It is such a small investment for such a major return. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 99b) states: “Those who learn Torah for its own sake provide protection for the entire world.”
The Talmud (Kesubos 111b) also tells us, “One who benefits a Torah scholar from his possessions, Scripture credits him with having clung to the Divine Presence.” Those who support institutions of higher Torah learning see the value in this loyalty; in fact, they see it as their opportunity.
Research facilities spend so much money for the chance to discover new insights. The study may at times be for naught, yielding no practical results. But the researchers know how invaluable their work is – as do those who generously contribute the funding that enables that work. Why should research institutes of science and medicine be viewed differently from research institutes of the Creator’s eternal Word, the Torah?
Some people are under the impression that kollel students choose not to work. The truth, however, is that what they do is work – and difficult work at that, as day in and day out they absorb and mentally catalogue so much complex information. A kollel student is constantly taking in the Torah’s words with hardly a moment’s rest, barely eating, running to review the last lesson or prepare for the next. There is so much material and so little time. Taking notes, rereading, memorizing, working late into the night in order to just keep up. “The Torah endures only in one who kills himself over it” (Berachos 63b).
Torah is what connects Jews to each other and to Hashem; its study represents the absolute ideal for us all. Those who devote themselves to intense, full-time Torah study are Hashem’s soldiers and our heroes. “The reward for Torah study equals that of all the other mitzvos” (Yerushalmi Peah 1:1).
The kollel, being an institution of and for fallible human beings, is not perfect – but it affords Jews an ideal way to strive for the perfect ideal of dedicating one’s life to Hashem’s Torah, the very anchor of Klal Yisrael. If the Torah is the whole of our existence, the very reason for our lives as Jews, how then can we not recognize the value of the kollel? And how can we notappreciate kollel students – those spiritual warriors who constantly bring the words of Torah to life, who march into the future upholding the torch of our holy nation?
Ron Finkelstein is a writer living in Brooklyn. He learns in Kollel Zichron Arye Leib in Manhattan Beach.