Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Critique of Pure-Unreason

Ezzie asked me to repost this from my blog

Many people on the internet write about financial responsibility, especially in the orthodox world. One just has to ask Ezzie for some of the more interesting statistics results from the Jewish Economic Survey to understand that a large number of young people do not know their finances. For a few people websites such as help people keep track of their multiple bank-accounts, credit-cards, and other loans in one place. For others they rely on their own book-keeping skills or rely on a family member who has a better grasp to handle everything.

Addressing some of these shortfalls is an organization like Mesila which provide seminars to people who would like more knowledge of financial responsibility. They have branches in many cities in Israel as well as America helping people understand their finances.

I once spoke to someone who is involved in the Yeshivish community, and his chilling comment was "the problem isn't people living in Kollel. The problem is people in Kollel earning $25,000 a year, while living a $70,000 lifestyle." This leads to massive debt, and with a bit of education how to organize your money, this debt can be controlled, eliminated, or preempted.

A few people seeing the benefits of educating Kollel couples, asked a few Yeshivos to run seminars for Kollel couples, to which the answer was NO. The reasoning was that if you educate them, they will look at what it costs to live, look at whats coming in, and leave Kollel. Many people do not want to have that burden of debt for the rest of their lives, or at least they want to be unaware of it. Part of this feeling comes from it being OPM (Other Peoples Money), and therefore do not feel the same responsibility to be responsible.

I can understand why the powers-to-be feel its necessary to withhold such information: that learning in Kollel does require Bitachon-trust that G-d will take care of you. But I don't think, and I may be wrong, that this Bitachon should be at the expense of the general public. The general public is now beholden to pick up the slack at many different levels; from helping them put food on the table, to the tuition deficit at the schools.
(On a side note: little has been explored as to the affect bringing in a Kollel has on tuition in a small out of town community. Even if the Kollel does have a sugar-daddy paying for all of its expenses, rarely does this beneficiary extend it to paying tuition for all of the Kollel families children.More on that another post.)

The fact that we can withhold knowledge from people that require it, I believe is wrong. Its wrong to keep them in the dark about things that will hurt them later. About the fact that they may saddle themselves or their parents/in-laws with debt supporting them while they live carefree lives in Kollel. And if you educate them about what it costs and they don't stay in learning full-time, they may be doing society a favor (as a whole). Personally, I would love to learn in Kollel a few years after marriage, but if its not possible I made myself responsible to put food on the table when I signed the dotted-line on the Kesubah.

And yes, while I do believe that learning Torah makes the world-go-round, and I want people to devote their lives to Torah, but I find it hypocritical to say "Look at other segments of society; their people don't work, they live off welfare, they are crippling the economy" while we cannot and will not look at ourselves and say the same things. I do believe that G-d shows us things in society that if we have our eyes open the Hashgacha is obvious. Looking at American Society, the feeling of entitlement, of what the country can do for me, not I for it, is clear. I think this feeling is prevalent in Jewish Society, and if we change our ways society will follow as well.