel men, who find themselves lacking the familiar and stable support of communal framework. Whereas the Chassidic community is organized around a Chassidic court, which provides each member with a given role within a set structure, the Litvish community lacks such a framework. A young married man is tossed at once into the deep end without any reliable support. He needs to transition rapidly from being highly dependent on parents and the Yeshiva institution to functioning independently and raising his own family, often without any significant backing or guidance. Kollel communities address this lacuna, the Kollel experience providing an independent and rich world in its own right.

Now that the Kollel has evolved, becoming a place of learning and growth for older Torah scholars and not simply an extension of the Yeshiva, important consequences have emerged that will impact the entire Torah world

Experience has demonstrated that a Kollel student connected to a young and organized community is much more successful at navigating life and its challenges. While many of the above developments are still largely spontaneous in nature, we can see in them the emergence of something new and positive. Twenty years ago, the established neighborhoods in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem did not have shul Rabbis and there was no sense of community. Today, the situation has changed for the better.

These phenomena serve as examples of the increasingly positive consequences attendant to changes occurring in the Kollel world. When the Kollel functioned as a mere waystation on the student’s path out of Yeshiva, initiatives to improve community life were not pursued, since the Kollel community was not a distinct entity in its own right. Now that the Kollel has evolved, becoming a place of learning and growth for older Torah scholars and not simply an extension of the Yeshiva, important consequences have emerged that will impact the entire Torah world.

 

The Challenge: Worker-Learner Relations

There is much more to say about the internal changes in the world of Kollel institutions and Kollel students. But I would like to conclude by stressing one of the biggest challenges this community presently faces: developing a healthy relationship between Kollel students and those who work for a living. There is not insignificant tension between these two groups, and there is much to be said about its causes. In this short conclusion I will offer my vision for constructive change, in the specific context of the above discussion.

In the Yeshiva world, there is room for Torah study alone; other values bow their heads in awe of this most elevated of pursuits. They might as well simply not exist

In the Yeshiva world, there is room for Torah study alone; other values bow their heads in awe of this most elevated of pursuits. They might as well simply not exist. Issues such as how to support one’s family or the personal urge for individual fulfillment are simply not raised, much less addressed. So long as the Kollel world was tethered to the Yeshivas, this type of limited discourse remained dominant.

Today, by contrast, given the broadening of Torah discourse to become more integrated and relevant to the nuances of the real world, new opportunity surfaces for these issues to be publicly aired.  Experience has shown that the more the Kollel student grows and becomes established in the Kollel world, the more he is prepared to accept the complexity of real life and understand the decision of those who have left Kollel to work and provide directly for their families.

At the same time, while we would expect that Kollel students increase their understanding of those who have left to lead a working life, there needs to be a sincere and strong appreciation for those who do choose to devote their lives to Torah. Friction is often caused by a degree of contempt held by those who leave Kollel towards those who have opted to stay within the walls of the beis midrash. Greater inclusion and understanding of life and its complexities is needed all around. And yet, it seems that the foundation for such a dialogue and eventual mutual respect is in the formative stages.

Admiration for Shevet Levi, those who have devoted themselves to Torah, alongside appreciation for Shevet Zevulun, is becoming a possibility. It is no longer the elusive dream it once appeared to be.

***

The Kollel world has recently seen profound changes; only some of the consequences are readily apparent today. Previously a waystation to charge one’s batteries before moving on with life, it has now become a force all its own—a force that not everyone contends with successfully. Indeed, not everyone is supposed to. Kollel life is a complex and challenging track meant only for those who truly desire it. In the first years after marriage, the years of young Kollel life, the Kollel might function as a suitable continuation for many Yeshiva students, a soft entry into the demands of married life. But at a more advanced age it is to serve as a breeding ground for talmidei chachamim. It is a world onto itself, in which those who pursue eternal life at the expense of material comfort in this world can reside and flourish.

These developments within the Kollel world are not localized; they represent a systemic transformation. At this point in time, it is still hard to point to the outcomes, but I think that in several years we will discover that the current period was the time in which the Kollel world reformed itself.

A Kollel student of our generation cannot simply follow in the footsteps of others. He will need to address major questions and decide where he sees himself heading

This point should be made clear to every Yeshiva student entering Kollel: he must know that there will come a point at which he will have to make decisions about his future. He will need to carefully consider the issues and their implications for his own life and for that of his family. A Kollel student of our generation cannot simply follow in the footsteps of others. He will need to address major questions and decide where he sees himself heading. Should he choose to remain in Kollel, he must set goals for himself—to master Shas, to specialize in areas of halacha or machshava, or to achieve some other challenge. And he must identify a learning style suitable for his character, one which will help him develop a workable approach to the complex questions of life.

With every year that passes, our time becomes to an ever-increasing degree a time of choice. This means that our Torah society will not look quite the same as it did in the past, whether we wish it or not. Overall, it is surely a good thing. Even today, we can discern that it is laden with huge potential.

3 thoughts on “Kollel Today: Challenge and Opportunity

  • Nice article.

    First half is unequivocally true.

    Second half is a fantasy

    • Excellent article
      Second half is true: like in the Chasidic model, those who work and those who learn can sit together because they have another point that holds them together–belonging to the same community.

  • Could work if “Gaava” is greatly reduced — The author did not address the issues of “putting down” (zilzul) which exists to a very great extent – whether it is towards, Separdic Torah scholars and their followers (not to chas v’shalom mention chetzi-chetzi), or Chassidic Torah scholars, or (can I say it?) Merkaz Harav scholars (Is that possible?) – where no amount of scholarship will afford them a good shidduch or placement in the Torah World… Any comments out there?

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