There is concern among some of the prominent dati leumi rabbonim including Rabbi Yitzchak Neria, a grandson of Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Neria ZT”L, who was regarded to be the “Father of the Kipot Srugot”, that the community is losing its spiritual leadership. He feels there no next generation of talmidei chachamim moving into place and suggests a solution, to adopt a chareidi model for kollels. Rav Neria envisions taking 500 ‘illuim’ from the community and provide them the necessary financial support to continue limudim until they reach the level of gedolei Torah. Rav Neria warns if such a program is not implemented, the dati leumi tzibur will not have true Torah leaders.
The dati leumi community estimates having 3,000 avreichim nationwide among a population of some 8 million compared to the chareidi tzibur with an estimated 70,000 lomdei Torah at different levels. The reason he explains is most of the dati leumi sector enlist in the IDF while others leave beis medrash after getting married to seek employment.
Rav Neria adds that among chareidim, it is acceptable for a talmid to get married and then continue learning as an avreich. In the dati leumi community, the opposite is true as most are found in yeshiva gevoha/hesder and they leave beis medrash once married and he is concerned with the ramifications of this reality vis-à-vis the community’s Torah leadership in the coming years.
Rav Neria adds that unfortunately, the current reality is such that the demand for excellence in the dati leumi community is low and this is evident by the level of a kollel as compared to chareidim who must prove themselves to get accepted to a good kollel. To be accepted to a good kollel, a chareidi talmid is aware he has to prove himself and this compels him to excel, explains the rabbi, who admits the standard existing in his own community is far lower, adding “if there is no need to strive for excellence, the level will lag behind and we must excel towards excellence from our youth”.
Rav Neria explains that a special fund must be established to undertake training the 500 future Torah leaders, persons who must dedicate their entire life to limud as their colleagues do to excel in medicine, high-tech, business, being an attorney or career IDF officer.
The system that will distribute the scholarships to the yeshiva students did not begin this way. Originally, this is an aid fund for needy yeshiva students from religious Zionism. Now, as stated, the sector seeks to replicate the chareidi model that encourages Torah study at the kollel by offering scholarships, and offers a regular salary to a national religious scholar who will be marked as an “ilui.”
How will it work? Members of a special committee will travel among the national religious yeshivas throughout the country, and together with the heads of yeshivas will compile a list of 500 Torah scholars whose spiritual future lies ahead. The electors will receive a scholarship / monthly salary, and will be able to stay in the tent of Torah instead of going to academia and the labor market.
The rav envisions a vaad would comb the yeshivot of the dati leumi tzibur and compile a list of the 500 candidates. They will receive financial support monthly and remain in the tent of torah instead of entering the academic world or seek employment. The payment would continue for five years after which time these lomdim would find Torah employment to continue earning a living.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)