Yellow Sages

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“Torah that is not accompanied by a worldly trade will in the end amount to nothing and will lead one into sin.”
(Mishnah Avot, chapter 2; Rulings on this basis are found in Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, “Laws Concerning Torah Study”, chapter 10, and in Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim #157)

Many of you are aware of the distress of so many in Israel over the fact that not only do the vast majority of Haredim not serve in the IDF or do national service, but more than ten thousand of them have been receiving government stipends for their yeshiva study. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that these stipends were not permissible and now Shas and its allies in the government have been working to find ways to circumvent or overturn the court ruling.

Historically, the great sages and rabbis did have gainful employment in addition to their Torah study. To dramatize this, the Masorti movement created a “yellow pages” listing showing the occupations of these sages. Some, such as Rambam as a physician, are relatively well known to us. Others are less well known. All of the listings, however, have specific support in the Talmud or Mishnah, with chapter and/or page numbers indicated.

Masorti’s “yellow pages” almost immediately made it onto television news and otherwise attracted much favorable attention. In fact, the effort was so well received that a decision was made to print posters and purchase bus ads featuring the “yellow pages.”