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Nov 17, 2011

Is This What The Kollel System Leads To?

Is this what the kollel system leads to, after two generations, a global economic crisis, and not nearly enough money to go around?

  1. The other day someone advertised in the Yated that they are selling the rights to name their baby, in order to cover their debts.
  2. Mevaser ran an ad yesterday of a family in Yerushalayim, an avreich, his wife and 10 children that can no longer afford the rent, cannot afford to buy an apartment, and are not willing to move out of Jerusalem. They advertised that they are looking for someone to donate an apartment to them.
  3. The worst, and perhaps the saddest, of these stories is a report yesterday in Ladaat of an avreich in Brachfeld - Modiin Ilit who was caught stealing Materna - baby formula - from the local store. This has been going on for a while, and it took the store some time to catch the perpetrator of the theft. The avreich confessed after having been caught, and explained that he has 5 children at home to feed and cannot afford it.
Maybe these are exceptions to the rule, people who fell by the wayside, got hurt harder than most by the system. Or maybe it is starting to become a pattern, where people cannot get by on the kollel stipend any longer, and the extra money in addition to that is getting harder to come by. A rosh kollel I know who was paying a very good salary (as kollel salaries go) recently told me that he had to cut all the extra money and is now only giving the misrad ha'datot money. 

How can a family of 2 or 4, let alone 7 or 10 or 12 get by on a monthly income of just a few thousand shekels (lets say about a thousand from kollel, though I think it is less, plus depending on number of kids there is the child allowance stipend)? It just cannot happen, and perhaps it is finally starting to catch up with the community...

54 comments:

  1. And yet virtually everyone in your shul is raising their kids in a system that teaches them to go to kollel, and to send their kids in turn to kollel...

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  2. But the gedolim say...November 17, 2011 6:06 PM

    And G-d forbid a girl would even consider a guy not learning.

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  3. "The other day someone advertised in the Yated that they are selling the rights to name their baby, in order to cover their debts."

    Nice. My grandfather was born in 1920, probably within 1 mile of the person who made that advertisement. Guess what his parents did before he was born?

    We've come a long way, baby. Or not. At least his parents were wise enough to get out of town.

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  4. > How can a family of 2 or 4, let alone 7 or 10 or 12 get by on a monthly income of just a few thousand shekels

    When they're young and single the answer is "God will provide". When they get older they then discover that even He has to keep His budget balanced.

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  5. The biggest tragedy is that these people don't even learn from their own disasters - they bring up their kids in the same way!

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  6. If anyone wants to buy me an apartment...

    The hutzpa is astounding

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  7. Hillul Hashem and hutzpa. Making a laughingstock of a life of Torah; but I'm sure they all call it 'mesirut nefesh.'

    Pity to see the Rambam's words in Talmud Torah (via Avot) come true. Oy lanu m'yom hadin.

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  8. Rafi what about the strain on the women who are raising the family, tending the home, and also going to work - any stories on that situation?

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  9. It's totally meghuga what is going on nowadays.
    I am trying to get my daughters to marry a working person, but they don't want to and it's hard to find one.

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  10. Sam, there are plenty of working frum men- outside the charedi community.

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  11. And it looks to me like it's only going to get worse before it gets better.

    Sad because of all the wasted generations :(

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  12. Dear everyone,
    My husband has been learning in Kollel for the last 32 years. we Thank G-d, have all we need and have always had what we needed. We raised 9 children this way. HaSh-m supports us in the best possible way, so can you guys all stop bashing kollel.
    My sister who works as does her husband (with 2 Children)has very much greater pressure the we do.

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  13. Reenah,
    I am glad to hear that. Who pays the rent and grocery bills? Do you have help from parents?
    You may be the exception, but I don't think you are the rule.

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  14. HaSh-m pays all the bills. (My parents are long gone.)Where I live most people are in Kollel, and are all are doing well.

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  15. no doubt. some people do fine in kollel. it might be hard to figure out how, but they do.. I dont know your story, but Hashem doesnt pay the mortgage on a 1000 - 3000 kollel stipend.
    By some the wife might work, maybe the couple is in an out of town kollel where they pay more, maybe there is also teaching involved, tutoring, and the like.
    Hashem pays the bills by sending extra work your way, not by stretching the 1000 NIS to be enough to pay the rent or mortgage, the groceries, the utilities and more.
    But just because some are doing fine does not mean the system is not starting to fail for many other people.

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  16. Rav Rafi,
    Why are you so angry?
    HaSh-m payed my mortgage for many years. Now thanks to Him, the mortgage is payed up.
    You don't need to know my story. But I can tell you this; there are Hundreds and Hundreds of Kollel-lite whom HaSh-m pays the bills for. And contrary to what you say the system is not failing and will not fail.
    We have willingly and happily chosen this way of life, and feel it a great privilege (Did we ask you for money?) Please respect our choice.

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  17. "My husband has been learning in Kollel for the last 32 years. we Thank G-d, have all we need and have always had what we needed. We raised 9 children this way. HaSh-m supports us in the best possible way, so can you guys all stop bashing kollel. "

    Luck you. Other people get hungry, don't pay their bills, and have heart attacks at a young age.

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  18. and everyone who is working is is doing so great - not one gets hungry, or dose not pay their bills, or have heart attacks at a young age.

    You also seem very upset Anonymous, does it bother you so much people are doing well in Kollel? You also have the choice to try it and see how sweet and good it is. But if it is not for you,fine.But as I said respect others' choices.

    Good night to you all

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  19. The days when g'virim like R. Zupnik would build dirot for kollel families and Chasidim are long gone. R. Zupnick was a childless survivor of the holocaust who went out of his way to be ba'al tzedaka and would have probably took the avreich on his offer.

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  20. I'm surprised you folks can't spot a troll.

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  21. I know it seems petty, but just seeing the spelling "HaSh-m" (from a troll or not) is just like fingernails on a blackboard.

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  22. We have willingly and happily chosen this way of life, and feel it a great privilege (Did we ask you for money?) Please respect our choice.

    And have you given your kids that choice? Or have you given them no secular education and brought them up in a system that teaches them that they are second-class citizens if they work?

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  23. Reenah - good morning. I am not angry at anything or anyone. I pointed out some recent stories. I am happy you have been able to live your chosen and preferred lifestyle unhindered and seemingly in relative "comfort" (perhaps not comfort of lifestyle but comfort of obtaining it).
    We obviously dont know any details of your life, so we have no idea what shlichim Hashem chose to use by which to "pay the mortgage", so there is nothing to even talk about.

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  24. I can't help but wonder what Reenah's kollel would say if they knew that one of their own is using the internet (and can spell).

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  25. To Abbi,
    If you know a Shadchan from America who knows some good shtark working boys, meaning they will set time everyday to learn and go to Davening on time, please e mail me at simchad613@gmail.com.
    Also to reenah, how do you do it? I am supporting three of my married children . Do you have any ideas they can get money from?

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  26. Its simple Sam,

    God killed her rich uncle and in the inheritance she had enough for her family without needing an income.

    Praise be!

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  27. Rafi, I don't mean to get too personal, but your post and comments beg the question of why someone so clearly in touch with the issues, who is as bright and articulate as you, would choose to send his own sons to yeshivos that give them no other option but kollel?

    Kal vachomer, if you, who are bright and knowledgable and aren't even actually part of the system, feel powerless to send your sons to a place like Maarava or the Mesivta in RBS, which gives a bagrut in a black and white yeshivish environment; how on earth can anyone expect that Israeli Chareidim will be able to buck the system and help guide their sons on a path leading to other options besides kollel?

    Your post makes it seem like you're on the outside looking in, but you must have some wisdom to share regarding what makes parents choose this type of chinuch.
    You should be able to understand better than most of us, how it can be that parents, while knowing that the system is completely unsustainable and that they are making the path to parnassah so terribly difficult for their sons, continue to make the choice that seems so inexplicable to the rest of us.

    Forgive me for finding your post very ironic- unfortunately here in RBS it's all too typical to meet people who seem similarly conflicted.

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  28. good question. I have written about it, in part, in the past. A long time ago. I am just going to leave it at sometimes compromises have to be made, and I dont really have a good answer. There are some things I am not happy with, but for various reasons this is what we do.

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  29. Nothing will change if the great "Gedolim" don't want it to. You posted yourself recently how Rav Elyashiv has stated supporting Yeshiva bochurs is a bigger mitzvah than writing a sefer Torah. (http://lifeinisrael.blogspot.com/2011/11/interesting-psak-from-rav-elyashiv.html)
    The mitzvah of writing a sefer Torah is dioraysa, is it not? The mitzvah of charity is also dioraysa; yet we are taught giving a man a livelihood, a way to make his own money, is better than giving charity.
    As long as those in power want to keep the status quo, they will say whatever it takes, even turn tradition on its head, to make that happen.

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  30. Rav Rav Elyashiv's psak is most logical. A talmid chacham is a living sefer Torah. Supporting Yeshiva bochurs is helping to write (create)living sefer Torahs. So you get a "double" dioraysa by supporting them.

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  31. Rafi G: but for various reasons this is what we do.

    This seems very evasive, for a guy we all respect as being willing to grab-the-nettle and challenge the establishment.

    If you hold that the forced-kollel culture is deeply flawed, and unsustainable - then why do you put your own kids into that system?

    Ditto, you openly challenge Rav Malinowitz' position on many community issues, and yet you personally continue to daven in his shul and (presumably?) adhere to his piskei halacha.

    There seem to be a dissonance here. No?

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  32. I don't know if this applies to Rafi or not, but I know a number of people who are 'in the system' who wish it were different.

    Often people go through the yeshiva system and end up on a path not realizing where it will lead.

    When they get there, married, teenage kids etc they clearly see the flaws in the system but a number of lives are intertwined and would be uprooted by leaving the system.

    So in their manner, they try to change the system, through conversation, raising awareness, giving charity to organizations which move the system in better directions, in all sorts of ways.

    You don't have to leave a system to see its flaws and work to make it better.

    Unfortunately it won't work, the system is too flawed, too big and wound too tight to be fixed, but you can understand why someone would stay and try to improve it.

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  33. WAY has it in a condensed nutshell. It is far more entailed than the way he described it, but thats the general idea. I cannot say more than that, as being one of the pitfalls of being non-anonymous.

    While I see nothing wrong with leaving the system because of what the system does wrong, I don't think that is the only method, as WAY says, and I understand people who choose to stay within the system and change whatever possible.

    Think of it like this - if I left the system, I wouldnt have all this firsthand knowledge of how things work to blog about! :-)

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  34. Dear Dovy,
    I am for real.

    Dear Pragmatician,
    Going to a personal level in an argument shows you see the other guy is getting the upper hand.

    Sam,
    Don't complain. What you are doing is wonderful, such a privilege to have such sons-in-law.

    Anyone who wants to leave kolel can do so today. No one is forced to stay.

    Torah learning is the fuel that makes the world run: any blessings of peace, happiness or prosperity comes from it. Today the world is so dark with immorality and disbelief in HaSh-m (sorry you don't like my spelling)that we need great amounts of Torah Learning to combat the situation.

    If you would realize the greatness of one word of Torah learning and how it is helping each and everyone of you personally. I do you believe you would be so critical of the kolel system.

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  35. Reenah - if this weren't the mandated path for society nowadays, we would all be very happy for you. Instead, people who would like to be upstanding members of society are told that no matter how yashar they will be in their business practices and how much tzedakah they give to support learning and other community needs, they will always be second class. It is that kind of pressure which is both sheker and - to everyone's sadness - causes societal breakdown.

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  36. Reena: "Anyone who wants to leave kolel can do so today. No one is forced to stay."

    WRONG.

    There are strong bonds which make it exceptionally difficult for anyone in the kolel system to leave.

    There are strong societal pressures to encourage them to stay in the 'quasi family' and they are treated as traitors should they seek other lifestyles (workplace, army, less 'frum').

    Theologically they are persuaded that G-d Himself wants them to live in the kolel subculture (which has no historical precedent in Judaism), and that it is a rebellion from G-d to seek out and pursue alternatives.

    Their exit path is deliberately blocked, financially, educationally, culturally, communally. They are left with no-where practical they can "chose to" exit to.

    Reena - while understanding that you believe you have found the light (peace, happiness... prosperity), please do not fool yourself (and others) that you are still a free agent.

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  37. Besides for all that, practically speaking it is not so easy.

    Think of it like this. Let's say I have been learning in kollel for 10 or 15 years. Now I decide it is time to leave kollel and get a job as kollel is no longer paying me enough to support my growing family.. As I look to leave kollel, I have to figure out what i am going to do. I have little or no secular education, I am not an accountant, a lawyer, a doctor, a computer programmer, an electrician a plumber or anything else. I have no training in anything, no experience, and little knowledge.

    So, I can leave kollel and spend thousands of shekels or dollars taking courses and paying for examinations to evaluate what field might be appropriate for my skills and capabilities. all that money that I don't have, for courses that take a lot of time during which I still do not have a way to support my family.

    So, it can be done, with difficulty and determination. However, it is intimidating and frightening to approach this. That scares many people off.

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  38. Raffi - I'm with you. We put our kids through the system and hope they will succeed but deep-down know that this is not the way.

    A partial solution perhaps is that we have told our sons that after they are married we will pay for them to train for a parnasa bli neder, and hope that this will help them.

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  39. Financial & career shut-doors are indeed highly effective mechanisms at keeping people in the kolel system.

    Enforced poverty, no qualifications for anything outside kolel...

    Along with that, the emotional, social and spiritual intimidation of leaving, facing ostracization from the group/family, alleged distancing from (or betrayal of) Hashem Himself, is highly effective in keeping the flock penned-in.

    Look up "exit counseling".

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  40. and there are many vocational schools and courses opening up all the time to help people adjust

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  41. Reenah: And I guess a cult-member can leave any time they want to as well.

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  42. Many of the kollel bashers are hypocrites - they shnor money off parents and in laws or worse they lie to their yeshivot concerning their personal finances and beg for scholarships to support their promiscuous spending habits. Spend spend spend OTHER people's money.
    The ongoing fraud is sickening.

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  43. > Why are you so angry?
    > HaSh-m payed my mortgage for many years.
    > Did we ask you for money?

    Usually “Hashem paid the bills” (and by the way, “Hashem” is already a euphemism, there’s no need to put in a hyphen) means that other people were kind enough to pay the bills. People like most of the readers here, who work and get piles of tzedakah mail.

    As the old joke goes:
    Young woman brings home her fiance to meet her parents. After dinner, her mother tells her father to find out about the young man. The father invites the fiance to his study for a drink.

    "So what are your plans?" the father asks the young man.
    "I am a Torah scholar," he replies.

    "A Torah scholar. Hmm." the father says. "Admirable, but what will you do to provide a nice house for my daughter to live in?"

    "I will study," the young man replies, "and God will provide for us."

    "And how will you buy her a beautiful engagement ring such as she deserves?" asks the father.

    "I will concentrate on my studies," the young man replies, "and God will provide for us."

    "And children?" asks the father. "How will you support children?"

    "Don't worry, sir, God will provide," replies the fiance.

    The conversation proceeds like this, and each time the father questions, the young idealist insists that God will provide.

    Later, the mother asks, "How did it go, honey?"

    The father answers, "He has no job and no plans, but the good news is he thinks I'm God."



    Not only that, but those of us who are struggling to make ends meet must wait for help (tuition assistance, mother’s helpers, or straight tzedakah) until the needs of kollel families have been met. Apparently trying your hardest and nonetheless being poor is not as noble as being poor on purpose.

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  44. I read somewhere that God worked 6 days a week.

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  45. Renah: Keep in mind that if the funding to your DH's kollel dries up in any significant way, he may have to leave you and the kids and knock on people's doors in far-away lands. Not a pretty picture, right?

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  46. BS"D:The reality is - learning is a real zechut and comes with tremendous self-sacrifice. It's unfortunate that some give Torah-learning a bad name. Some are ill-suited to the demands, others have very real difficulties in managing their money - even if they had plenty. However, we shouldn't let this give a bad name to those who truly do learn with sincerity - they/we do exist!
    My husband has a kollel, for Halacha and Kabbalah, and allows no cellphones during shiurim, no showing up whenever one wants, and "runs a tight ship." And he also, as Miriam S. reminds us, supports the kabbalah's teaching that the burden of parnassah is on the man and that the channels of "shefa" are reversed today - women are ill-suited to this burden of parnassah, and we should all be more supportive of responsible Torah learning, that allows for the wives to also responsibly raise the next generation of Jews. AND, those who learn should do so with a full heart and with accountability - to their fellow Jews who support their learning, and to Hashem.

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  47. BS"D:The reality is - learning is a real zechut and comes with tremendous self-sacrifice. It's unfortunate that some give Torah-learning a bad name. Some are ill-suited to the demands, others have very real difficulties in managing their money - even if they had plenty. However, we shouldn't let this give a bad name to those who truly do learn with sincerity - they/we do exist!
    My husband has a kollel, for Halacha and Kabbalah, and allows no cellphones during shiurim, no showing up whenever one wants, and "runs a tight ship." And he also, as Miriam S. reminds us, supports the kabbalah's teaching that the burden of parnassah is on the man and that the channels of "shefa" are reversed today - women are ill-suited to this burden of parnassah, and we should all be more supportive of responsible Torah learning, that allows for the wives to also responsibly raise the next generation of Jews. AND, those who learn should do so with a full heart and with accountability - to their fellow Jews who support their learning, and to Hashem.

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  48. many of us don't care if common-sense rules are finally put into effect at a kolel here and there or, for that matter, every single one.

    We believe that time spent learning after or before a day's work is much more precious in the Big Boss's eye than folks receiving stipends from the community -- or worse -- a Goyish government to learn all day.

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  49. BS"D: I'm in a class now run by kippah serugah folks who consistently arrive up to 2.5 hours late, are unprepared with the days' lesson, or repeat the same 3 hour lecture from 2 wks ago, and give no feedback from Aug. until now. This all excused with, "What do you care? Misrad haKlita is paying!" (which isn't true, since some paid and others owe).

    In last weeks' class as I listened to a few "chareidi-bash" I thought, "hum, if chareidim acted like this, it would be their chareidi-ness that is to blame, not their own lack of yirat shamayim, etc." Religion is not to blame for character faults, and religion alone can't fix problematic midot. We're all in this gilgul to work on midot, and who really wants to? It's hard!

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  50. Reenah,

    *** If *** you get a stipend through misrad hadatot it means Israeli taxpayers are paying your bills against their will. Beyond the torah issues of disgracing the torah by living off charity while learning ( read mishnah torah, talmud torah ), you are also a boarder-line thief. That money comes your way via the dirtiest political extortion, political extortion which endangers the future of the country by creating sinat chinam between Jews. Think about that.

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  51. BS:D RE: Robert, Just wondering, if you lived say in the US (where I come from) and don't agree with a particular public expenditure, does that mean everyone receiving that aid is ripping you off and bad, making a hillul Hashem? I mean, I'm just taking issue with that you imply that ALL taxpayers are disagreeing with supporting Torah AND that those taking the support are basically really bad Jews. Aren't you also adding to sinat chinam by not giving the benefit of the doubt and posting unkind words about your fellow Jews who learn?

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  52. >I mean, I'm just taking issue with that you imply that ALL taxpayers are disagreeing with supporting Torah<

    Let's put it another way: What percentage of the population wants their tax money going to pay for kolel?
    (I know I sure as heck don't, and I went to Chassidic and Litvish yeshivas and don't even have a TV for 20+ years.)

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  53. I am not sure that this is much of a complaint. I mean, sure you can complain and get the Knesset members to change what they support funding for. However, everybody who pays taxes has issues with some things the tax money gets used for. Some didnt like that the government paid for the disengagement, others dont like money going to settlements, others dont like money going to yeshivot, others think money spent on parks and forest preserves is a waste, others think funding rehab centers, or pensions for terrorists, or pensions for old people, or whatever. There is always something the government funds that some people will be unhappy about. That is life - we dont always like what our tax money is being used for.

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  54. Personally, I think people tend to be too touchy about this topic. Let other people make financial decisions for themselves.

    Also, it always bothers me when kollel families, asked how they get by, say Hashem pays the bills, because well, Hashem pays the bills for baalei battim, too.

    In any case, for those of you outside of the charedi economy who are curious, there are a number of key points that can help you understood how charedi families make ends meet. First of all, don't forget havtachat hachnasa, which allows many kollel men to bring in something like NIS 2,500 or 3,000 (I'm not really sure). Then if the wife is making even just NIS 3,500 and spending NIS 1,000 for childcare, they've managed to get their income up beyond NIS 5,000. Also, I know plenty of avrechim who have a small business on the side that brings in some money.

    Of course if you think about, for many avrechim, if they left kollel their wife might start staying home and they would wind up with a single income of NIS 4,000 instead of the NIS 5,000+ described above.

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