Why Aren’t Yeshiva Bocherim (Students) Working With The Homeless And Davening With Black People?

"That’s not what yeshiva students do," says historian Dr. Marc Shapiro in his second lecture on Rav Zvi Yehuda Kook for Torah in Motion.

"Rav Elazar Schach was opposed to kiruv (outreach). That was the standard charedi position. The Brisker Rav spoke about this… It’s not so much that Rav Schach is against people becoming religious, he was against the ideal that kiruv was something that everyone should focus on and organize around. No, for people in yeshiva, Torah study is the organized thing. You don’t go out and mix with the non-Jewish culture. It’s not that you don’t seek to make people religious, but there’s a limit. This was always understood in the charedi world and the yeshiva world until about 20 years ago.

"The analogy is to chesed (kindness). Chesed is important to, but as anyone who has been to yeshiva knows, there is no organized chesed in yeshiva. I remember when I was in yeshiva, we asked our rebbe, why don’t we devote one day of the week to help the poor? He pointed out that that is not what yeshiva bocherim do. You spend your time devoted to Torah study. Other people do chesed. You can do chesed too in your spare time and on Shabbos. Not everyone has to do everything. Obviously other yeshivas disagree and they devote themselves to chesed. When you leave yeshiva, you can devote yourself to chesed."

Luke says: If you become a Reform Jew, then you can devote yourself to davening with black people and civil rights.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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