Why Does Lipman Wish to Belong to Chareidim?


rabbi-avraham-edelsteinBy Rabbi Avraham Edelstein

Rabbi Dov Lipman of the Yesh Atid party has expressed concerns about the Chareidi community’s challenge of generating enough income to sustain itself. This is fair enough. But Rabbi Lipman has failed to use his oft-claimed status as a Chareidi rabbi to communicate the values for which this community stands. This has left him criticizing his own, without telling us why he wishes to belong to them in the first place. Moreover, Rabbi Lipman is late to the party. Chareidi leaders have already for years been executing solutions to the problems every intelligent Chareidi recognizes.

Chareidim have been going to work in increasing numbers. In fact, last year alone, there were five thousand Chareidi males engaged in courses and degreed programs that represented a full range of careers – lawyers, social workers, finance people, architects and real-estate brokers. (The females have ironically been far more qualified than their male counterparts but that is changing.) There is currently a high-level group of activists planning to launch a training program for rabbis to run Chareidi communities who are expected to be primarily comprised of working professionals. Mayors of Chareidi cities are now encouraging high-tech and other companies to come to their cities.

The mainstream Chareidi communities no longer stigmatize those men who go to work. At the same time, they are likely to continue to be pragmatic about value of work as a source of income rather than as focus of one’s self-fulfillment. In a world where we are wont to say “what do you do?” as the first or second sentence in meeting someone, it is refreshing to find an entire community that wants to know who we are – rather than what we are as defined by our shekel-making capacities.

To be sure, since we spend so many hours of our life working, it ought to be something we enjoy and grow from; it ought to provide us with a stimulating and friendly environment. But, we all know intuitively that work is not where it is. None of us want written on our tomb-stones, “Spent long hours in the office.” In death, we know what we don’t always seem to be able to practice in life.

As far as values go, the Chareidi community gets it right. It is family and it is the spiritual that count. Seen in this light, the high level of scholarship of the Torah is a part of a healthy and admirable core. In a world where the millionaire is king, we ought to be finding out some of the secrets of a community which seems genuinely disinterested in materialism.

There is a media image that this is a community that is starving and dysfunctional. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even a cursory walk through an average Chareidi community will make it obvious that no-one is sleeping on the streets, no-one is suffering from malnutrition, children are well dressed and community volunteerism is way above average.

But, you may ask, where did the money for even this modest standard of living come from? It is a mistake to think that it was the Israeli government. Government funding of the private needs of the Chareidi community never exceeded 18 percent. The answer is that the first generation of full-time scholars, now middle-aged, have or had working parents to support them. We all knew, however, that this was a one-generation phenomenon, unsustainable in the long term. The great sages of the generation articulated the idea that, in a post-Holocaust generation, we should give it all that we have got, to try and rebuild from the ashes what our enemies had tried to destroy. The problems we face today are a function of the success of this vision. The growth and expansion of Yeshivas and the values that went with them now require an adjustment to accommodate the financial realities on the ground. The very success of the model has created a rapidly expanding Chareidi population whose fiscal base now needs to be secured.

The Chareidi community in Israel is in rapid transition, and some of the leading Israeli sages are behind these moves. Operations like Kemach, among others, are providing financial backing. There are a few tens of degree-granting courses especially for Chareidim, just as there are several businesses that have set up locations in Chareidi towns like Kiryat Sefer specifically to be able to take advantage of what they see as a responsible and intelligent workforce.

But, in the midst of all of this change, let’s not lose sight of the true values that Chareidim bring to the table. Chareidim truly believe in the Torah as the central force upholding the Jewish people. On that, we are a part of a broad consensus. Ben Gurion (not usually seen as sympathetic to Judaism) says in his memoirs that there are three pillars of the Jewish people: the Torah, the land and the Hebrew language. The number of secular Israelis who engage in at least weekly Torah study, numbers in the many tens of thousands. Chareidim are not unique in adhering to this value. They are unique in the lengths to which they are willing to go to achieve this and what they are willing to give up in the process.

Chareidim approach their Torah studies with an unprecedented intensity because they are actually fascinated by the messages of the Torah in a very real way. Let me illustrate. A few nights ago I was in a car with several of my fellow Chareidim, on our way back from a wedding. A discussion broke out on the nature of the Torah prohibition of being an accessory to a crime. The discussion lasted all of the twenty minutes of the car ride, and was continued for another ten in the parking lot late at night. Where in the world does one see this – where intense moral discussions occupy the daily conversations of citizens of any state? Why don’t we have delegations visiting the Chareidim learning how to achieve this?

Many Chareidim want to live simply. I so admire all those who make that choice. What we want is that those Chareidim who want to or need to go out to work can do so without stigma. This is what is happening now. There is plenty that can be done to quietly facilitate this process for those who want to help.

The wrong way, though, is to stage a showdown. Placing the Chareidi-community under siege, pre-determining how many Chareidim are going to be shoved into this box or that box – all of this will halt the momentum of progress – and lead to exactly the opposite of the intended effect. This is the work of fools – to attempt to create by legislative fiat a transition that needs, in fact to take one or two decades. Rabbi Lipman is certainly not the first rookie politician who dreams of leaving his legacy through some grand social engineering. He will add his failure to the pile of forgotten attempts.

The deeper problem with these self-styled saviors of the Chareidim, is that they fail to recognize the real and important values that this community is providing the broader world. Every day I see the milkman and the bakery drop off stuff and leave it outside the local grocery store of my neighborhood. People who need milk are welcome to take and pay later, when the store opens. There is no-one policing the process. Here is a community where values are not only being studied – they are being practiced. We all want our tombstones to read, “Here lies so-and-so who was true to his beliefs.”Let’s go out and see how it gets done.

Rabbi Avraham Edelstein is a Founder and Director of the Ner LeElef Institute for Leadership Training and a Founder of and Senior Advisor to Morasha Olami.

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Amazing article by a articulate and intelligent Rav. Please quickly change the title of this article to a more pareve tone so the article will be read and the naive Lipman defenders don’t deflect the message

  2. One more thing: The chareidi community is the only one community that pays in taxes more than it gets.

    anyone who goes through the numbers of how many chareidi rich there are, and bothers to look into who causes all the big expenses in the state like violence, drugs, social services etc. alonge with all the state run media and sports colleges etc – will see this as a glaring truth.

  3. While we could spend hours debating about Dov Lipman’s Shittahs, there is one glaring truth that all of these “editorials” ommit:


    This is very frightening for many people.

  4. Matzav.com-please do an article on whether or not Dov Lipman will support Lapid’s support for same gender marriage.

  5. Govermenr intervention, albeit a confrontational approach, attempts to deal with the problem on a broader and more systematic scale. With all the courses and developments that the author describes, they do not begin to even scratch the surface of the secular educational needs of the chareidi community.

  6. “anyone who goes through the numbers of how many chareidi rich there are, and bothers to look into who causes all the big expenses in the state like violence, drugs, social services etc. alonge with all the state run media and sports colleges etc – will see this as a glaring truth.”

    excellent point

  7. MDshweks- your declaration seem speculitave. Have some backup? I am not saying its not true, but it does seem like a stretch

  8. To the other “ben” (all lowercase) whose post is awaiting moderation . If your post is published then what is so personnel about your post that you have made public that you need anonymity or is it so that it won’t be possible to verify your story?

  9. To Number 1 Asher “Amazing article by a articulate and intelligent Rav. Please quickly change the title of this article to a more pareve tone so the article will be read and the naive Lipman defenders don¬ít deflect the message.”

    I am a Lipman defender and I am far from naive.

    I am also not sold by Rabbi Edelstein’s re-cycled comments.

    Talk is cheap.

  10. “He will add his failure to the pile of forgotten attempts.”
    Who do you think you are to make such a comment?
    Shame on you

  11. Great article, but one important point he missed. One issue the Chareidim have is with government interfering with the internal Chinuch system. What motivates such aggression from Lipman/Lapid? The sense of the G’dolim seem to indicate that they view this as a direct attack on Torah masked by an excuse.

  12. Although the author is wrong in many of the facts he resents, its refreshing to see an article defending the Chareidi way of life thats not based on demonizing those who oppose it.

  13. #2-
    you are out of your mind !
    But I guess that if you keep repeating such stupidity and junk to enough people, enough times, you will begin to really think so.

  14. This article is an example of the tone we should use in pressing our case. Hysterics and anger may be cathartic, but don’t help.

  15. Yashar Koach to rav Edelstien on presenting an accurate honest portrayal of the Chareidi Tzibbur in Eretz Yisroel. Don’t expect Dov Lipman to retract or desist from attacking the Chareidi world it’s the only way he gets media attention. If you read his articles in the Jerusalem Post from the last few years(they are available on his webpage) you will see that even before joining Amsalem and later Lapid – Yesh Atid, Dov was fighting the mainstream chareidi world and portraying the chareidim as extremist’s, he has declared that Daas Torah is a made up concept and that one only need consult a Rav to ask if a pot is kosher or not, and therefore didn’t ask a shalae from any Rov as to whether he should join Yesh Atid. His claim to represent chareidim or that he is chareidi is patently false. The Chareidi world needs more spokesmen like Rabbi Edelstien to expose his lies and charade.

  16. I saw this morning that open letter by dovs collegue, they are trying to share them out here in london, absolutely fascinating

  17. I heard they are giving out those letters in london about lipmans former college, my brother got one, but i havent seen any in manchester yet