The problems with the kollel check given by Lakewood yeshiva can be summed up in 3 short sentences:
- It’s a small amount of money (not enough to make a difference)
- It’s given to too many people (it costs too much)
- It produces no return (the money doesn’t grow)
The first two points have already been discussed in an earlier post. The third point is one that is likely to be misunderstood by many, so let me explain. Obviously, the intention of the supporters of Lakewood Yeshiva are to increase limud hatorah, with the understanding that by giving yungeleit some form of stipend they are able to learn more.
The problem is, the investment being made in each stipend given doesn’t extend beyond the person receiving it. He gets his stipend, learns, and it ends there. The money that was invested was for that particular person at that particular time only. Further learning will require additional funds, and the cycle continues. More money, more learning; less money, less learning.
Instead of just paying for the yungerman’s time learned, which doesn’t produce any “growth”, we can imagine a situation where money is paid for the effectiveness of the yungerman, which does produce growth. This greatly increases the value of the stipend paid, and is a much more effective use of tzedaka money than just paying for time alone, which cannot be measured and doesn’t grow.
Many people will misunderstand this. They will take it to mean that supporting someone who is just learning for the sake of learning is a waste of money. Obviously, as someone who spent many years in kollel myself, and who continues to devote much time to learning, I don’t believe that. Of course, paying for someone to sit and learn – not in order to say a shiur, become a great rav, or author scholarly tomes – is still a noble cause. Sitting and learning Torah L’ishma is not something to put down, chas v’shalom.
But when it comes to allocating the use of very limited funds, it makes most sense to direct those resources towards where they produce the greatest return. This is both for the sake of Torah itself, as the buying power of those dollars is able to reach further, and for the sake of the donors, who are stretched thin with all their obligations.
There are many ideas, some of them quite good, on how to best appropriate these “kollel check” funds in the most effective manner. Most likely, these ideas will never see the light of day. Instead, the kollel system, and Lakewood yeshiva, will continue resisting change, and eventually the money for kollel checks – which are already greatly rationed and limited – will come to an end.
P.S. Some of these alternative ideas will be shared in later posts – however, it is most important to realize what is wrong with the current distribution system than to raise alternative plans. Only once the problem is recognize can we really move forward towards a successful resolution.Tweet