Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Learning With The Rich

(Hat tip: Eliezer StrongBad)

This is a fascinating article in the New York Times discussing Aish rabbis who visit wealthy Jewish individuals (mostly non-religious) at their home or office to learn with them. Obviously, the concept itself is an interesting one; as the article puts it, these people will shell out large amounts of money for personal trainers and the like, why not do the same for another aspect of life they find important and/or worthwhile.

It was also very interesting to note the particular conversations the Times excerpted. These are no wealthy slouches who are just looking to feel good about themselves - they are challenging and questioning the concepts and ideas that these Rabbonim are bringing forth. One challenges the idea that God will provide sustenance simply if one learns:

“That’s a tough statement,” he said when the rabbi finished. He did not seem to buy the notion of holy unemployment.

"In fact, it’s a very complicated concept,’" said Rabbi Jacobs, launching an explication of "the famous dialogue between two rebbes" of ancient times who took opposite views on whether and how much one could mix work with a life of Torah study.

Another challenges the fairness of certain laws. At the same time, it's also interesting to see that the Rabbonim don't seem to be simply trying to kiss up to these moneymen:

“I had some, uh, mixed feelings, Seth, about your missing our last appointment,” said Rabbi Stuart Shiff...

Like many such sessions, this one began with an apology: Mr. Horowitz explained that he had been at the 15-inning All-Star Game with clients until 2:30 the morning of the last session, and on top of that his infant son had hurt himself — not seriously, but still. ...

The rabbi thumbed the pages of the Torah on the table. “I hurried back from a weekend trip with my family to be with you,” he said.

It's a good read, and certainly an interesting and seemingly wise service to provide on the part of Aish. Check it out.