Supporting Him, Supporting You

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33 Responses

  1. adina miller says:

    The people in kollel pay less tuition (as do poor working people), and therefore, the people working pay more, and have less time to learn Torah. My husband wants to learn more, but has to work a lot to pay yeshiva tuitions. Kollel, therefore, directly leads to less Torah learning for other non-kollel men in the community. Why is this simple fact often ignored or disputed? It is true in MANY homes.

  2. Luba Penner says:

    Kudos to the author! A lot of Sholom Bayis issues would not have become “issues” to begin with if our girls/wives had this awareness and mindset. Not only that, but the children of those working men need to see (and hear from their mothers)that their fathers are doing “G-dly work” just as their peers’ learning-full-time fathers.

  3. Dr. Yitzchok Levine says:

    Not long ago a neighbor of mine told me that at an assembly in her daughter’s Bais Yaakov high school the female head of the school told the girls the following. (I am, of course, paraphrasing.) “If you want Olam Ha Bah, you must marry a boy who learns and support him for as long as possible.”

    When her daughter raised her hand and said, “I do not think that I am cut out for this.” her comment was dismissed as inappropriate.

    Many think that girls who attend Bais Yaakov are being brainwashed and forced to fit into one mold. Is there no place for individuality in the Chinuch that our children receive? If there is not, then our children are not receiving proper chinuch. See

    Lessons from Jacob and Esau by RSRH at

    http://web.stevens.edu/golem/llevine/rsrh/lessons_jacob_esau_col_vii.pdf

  4. Alexandra Fleksher says:

    Dr. Levine, thank you for sharing that anecdote and your link.

  5. Wolfman says:

    I am sure that Dr.Levine is paraphrasing. There is not a BY school in the world where the comment mentioned would be called “inappropriate”. While minds need to be opened, exaggerations are not helpful.

  6. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Dr. Levine: I think that the “brainwashing” might be far less pervasive than “many” would think. I sent five daughters to Bais Yaakov schools, four of whom went to seminary for a year. None of my four married daughters married kollel learners. (The unmarried one is starting a PhD program in physics this fall and has other things on her mind. Oh yes, she says that the one thing she learned in her year in seminary was that she did not want to marry a kollel boy).

    I know what they’re teaching. I also know that if the families are reinforcing it, it will take hold. If families teach their children to think for themselves, they usually will.

  7. Alexandra Fleksher says:

    Thank you for making the point that parents have a very important role to play. Interesting to note that in more heimish families where it is “normal” to go to work and not stay in learning, this issue doesn’t seem to be as relevant, for the men or the women.

  8. Cvmay says:

    Schools & seminaries are giving over hashkafoes, inspiration & idealism YET preparation for a household to run under a Yeshiva schedule with a husband who is dedicating three sedarim to intense learning, there is no preparation for that “real situation”.
    Girls are feed a dream life, lovely apartment, new furniture, expensive dishes, linens & clothing. Time to meet with friends, long bein hazamanim trips, eating out & driving a leased car. The reality of going to work a 30-40 hr week, preparing meals, cleaning a house, laundry & bill paying is NOT part of the excellent BY education. A husband who will not be socializing & attending family simchas is difficult to imagine.

    When girls wake up from the dreamland- reality is very hard to bear!!!

  9. Dr. Yitzchok Levine says:

    Lawrence M. Reisman thinks “that the ‘brainwashing’ might be far less pervasive than ‘many’ would think.

    I, of course, have no hard statistics, and I do think that it depends on the Orthodox “orientation” of the young woman and of her family. The school I referred to is in Flatbush.

    That being said, one often hears complaints about young women who do not want to go out with young men who are not learning full-time. Again, I have no hard statistics.

    When was the last time you went to a Chareidi wedding where the chosson was not planning to learn full-time for at least a few years? Learning in kollel in the circles I am familiar with seems to be much more the rule than the exception.

  10. Toby Katz says:

    The “avodas perech” in Egypt was that men were forced to do women’s work and women were forced to do men’s work. It is just amazing to me that they have convinced a generation of idealistic young women that this should be the ideal to strive for. I call it “kollel feminism” because not coincidentally, it is also the ideal of the present generation of secular feminists — that women should do men’s work.

    In a balanced Torah world there would be something like twelve shevatim, or maybe you could say a Yisachar-Zevulun communal arrangement, in which working men would support learning men and all would respect each other. We are all in “Hashem’s army” (including those who are literally in the Israeli army, for example). Not every soldier in an army (sorry for mixing my metaphors) can have the identical job or posting, but each should have the sense of all being in this together, all working for one united mission — to serve Hashem. The most brilliant and talented son or sons in a large family would spend his life, or a big chunk of it, learning Torah full time, while the other brothers would be honored to support him financially, and all the brothers would treat each other with honor and gratitude.

  11. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Dr. Levine: I have no hard statistics, either. I only spoke of my own experience; I live in Flatbush. Four of my five daughters went to Bais Yaakovs in Boro Park and one went to elementary school in Boro Park and high school in Flatbush. If there was brainwashing, we didn’t see it in our daughters. (Actually, only my youngest one spoke about it and only in seminary, not elementary or high school.) Are their other Flatbushers out there who share my experience? I don’t see how we were the only family to escape the brainwashing campaign.

    I’ve heard about the paucity of girls who will date non-kollel types. I admit, we’ve bucked the trend. And yes, I’ve been to precious few non-Chasidic Chareidi weddings where the chosson was not planning to learn full time. Again, I know what the trend is.

  12. DF says:

    Unfortunately, The “lobbying” described by Dr. Levine is 100% accurate, and it is not new. My wife, a Midwest city Beis Yakov graduate of more than 15 years ago, vividly because the speaker at her BY convention telling the assembled girls ” Go for the K, not the C!” In case it’s not obvious, he was telling them to look for husbands going to Kollel, not College.

  13. Reb Dr. R. says:

    Rather than be so perturbed at their husbands’ (lack of) learning, perhaps they should look to their own, because Bereishis 3:19 is quite explicit and not all that difficult to understand. If these wives are indeed feeling “an element of resentment toward their husbands who are working,” maybe that feeling ought to be redirected to the One that decreed this to be the state of affairs after the fall. It is the equivalent of them feeling resentful for going through gestation and childbirth (posuk 16).

  14. Raymond says:

    As appalling as I think it is for Chareidi men living in Israel to refuse to serve in the Israeli army, I am even more horrified by those married Chareidi men who study Torah all day rather than supporting their wife and family by making a good, decent living. Just as I would think that learning Torah would make a man more likely to want to defend his fellow Jews in military battles, so would I have expected a Torah scholar to have the decency to support his own family financially. Chareidi families typically have many children, which is absolutely wonderful, but to ask the wife to both raise the children and work full-time, is a form of spousal abuse, in my opinion. I have nothing against Torah study, but it should be accompanied by a sense of responsibility toward one’s family as well as toward one’s Jewish State.

  15. SA says:

    Wow. I could certainly see the need for such a kenes here in Israel, where a “bayit shel Torah,” refers solely to a home where the father learns in Kollel. If this is what’s happening in the United States, I’m shocked.

    My, how things have changed. I’m in my mid-50s, Boro Park born and raised, and went to a BY high school; while nearly all our husbands learned right after marriage, very few stayed in kollel more than one year. My husband, who had already earned his accounting degree at night college and passed his CPA exams, learned for two years, and was very much an exception.

  16. Aharon says:

    what ever happened to the husbands obligation to support the family? Its written in the ketubah. or the obligation to teach ones son a trade? Also, if any average Joe can join a kollel nowadays, how does being a kollel couple put you in the Torah elite? That’s like saying if your husband is in college, you’re part of the academic elite. Of course its important that am Yisrael has Torah scholars, but I’m sick of this ideology that says you’re not a good Jew unless you learn full time.

  17. Dr. Yitzchok Levine says:

    The following is from Rav Dr. Yosef Breuer’s essay “Vocation and Calling” that appears on pages 496 – 500 of Rav Breuer’s Essays – A Unique Approach.

    This, incidentally, brings to mind the oft-repeated question
    whether it should not be welcomed if bachurim express the desire
    to “remain in learning.” “Remain”? Should not everyone “remain
    in learning”? Evidently what is meant is the exclusive occupation
    with Torah study. If this involves the student’s full-time occupation
    with “learning” for a period of several years before embarking
    upon a professional career, such a decision should only be welcomed.
    We would have serious misgivings, however, if the decision
    of exclusive “learning” would exclude any thought of a practical
    preparation for the demands of life. Every profession requires
    training. This may not be possible at a more advanced age. (The
    chance of entering the firm of one’s future father-in-law where
    further training is possible is not normally given to the average
    student.) On the other hand, few possess the ability to become a
    Rosh Yeshiva. To be able to “learn” does not at all mean that one is
    able to teach.

    In this connotation, the following word of wisdom comes to
    mind, albeit in a loftier, more far-reaching interpretation: “Thousands
    occupy themselves with the Written Teaching, but mere
    hundreds emerge who actually possess it; tens occupy themselves
    with the Talmud, but only one actually masters it — and thus
    muses Koheles: ‘One man I found among thousands’” (Midrash
    Rabbah Koheles 7).

    In every case, the responsible officials of our Torah institutions
    should carefully determine, after a given period of time, whether
    the individual student possesses the qualifications to justify the
    choice of Torah study as an occupation, or whether it would not be
    necessary to suggest to him to concern himself with his professional
    training (while, of course, continuing to be Koveah itim l’Torah). In many
    of the latter cases the school officials would do well not to rely on
    the self-judgment of the individual student.

    Is it conceivable that the high praise that Tehillim (128) reserves
    for the head of the family who labors and cares for his wife and
    children would be directed only to the “less gifted” among our
    people? “Happy is he who fears God, who walks in God’s ways”—
    true fear of God presupposes limud haTorah in the firm desire to apply
    all Torah knowledge to a life devoted to the service of God; “thus
    he may enjoy (as Yoreh HaShem) the labors of his hands . . . happy is he, for
    his is the good.” “Love the labor”: this is the severe admonition of
    the Sages (Pirkei Avos 1:10).

    “Torah study that is unconnected with practical work ultimately
    ceases to exist and results in transgression” (ibid. 2:2). This
    means: He who fails to pursue his Parnasah while studying the Torah is
    in danger of encountering economic difficulties that may not only
    force him to abandon his Torah studies but even, because of the
    lack of proper professional training,may cause him, in the quest for
    Parnasah , to violate the great precepts of straightness and honesty that
    must distinguish the bearers of Torah, if their lives are to serve as
    Kiddush Hashem rather than belie the validity of God’s Torah (see
    Orach Chayim 156).

    We need the greats of Torah. But we also need men, solid b’nei
    Torah, who prove themselves as conscientious Yehudim in every
    type of profession, thus striving towards the lofty goal envisioned
    by the faithful of our people: to serve with their lives, before all the
    world, the sanctification of the Divine Will — Kiddush Hashem.

  18. Alexandra Fleksher says:

    SA, there are still women who are happy when their husbands go to work. A friend of mine who grew up in Boro Park said she and other women in her circles are excited when their husbands go to work, especially in recent years with fancy strollers, technology, customs sheitels become the standard. They want their husbands to be able to provide this for them. (I find it amusing that just because a husband is now working does not mean that he can afford such luxury items, but that’s another conversation.) Here, I am speaking about a particular type of girl and am giving voice to a specific and real experience many idealistic, “spiritually-striving” young women experience, even in America.

  19. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Maybe part of the problem is that the teachers (in Beit Yaakov and in Yeshiva) are always those who stayed in the 4 amot of Torah learning, by definition. Naturally (although naively), they promote the lifestyle that works best for them. The same happens in universities, where the best and brightest are trained to become professors because they are trained by professors.

  20. Steve Brizel says:

    The above article is must reading not just for BY students, but for parents and anyone who thinks that being a learner/earner is proof that a person is a failure because he isn’t in a Kollel. I have numerous friends who are professionals and who spend as much time as possible being Kovea Itim LaTorah-they all have challenging vocations, but their true avocation in life is Limud Torah Bhasmadah mrubah as much as possible in their lives. I think that both RHS and R Chaim Shmuelevitz ZL both extoll the Limud HaTorah of such a person.

  21. Miriam A says:

    I appreciate the piece, but not the idea that those in kollel are the “Torah Elite.” I believe that the Torah elite are those who struggle for it; get up super early in the morning, learn, go to work, or the opposite, work all day (and very few people work 9-5 anymore)come home and go back out to learn. That to me is the true Torah elite. Men in their 20s, many of whom have chosen the path of least resistance (read: change, decision making), do not, to me, qualify as the Torah elite.

    Further, the other part of education that is missing in BY high schools is other forms of sacrifice. There is much taught about “sacrificing for Torah,” but where are the speeches about “sacrifices for children,” for those girls who do not want kollel. Why aren’t they taught (by the schools, hopefully their parents are wise enough)that the latest strollers and sheitels that they can buy because they and their husband’s are working are coming at the price of their kids not having their parents home. The answer is simple. They can’t teach it, because the message doesn’t work for kollel families. Someone has to work. So for the families where both parents are working full time-I know it’s unrealistic today to stay home with kids, but if more young people understood that they could possibly sacrifice on material things to be around more for their kids, we’d probably be better off in the future.

  22. Dr. Yitzchok Levine says:

    Alexandra Fleksher wrote:

    “SA, there are still women who are happy when their husbands go to work. A friend of mine who grew up in Boro Park said she and other women in her circles are excited when their husbands go to work, especially in recent years with fancy strollers, technology, customs sheitels become the standard.”

    Boro Park is a Chassidic enclave just as Williamsburg is. Amongst the Chassidim the common practice is for them to marry at about 19. Then the husband usually learns for a year or so in kollel and goes to work.

    Someone recently told me that a friend of his often davened in the Satmar Beis Medrash during the summer. Early in the morning the Beis Medrash is full with men learning. Then the daven and go to work.

    It is amongst the non-Chassidic Chareidi community that one finds the husband learning for longer in kollel.

    However, let me add the following. I have been told by those familiar with Lakewood that about 90% of those who began learning in kollel are working by the age of 30. Very long term learning is the exception, not the rule.

    The situation in EY is, of course, different. There many Chareidim stay in kollel for many years so they do not have to serve in the IDF. This is also changing somewhat in recent years.

  23. YM Goldstein says:

    I fear that this serious topic is being used to smear Kollel learning by many people who don’t really appreciate what Torah learning is. I am happy to support Kollel learning and hope that my future sons in law are talmedei chachamim. I believe the resentment that Alexandra discusses is real, but it seems to me to be an overall positive that the privilege of full-time Torah learning is seen and should be seen as the highest ideal.

  24. DF says:

    I knew of Mrs. Fleksher’s efforts in putting the above-described event together , and I applaud her efforts. However, my reasons (and thus, one presumes, at least some of the attendees) differ somewhat from the viewpoints expressed in Mrs. Fleksher’s letter. No one in my circles, for example, would ever dream of actually resenting their husbands who work, as she describes. To the contrary, those are the husbands who are looked up to by their wives as the heads of their households, as they and their mothers looked up to their fathers and grandfathers. If such an attitude indeed exists among some young women, I am sorry to hear that, and amazed that our society could descend to such levels. From promoting learning, then to preaching kollel, and now to actually denigrating self-supporting men – again, I hope such an attitude, if it really exists on a meaningful level, is few and far between.

    No, I supported Mrs. Fleksher’s efforts for a more subtle reason. And that is, not merely to avoid disparagement of the working ballebass, but addarabbah, to openly and affirmatively celebrate him, and attempt to make a much needed correction in the communal compass. In our pulpits, dominated (as they are today) by ex-kollel yungermen, we hear a great deal about how wonderful avreicheim are, with seemingly no recognition that this is what, after all, they are being paid to do. We are told to admire their supposed self-sacrifice, a notion often belied by the facts of their lifestyles, which is often not very much different at all than anyone else’s. But what we rarely heat about are the real heroes of the community – the working balleboss. No one who has spent his entirely in the yeshivah world and its branches has any idea how difficult it is to learn (as Mrs. Fleksher notes) after an exhaustive day of work. Professions today differ greatly from the idealized shtetel shoemaker of the past. 9-5 hours are a fiction. People are working long hours, and commuting more just to get there. Shachris minyanim don’t begin at the leisurely hour of 7.30 am or later, but often at 6.00 am. When they get home, there are children to study with and other household obligations. That such men still somehow find the superhuman strength to learn, and learn well, and with no wasting of time – THAT is something to truly admire. That on top of this they prop up the community with their time and support, without taking charity from the community – these are the heroes of our community. Far from merely “doing THEIR best”, the are doing THE best, period.

    The point of my comment is not at all to impugn kollel. That is a separate conversation altogether. Rather, we need to hear more – much more – about the many ballebattim in our community, past and present, worth admiring. [And I’m not referring only to gvirim or the very wealthy, who are feted and awarded, but for very different reasons.] We don’t need to resort to pointing out the trite (but true) fact that nearly everyone of chazal held down a job, as did most of the Rishonim. There are countless living examples today, and examples from recent history. Some of the greatest and most popular sefarim of the 20th century were written by working men. Nor should we limit this to learned ballebattim – there were many great men who were not involved in learning, but still giants to aspire to and learn from. Why don’t we hear about such men more often? The point is, the pendulum must start swinging in the other direction. I hope Mrs. Fleksher succeeded, by the meeting she organized and by her follow-up letter here, in getting this message across. It’s a message long overdue.

  25. Alexandra Fleksher says:

    Regarding the men, there are obviously going to be variations depending on the yeshiva, but if a kollel husband is in touch with his rav who knows him well and seeks guidance each step of the way, year by year, I think it is very likely that he will not overextend his stay. In terms of how long to learn, my husband heard a recording of Rav Yaakov Weinberg zt”l who said that for a guy planning to work, he should stay in kollel for one or two years, no longer. And my husband certainly got the message over the years that you should leave when you are still loving learning, and not wait until you are burnt out. Nonetheless, my concern is the wives of these men. How does she feel when he decides to leave? Has she had the right guidance and preparation, whether it be in her formal education or as a member of kollel? Besides her own seeking out of her rav and rebbetzin’s advice, is there more formal discussion of what it entails to leave the kollel life and switch gears to being the wife of a baalabus?

  26. Micah Segelman says:

    I think that even when most mechanchim/mechanchos have moderate views, a few strident comments by less moderate voices can have a very strong and very unhealthy effect on idealistic and impressionable students.

    Also, sometimes remarks create an unintended impression. Speakers/teachers often stress particular values and expect the listener to balance the message with other messages which stress competing values. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way and people come away with too strong a message in one direction.

  27. Alexandra Fleksher says:

    I must add also that how much (in some cases, if any) “counseling out” the men get also depends on the yeshiva. Is it a conversation or is the attitude to learn as long as possible and then deal with it when the time has come?

  28. Alexandra Fleksher says:

    DF, thanks for getting it. Interestingly, I thought of the idea as I was standing in my kitchen listening to Daniel tell me about someone in our shul who was making a significant siyum… my thoughts went to my husband’s many friends who are professionals and make serious advancements in their learning, either early in the morning or after a hard day’s work, and I thought, wow, these men are amazing. These are people that need to be put in the spotlight, for so many reasons, as I articulated in the article. These are husbands that any good, idealistic seminary graduate should be proud to end up with. (Admittedly, my thoughts were also connected to the learning/draft situation in E”Y.) Many women recognize this in their husbands, but there is still work to be done. But truly,as you said, this is all part of a larger picture (although shalom bayis is critical): communal recognition. I’d like to see this panel concept brought to other communities. Many women married to working men have shared with me that this idea is not often spoken about (i.e. it is very much lacking in our education!) and asked if it was recorded. Nope, but it can be done again.

  29. Sass says:

    DF said
    “Some of the greatest and most popular sefarim of the 20th century were written by working men.”

    Could you please elaborate on who you had in mind?

  30. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Pinchas Kahati was a bank employee; his Mishnayos are among the most popular seforim around. The Torah Temimah was a bookkeeper.

  31. Just another voice says:

    The brainwashing of our youth has passed all acceptable limits. And today’s “Kollel lifestyle” is unrelated to true Limud HaTorah or Ratzon Hashem. I am a yeshiva talmid, a college educated professional, and write and give over chidushei Torah. My career direction was not “approved” by Gedolei Yisroel. Rather, when I posed my ideas to them prior to making any moves, I was specifically instructed to pursue the college degree and enter my chosen field. Today, I carry mutually respectful relationships with many recognized Gedolei Yisroel. I am not boasting, and will maintain my anonymity here. I am describing how one can remain Torah true while entering a career that is a to’eles for Klal Yisroel with the guidance of our Torah leaders.

    Unfortunately, it is the exception that a Rosh Yeshiva today knows his talmidim well enough to help them decide whether they are appropriate for full time learning, or should rather lead their lives as Torahdige baalei batim. It is clear that the standard “full time learner” was never the intent of Chazal, nor have the Gedolei Yisroel who initiated the present day Kollel system sought to bankrupt Klal Yisroel by pushing everyone into the learning mode when the greater proportion of young men are not able to succeed in it. Creating the myth for the girls that they must only marry the learning boy is the female counterpart of the great mistake of the yeshiva world.

    Sadly, the Chassidishe world has followed in the footsteps of the Litvishe velt. Kollelim are adorned with hundreds of yungerleit chanting away their learning. Alas, only a few belong there. The amount of bitul Torah in the kollelim is staggering. Yes, this is a rash accusation. The businessman who is not learning while running the business is NOT oveir the aveiro of bitul Torah. The yungerman in Kollel who responds to his calls and text messages on his cell phone during Kollel hours is. I have found Kollel schedules quite offensive. Yungerleit can daven anywhere they wish, all too often being mashlim minyanim at the later hours of the morning, beginning their first seder when the businessman is taking the first coffee break. There is an afternoon seder, and rarely anything in the evening. Family responsibilities? If they held a position as an employee in a store, they would accommodate to the job. But we drop learning for family time.

    I do not think that our bnos Yisroel are jealous for the fancy sheitels or baby carriages. I think their dissatisfaction comes from expectations that they were given that their husbands are true klei kodesh. When these expectations are not met, they are disappointed, and rightfully so. They were misguided into a fantasy world of being married to the next Gadol Hador, and quite embarrassed when they see how they were blindly tricked into this myth.

    We need more events and open discussions to address this phenomenon. It is wrecking Klal Yisroel, bedecked in the costume of holiness while it transplants neshamos to places they do not belong. The Beis Hamedrash is a great place. Every one of them needs to be filled, chiming away with the Kol Torah. These sounds need to be ringing in every community. Creating a mythical lifestyle based on erroneous beliefs is not connected in any way to Ratzon Hashem, and it was never intended to reach this present crisis by the Gedolei Yisroel who created the Kollel concept.

    If our systems of chinuch, from K to K (Kindergarten to Kollel) would have their mission, and their only one, as insuring that every individual would progress in their Torah and Avodas Hashem to fulfill their potential, we would all be better off. Our current system that crams everyone into these cookie cutter molds, with the barely sensible “conforming to rules” of dress, minhag, and other mistakes serves none of the true spiritual goals. These systems are a disservice to Klal Yisroel.

    I know my comment is extreme, and may be offensive to some. However, I have tried so hard to find a benefit to making universal something that is inappropriate for the masses. It not only fails in its mission, but I am privy to the fallout of families and couples severely damaged by this. I wish our Gedolei Yisroel would push for the channeling of our resources in a way that is more effective for the Yochid and the Tzibbur.

    [YA – The author used a screen name, but was probably unaware that his true email address would be displayed to the moderator. [Don’t worry. The secret is safe!] He does not really let on his position in the Torah world. But I can testify to the fact that he is someone much admired and respected throughout the charedi world. Which makes his cri de coeur all the more significant.]

  32. al says:

    the mateh efraim was a business man

  33. c-l,c says:

    Isn’t yet another article for BMG Kollel vs profession a red herring?
    Might it be that both of these options may well be taking the easier way out?
    Is it kollel per se
    or concentration in one place which is unique in annals of Klal yisroel?
    ‘M’rubim tzarchei amcha’
    Do we by any stretch have a surfeit of numbers of those advancing the cause of Torah and Yahadus across N. America and the globe?

    Or is the real issue that today’s generation haven’t been taught real mesiras nefesh?

    Plus :

    A businessman (probably expressing the sentiments of many) told me he prefers to give his money to BMG rather than support worthy out of town endeavors because he receives,in his words “more bang for his buck”?

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