Mar 14, 2018

Rav Soloveitchik compares Israeli and American yeshiva bochurim

Rav Avraham Yehoshua Soloveitchik, an esteemed rosh yeshiva of a very prestigious yeshiva, had an interesting thing to say in response to a speech given by an American rosh yeshiva about issues, especially issues of learning secular education, in yeshivas in Eretz Yisrael.

The entire speech can be read on Behadrei, and is very interesting, if you can manage it.

The main points of what he said, that I want to comment on is when he compared the young men learning in Eretz Yisrael to the young men learning in the USA.

 * Rav Soloveitchik basically said that the problems in the yeshivas in USA are much worse and the rosh yeshivas there should really worry about their problems there and not worry so much about the issues in yeshivas in Eretz Yisrael.

I don't disagree with this, though really anyone can talk about whatever they want. If one is going to use Rav Soloveitchik's model of each person only discussing his own problems and not commenting on issues of other places, that really goes both ways and rabbonim in Eretz Yisrael should then not mix in with issues in the Diaspora, and rabbonim of the Diaspora should not get involved in affairs of Eretz Yisrael. This is like the debate of whether or not Jews abroad can comment on the political/economical/defense/etc situations in Israel. Personally I think we are all connected and can talk about the various issues, but I get that some say otherwise, but if that's what you believe it should go in both directions.

 * Rav Sloveitchik further compared the two saying that in the USA in yeshiva high schools boys learn secular studies along with kodesh, and in some higher yeshivas they can go to university at night and get an academic degree. In the USA, everyone is looking for a wife with a degree, and without a degree she is not worth anything. Whereas in Eretz Yisrael avreichim learn many years after they marry, while in the USA after 3 years they go out to work, and once they do you can never tell that they had previously been in yeshiva.

It is increasingly common that yeshiva guys and avreichim stay in yeshiva and kollel much longer than they used to in the USA, especially in places like Lakewood, but also in many yeshivas around the USA. As well, many go to Israel to learn for a few years and then go back to learn for some more years there, so I am not sure how correct he is about this as a rule. Perhaps among the less "charedi/yeshivish" he is more correct. His issue with how the guys look and act after leaving yeshiva also seems relevant more for [some of] the Modern Orthodox or perhaps for the religiously weaker boys, and less for the yeshivish. Nowadays you can find guys after yeshiva in the workforce who still dress and at just like they did in yeshiva.

He really should be comparing apples and apples, and not apples and oranges.

 *  The best of America does not reach the worst of Eretz Yisrael. If the bochurim of America would stay in the USA and not come to learn in Israel, the spiritual status here in Eretz Yisrael would be much better.

Wow. So much here. First of all, in torah learning, I think he is probably right - the best of America, as a rule (with exceptions) is not as good as the learning in Israel. I dont know that they dont reach the worst of Israel - I think they are far better than that, but the level of torah learning in Israeli yeshivas, as a rule, is generally much higher.

If the boys of America would not come to Israel, many yeshivas in Israel would not exist, possibly including his own. Rav Soloveitchik's yeshiva, along with many in the same category of yeshiva, is made up almost entirely of American yeshiva boys coming to learn in Israel for a few years. If they are no good, what does that say about his yeshiva and others like it? If they ruin the spirituality of Israel, what does that say about his yeshiva? If they should not come, he might as well close his doors and encourage his potential talmidim to stay away. Unless, again, he is talking about everyone but the type of guy who would go to his his yeshiva.

And that's not even taking into account how the financial standing of many Israeli yeshivas would be affected, without the tuition and donations from parents and relatives who take an interest in the Israeli yeshivas only because their kids and friends kids learn there.

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  1. "Whereas in Eretz Yisrael avreichim learn many years after they marry"

    1. The Americans don't have a draft to dodge.

    2. Israel is more generous (or is forced to be by small parties) with their payments to people "learning."

    Take away those two factors and see how quickly it crumbles.

  2. Sounds like a bigot to me. Not surprised.


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