I received the following message today from a haredi friend who is desperate for changes in his community but does not have the courage to break free from the system on his own:

“I had a friend in yeshiva who was brilliant. He was an expert electrician and would fix things for everyone all the time. He had no interest in learning Torah so all of us encouraged him to leave yeshiva and study to become a professional electrician. He told his father that he wanted to become an electrician and that he was not accomplishing anything in yeshiva. His father became enraged and would not let him continue speaking about this idea. He forced his son to remain in yeshiva. My friend wanted to enroll in courses on his own but had no money to do so. He tried to find work to provide himself with money to pay for the courses but his father threatened him with all kinds of consequences if he found him working. My friend was so helpless and would simply wander around until nighttime when he would go to wedding halls and lie to people saying that he lived in the North and had no money to return home. He would take the money and invite friends to join him for a late supper at restaurants.

 

Eight years had gone by since I last saw him, and I was a the Kotel the other day when I suddenly saw my friend collecting money from people. He would go from person to person, each time making up a different story. I asked him why he never took the money to go study to be a professional electrician as he had always wanted to do. I told him he is now married and does not have to worry about his father and could be earning a dignified living by now. You know what he answered me?  “Leave me alone. There is nothing like being a schnorrer (collector). It is easy money and I’ve already become used to this.”

My friend ended the message with the words: “Do you understand? There are thousands more like him.”

I hope the current government does more than create a compromise to the Tal Law. It is time for far-reaching reforms to free these fellow Jews who are trapped by their extremist leaders.