Klal Perspectives: New Issue on the Ben-Torah Baal-HaBayis
It wasn’t so long ago that when people spoke about the issues bnei Torah faced in the workplace, they meant how to deal with the power lunch at a treif restaurant, and the hand proffered by a female executive.
Things have changed, and not for the better. We had the vocabulary to deal with the old issues. Various positions emerged; none of them upset existing protocols or deeply-held beliefs.
Not so today. The angst faced by working bnei Torah has no easy antidote. Baalei batim struggle to keep afloat financially, attempting to satisfy the demands of an Orthodox household that far exceed the earning power of most couples. At the same time, the self-image of the ben Torah which had been so inextricably bound up in earlier years with the quantity and quality of learning takes a merciless beating as there just isn’t enough time to go around between responsibilities of earner, husband, father, and community member.
Nothing could work, short of changing the way we have been taught to think for many years. But we are suspicious of such change – rightfully so. We understand the human capacity for rationalization, for developing intellectual castles in the sky built upon subjective wants, rather than listening to what the Torah wants. (This is yet another way of underscoring the difference between legitimate Orthodoxy and the neo-Conservative Open Orthodox.) We recognize that any protocols of thought that will be valuable to us must emerge from Torah itself, and applied under the direction of genuine talmidei chachamim.
Such change must and will come slowly. The first steps are awareness of the problem, incubation, and the first glimmers of creative light that are then shared with the public. Klal Perspectives has always attempted to play a role in greasing the wheels of the vehicle of public discussion of cutting-edge communal issues. It does so once more with the issue released a few hours ago, and available for viewing or download.
Here are the summaries of the articles in the new issue:
Rabbi Herschel Welcher: Measuring the Journey
Too often, individuals who achieve enormous success in managing their multiple roles of husband, father, breadwinner and oved Hashem (servant of G-d) view themselves as failures. Ironically, it is often those with the most to be proud of who are the most discouraged and frustrated, and the least appreciative of their own achievements. Yet, from their rabbi’s perspective, these men are giants. Why the apparent disconnect? Why do they not see what is so obvious to their rabbi?
Rabbi Yisroel Reisman: The Primary Challenge of Being a Baal Habayis
Unlike an angel, which can have only a single mission, people are endowed with the capability, and sometimes, the responsibility, to be what’s called a בר ב’ שליחויות – a man of multiple missions. Throughout the yeshiva years, young men are on a single mission, immersing themselves in learning to the exclusion of all else. For most talmidim, however, this idyllic period comes to a close, and they must adopt additional missions. Though many of our talmidim have not been adequately prepared, with proper effort and mindset, multiple objectives can be harmonized, and pursued collectively.
Tzvi Pirutinsky, Ph.D.: Continuity and Connection versus Disruption and Disconnection: Observations on the Transition from Kollel Yungerman to Ben Torah Baal Habayis
Many of the challenges facing the ben Torah baal habayis trace their origins to the especially vulnerable period of transition between yeshiva or kollel and the workplace. This period is so vulnerable in part because of the “availability heuristic,” which can substantially narrow a young man’s sense of his options and opportunities. Additionally, there is currently no support system available to serve as a “transitional space” to bridge the great distance between the insulated walls of the yeshiva and the workplace outside. Perhaps yeshivas and kolles could create programs to help young men adapt more smoothly to their new identities, in a safe environment in which to discuss and adjust to new spiritual challenges, while preserving their connections to their Torah institutions as well as to each other.
Rabbi Menachem Zupnick: The Simple Jew is not Simple
The non-Chassidic community can learn three key lessons from the Chassidic community that would assist b’nai Torah in maintaining the intensity of their commitment after leaving yeshiva or kollel: (1) do not invest your self-image in striving for unattainable greatness, (2) strive to be associated with a good chevra (social group) and (3) appreciate and embrace a Rav.
Moishe Bane: Recalibration
The ben Torah baal habayis is a most impressive oved Hashem. One can only imagine how much more he could be if taught to appreciate the growth he can yet achieve after leaving yeshiva, if he were allowed and even encouraged to find his personal voice within an understandably conforming-oriented community, and if he were assisted in choosing a career that complements his strengths and interests.
Charlie Harary: Having It All: Setting Priorities in a Busy Life
The key to a successful life includes identifying and pursuing goals, as well as learning how to prioritize them appropriately. Although there is no magic formula for selecting appropriate goals, this article suggests a four-step process: articulate specific goals, examine the motives behind the goals, ensure that efforts are geared towards the ultimate goals rather than mere results, and remember that success is not measured in comparison to others.
Alexandra Fleksher: From Learning to Working: Adding on another Room
When a man struggles to balance his identity as both a ben Torah and a baal habayis, one can expect that his wife will struggle with their family’s identity, as well. In fact, there is often a sharp disconnect between a wife’s initial expectations of an inspired family life and the reality she faces once her husband enters the ordinary workplace, often leading to her own crisis of identity. Suggestions include raising the stature of the baal habayis in the community, redefining “working” as part of the life of a ben Torah and not separate from it and a concerted effort by the baal habayis to develop close relationships with a rav and with peers.
Aaron Berger: Addressing the Baal Habyis’s Challenge – a Baal Habayis’s Take
A ben Torah baal habayis should embrace his role with a positive attitude, develop and follow a goal-oriented plan and engage a rav as a support system. The community can help by providing rabbanim with the capacity to engage a community of baalei batim serious about avodas Hashem, tweaking the messaging about the stature of the baal habayis as a serious ben Torah and, perhaps, by acknowledging the role of the yeshiva system in preparing talmidim for the futures that await them.
Rabbi Benzion Shafier: A Successful Model: Tiferes Bochurim – A Misgeres for Growth
Many of the most serious yeshiva students often allow their Torah studies to dwindle, if not lapse entirely, during their transition into baalei batim. With the exception of the Daf Yomi movement, there has been, unfortunately, relatively little communal effort to address the spiritual needs of this segment of the community. However, there is a model from pre-war Europe that has been successfully replicated in recent years in many communities throughout the world. Called Tiferes Bochurim, this approach provides a social network for young baalei batim to learn together with an insipring rav, socialize together, and become a chevra (peer group) through their shared spiritual aspirations.
Rabbi Boruch Clinton: 21st Century Parnassa: There’s No Reason Why Not
While a successful transition into today’s workforce is certainly no trivial matter, on the whole, it is unlikely that things right now are any worse than at any other time in the past, and we would be better served by recognizing that. Some areas that deserve attention are the need to be comfortable with compromises, for increased financial training and vocational planning and the tendency to downplay certain principles in Torah.