As the debate over funding for Torah study in the draft 2011/12 state budget
intensifies, members of the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee received a
lesson on the Jewish sources regarding that issue, courtesy of the liberal
modern- Orthodox Ne’emanei Torah Ve’avodah (The Faithful of Torah and Labor)
“Since the haredi parties are presenting [the question of funding
haredi kollel students] as a religious struggle, here is a brief overview that
clearly and unequivocally shows that the request for extensive funding of Torah
study has no sources in Judaism,” Shmuel Shatach, chairman of Ne’emanei Torah
Ve’avodah, wrote to the MKs last week.
Beginning his survey with biblical
times, when “it was entirely clear that a person had to work,” Shatach proceeds
to present the Halacha instructing a father to teach his son a trade, also
mentioning the Shulchan Aruch and Maimonides (1135 to 1204), who wrote that
anyone who thinks of supporting himself by charity to study Torah is desecrating
the name of Heaven and disgracing the Torah.
Shatach also notes that in
all of Jewish history, the sages not only studied Torah but also had
“Today’s phenomenon of tens of thousands do not support themselves
is a unique condition in Jewish history and nonexistent among haredi communities
abroad. It only began in the past decades, after the establishment of the State
of Israel,” Shatach writes.
Economic Affairs Committee Chairman Moshe
Gafni (United Torah Judaism), who penned the section of the draft state budget
in question, launched his response by wondering why Shatach did not issue
halachic rulings on all the other amendments that are part of the state budget
and do not conform with Halacha.
“I totally disagree with what your
letter states regarding income assurance, historically but primarily
halachically,” Gafni wrote on Friday. “Either you don’t understand the
adjudications in the last two clauses in Maimonides’ Shmita and Yovel laws, or
you chose to ignore them.”
“The hatred for Torah scholars does not pass
over those who preaches faithfulness to Torah and labor, or perhaps begins from
there,” the haredi legislator said.