To Serve with Honor

I recently received the following painful question and gave the following response. It is posted here with the questioner’s permission, of course. Readers’ comments, as always, are welcome. I have added some translations from Hebrew in brackets throughout this post.

QUESTION:

Dear Gedalia:

I’ve been meaning to ask you a question for some time now, and finally have a chance since law school finals are over and I’ve started my not-too demanding summer job.

While this year was definitely a challenge in terms of balancing family, learning, and law school, that challenge was not what I found most difficult. For me, the greatest difficulty was no longer being “in learning” and feeling outcast and looked down upon, to a degree, by those still “in learning.”

At the outset I have to admit that much of my feelings may be a result of my own insecurities as a baal teshuva [newly observant Jew] and the like, but I did receive comments from some people that, in my mind, were patronizing at best and insulting at worst (i.e. “don’t worry, I know some people who went to law school who still became a rabbi – talmid chacham – mechanech, [Torah scholar or teacher] etc.,”), as if being a frum lawyer and supporting one’s family is not “good enough”.

I cannot for the life of me understand why people should be looked down upon for doing what is the sensible thing to do: get a job to support one’s family. Not everyone is cut out to be a rabbi, not everyone has wealthy family to support them in learning, and not everyone has the bitachon [Trust in G-d] of the Chazon Ish or the Chofetz Chaim [great Torah sages of the early 20th century]. As someone who became observant at age 25, and left behind a lot to do that, I take particular umbrage at the condescending attitude of some. There are individuals who either explicitly or implicitly look down and put down other religious Jews who are not of the same “breed” regardless of their circumstances or background.

Have you had similar feelings? If so, how have you dealt with them? I appreciate and look forward to your response.

RESPONSE:

With your well-articulated question you’ve put your finger on one of the most urgent Orthodox Jewish issues of our times. This is not a Baal Tshuva issue and this is not a bitachon issue; this is an everywhere issue. I felt and feel it constantly.

Regardless of what anyone might say, our goal as Jews must be to become ovdei Hashem, to serve G-d, and to increase His honor in this world. Each individual must decide how best to achieve that goal using his/her own G-d given talents and challenges. Every Jew must learn so as to be knowledgable and every Jewish man should be ‘holding in learning’, but that does not mean that the way for every Jew to bring about the goal of serving G-d is or should be limited to learning.

In a certain sense there is confusion between means and ends, as if learning per se was the only goal, athough for some certainly full-time learning to the exclusion of other endeavors is the correct ‘career’ path. Rav Yaakov Weinberg said it best. Here is an edited (by me) excerpt from pps 95-102 of a new book called Rav Yaakov Wienberg Talks About Chinuch, edited by Rabbi Doniel Frank and published by Targum/Feldheim. (The book is set up in question and answer form, hence the conversational style.)

“People think that life is about being a gaon [great Torah scholar] and not about avodas Hashem [service of G-d]……..The central issue is to know that we were not made to learn Torah and become talmidai chachomim [Torah scholars], but to serve the Ribono Shel Olam, the Melech malchai hamelachim, the King of kings, who gave us the Torah. That is the purpose of our existence and that is what it is all about. There are many ways by which one can be effective. One person is effective as a rabbi, and another is effective as a rav; one person is effective as a cheder rebbe and another is effective as a rosh yeshivah. One person is effective as an insurance salesman, and another is effective as a lawyer. Ba’alebatim [lay people] can have an enormous influence, one that a non-ba’alebas cannot have. And if you develop ba’alebatim who are bnai Torah, you can change an entire community……..The point is that we all have to know that we were created in order to make a contribution to hisgalus kvodo [the revelation of His honor] – that is the purpose of our existence, and that is what justifies our existence. And if we do not satisfy that purpose, then the whole purpose of our existence will have been a failure. Therefore, all of our thoughts, goals, and hopes have to be in terms how to best be megaleh kavod Shamayim [cause the revelation of Heaven’s Honor]……When you think this way, it is no longer a choice whether you are going to be a great rosh yeshivah or an insurance salesman but about where will you be most effective, what will enable you to make the greatest contribution to the Ribono Shel Olam. The truth is that the Ribono Shel Olam’s mitzvahs are not meant for us to be talmidai chochomim, and not even for us to learn Torah specifically. They are meant for each and every one of us to be mesharso, His servant; they are for us to bring about hisgalus kvodo (the revelation of His glory). “Lichvodi barosiv, yetzartiv, af asisiv” – Whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed and even perfected.” (Isaiah, 43:7). All the olamos [worlds]were made to reveal and increase kavod Shamayim, the essential purpose of our existence……The Chafetz Chaim suggested that we think like a businessman who is willing to lose here if he stands to gain more there; who tries to make as much profit as he can, but if by asking for more he loses, he will ask for less; who tries to figure out how, in the long run, he will make more; who gives up today for tomorrow. In short, he makes investments……In order to be able to influence, you have to be a ben Torah. And there are degrees of being a ben Torah, and these will strongly determine your ultimate effectiveness as a mashpia [a spiritually influential person]. Therefore we are required to sit and learn and complete ourselves until such time that we feel most capable of making the overall impact that will be helpful towards revealing kavod Shamayim….Boys should be talmidei chachamim [Torah scholars]. But a talmid chacham does not necessarily refer to one who is “Toraso umnaso,” to someone who is learning full-time….. Therefore, every Yiddishe kind [Jewish child] should be taught that the ideal is to serve Hashem — that is the whole purpose in life and that is what we are here for. As he grows up, you will see which way is the most effective for him to do that. That will, of course, depend on his talents, inclinations, background, and situation in which the Hashgachah [Divine Providence] puts him. Different people have different purposes.”

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31 Responses

  1. david says:

    Aryeh, if you ask if there’s an issur to what you propose, I wouldn’t go that far. However, my viewpoint is based on the shittos of bonafide Talmedei Chachamim, the main one being Rav Avigdor Miller, ZTL, whose tapes I still listen to almost everyday. He is quite emphatic on this point as anyone who is familiar with what he said.

  2. Aryeh says:

    Yonasan, the reason why I didn’t respond directly to you is because you make a number of uverifiable assertions. As they are assertions, not backed up by any hard numbers (which admittely is the case in most “frum” discussions), discussion of them is pointless, as I don’t agree with them and yet neither you nor I have agruments to prove or disprove them (quoting nameless rabbis from Lakewood, YU or wherever or inside tidbits about R’ Shteinman also falls into the category of unverifiable assertions). David, on the other hand, was arguing about a point that could be argued about in a coherent fashion.

    TO answer you point by point:
    “The shiduch problem, kids off the derech problem, bad mechanchim, yeshiva tuition, people living off tzedakah, high divorce rate and of course the low level of quality we see of Torah today. This is all caused by the KOLLEL system.”
    An unverifiable assertion when it comes from you. If it came with statistics or from a group of people who are qualified to make this assertion it would carry some weight. As I don’t know anything about you and your competency to make the judgement above I can just simply tell you that I disagree. I could tell you my reasons why I don’t agree with it, but again that would be pointless since it would just be a mostly subjective judgement on my part as well.

    “Rav Aharon Yehudah Leib Steinman was almost booed out of Lakewood last year for even suggesting that there comes a time when people should go to work. He was originally told not to come to Montreal for that reason. Rav Elyashiv as well got in “trouble” for trying to help those who need a parnasah to go out and work.”

    Again, where did you get this information from? I don’t remember hearing that R’ Shteinman was booed by the thousands of people who lined up to see him. If you want to make assertions like these, please quote your sources.

    “There is even a school in Lakewood where they won’t accept your child if the father actually works.”

    What’s the school’s name?

    “You have rich in laws and want to shteig fine, but what is going to be with your kids and their weddings etc.,”
    Why they’ll go to work of course! BTW, (this as well from unscientific evidence department), a friend of mine (who learned in Lakewood) told me that most people leave after a few years. Another friend (who learned in Passaic Kollel) told me that almost all the people he was in Kollel with, went to work, chinuch and other jobs. Yet a third friend (from Torah v’Daas Kollel) told me that the message of the kollel administration was that after a few years (i believe more than 7 in my friend’s case) guys had to go and help out with parnassah, and go into chinuch etc. So perhaps you’re exaggerating the extent of the problem and the fact that no one’s doing anything about it.
    But again, this is neither here nor there in the way of a proof as (I admit) all these stories are not enough to have a real trustworthy picture of whatever the real picture is. The same point can and should be made about the information you quote to back up your case.

    ” since when should a “lo yutzlach” stay in learning? Each of us have something we can be good at and we should find out what it is. ”
    I don’t think any one will argue with that. Neither did I if you read my comments.

    “Bochrim are all told the beautiful story of the Netziv, how he heard his parents and decided to become big, but for every Netziv, there are 100s of individuals nowadays who are going to get to shamayim and Hashem will ask, why did you stay in kollel? You could have gone to work and been osek in klal yisroel or torah of the rabim, your children would actually like yidishkeit, they could have been married off without needing tzedakah.”
    I believe Chazal say that of 100 that go into yeshiva to learn mishnah only one becomes a moreh horaah. So if we only told 1/100th of the bochrim they should become netziv’s we’d have much fewer netzivs’.
    As for the rest of your point, again if a person is learning and not wasting his time, Torah lishma is the highest value we have. And every kollel guy’s kids won’t like yidishkeit? Again where do you get your idea that kollel people’s kids go off the derech in greater numbers than kids of people who work?

    ” There’s a big cheshbon hanefesh one must make when deciding to stay in learning or work. If more people would work, we could actually pay those in learning a nice amount of money.”
    Very true, but again no one argues about that. I would just disagree with the value you place on the two sides of the scale.

    “It is well known how Rav shlomo Zalman told a few balei batim to stay working and not retire to learn full time.”

    It is? It wasn’t known to me. I’m not up to date on the latest gedolim/yeshiva gossip, but again, can you verify that? I’m not accusing you of lying, but I am saying that you can’t use this as an argument since we have no idea where this statement comes from, who says it, what were the circumstances etc.

    “One last point; that boy who doesn’t learn well, but is rich, does he still take the kollel check?”
    If he doesn’t need it of course he shouldn’t. Whether it’s forbidden look in hilchos talmud torah in the shulchan aruch and the tur. I think it’s discussed there, but I don’t remember what the conclusion was on this point.

    “We think we are so frum but we should look at our frum cousins, the chasidim where most of them work to support their families and are kovea itim. They are by far more successful then we and are developing much bigger talmidei chachomim as well.”
    Bigger talmide chachomim? who measures that? Was there a competition perhaps? Another unverifiable assertion.
    Again, when you make claims like that back them up, otherwise the are completely arbitrary. And are they more successful? What leads you to believe that?

    Look at the economic statistics for Kiryas Joel, Kaser and New Square.

    ” We need our gedolim to make some changes.”
    One of the biggest changes they should make is gather some data and hard facts about our community so that instead of using unverifiable sevaros in arguments, people would argue with the real facts in front of them and we would know what really goes on.

  3. Yonasan says:

    David, Binyamin, Eliyahu,
    How come you guys are not addressing my points (above)? The shiduch problem, kids off the derech problem, bad mechanchim, yeshiva tuition, people living off tzedakah, high divorce rate and of course the low level of quality we see of Torah today. This is all caused by the KOLLEL system. Rav Aharon Yehudah Leib Steinman was almost booed out of Lakewood last year for even suggesting that there comes a time when people should go to work. He was originally told not to come to Montreal for that reason. Rav Elyashiv as well got in “trouble” for trying to help those who need a parnasah to go out and work. There is even a school in Lakewood where they won’t accept your child if the father actually works. You have rich in laws and want to shteig fine, but what is going to be with your kids and their weddings etc., since when should a “lo yutzlach” stay in learning? Each of us have something we can be good at and we should find out what it is. Bochrim are all told the beautiful story of the Netziv, how he heard his parents and decided to become big, but for every Netziv, there are 100s of individuals nowadays who are going to get to shamayim and Hashem will ask, why did you stay in kollel? You could have gone to work and been osek in klal yisroel or torah of the rabim, your children would actually like yidishkeit, they could have been married off without needing tzedakah. There’s a big cheshbon hanefesh one must make when deciding to stay in learning or work. If more people would work, we could actually pay those in learning a nice amount of money. It is well known how Rav shlomo Zalman told a few balei batim to stay working and not retire to learn full time. One last point; that boy who doesn’t learn well, but is rich, does he still take the kollel check? We think we are so frum, but we should look at our frum cousins, the chasidim where most of them work to support their families and are kovea itim. They are by far more successful then we and are developing much bigger talmidei chachomim as well. We need our gedolim to make some changes.

  4. Aryeh says:

    David, I would turn the question back to you. Why wouldn’t be OK for someone to be supported if he’s learning and is not a great scholar? Where’s the issur here? Again, we’re not talking of someone demanding that the public support him, but of someone who’s being willingly supported by his family or by other individuals.
    Of course part of Torah Lishma includes remembering what one learned. But again, that’s not under discussion here. What is under discussion is a guy with average intelligence who doesn’t batel and does remember what he learned who’s being supported by his wife/father/father-law/friends. You say he’s Torah does not deserve to be supported. I say that it does, because Torah lishma needs to be supported. I’m not sure why you think Torah lishma is not worthy of being supported.

  5. david says:

    ‘As to your second point, I’m not sure your assertion is true. The point of Torah is not exlusively to produce great scholars. Torah is studied for the sake of studying Torah. If the guy has a rich father-in-law and he’s not bateling, what do you care that he’s not going to become great in Torah? His own learning is reason enough to continue learning. And if his father-in-law is supporting him, so what?’

    Aryeh, I don’t have the time this minute to look up sources, but I do remember hearing that the main purpose of the Yesachar-Zuvulun partnership is for the Yesachar to KNOW Kol Hatorah Hakullah. I hope to find the sources and get back to you. (The Igros Moshe rings a bell). As to what you said, and I hear a lot about, that Torah Lishmah is studying Torah for it’s sake, IMHO that has been perverted into people learning with no real goal of actually remembering it, through chazarah,(or tests) and knowing the material. This is somehow turned into the meaning of lishmah. As to your example of someone learning a good number of years and giving it a chance and realizing that he is not going to be someone great, and still being supported, I guess we will have to agree to disagree. I would like to see some sources for your view that it is OK for someone like this to be supported long term.

    Eliyahu, of course it’s not easy being home with the kids all day. It still is the best for the kids, however. Maybe a part time job is better. For a mother to have to work full time and then take of the kids is extremely hard with all the resultant stress. Most of the psychiatrists, frum or even not Jewish, except for the most militant feminists, I think, would agree.

  6. Binyamin says:

    I should rephrase my earlier comment about people staying in kollel for financial reasons. First, I am living in Israel, and am referring to what I see here. You are right that almost anyone can get a minimum wage job which will pay more than being in kollel. However it seems to me that 1- many people believe that there are no jobs, especially when they here often about high unemployment (clealry a mistaken belief). 2- people who are in kollel may have no idea where to start looking for a job. 3- some will not consider working at an unskilled, menial job for minimum wage (they may be 40, and learn well enough to give a high-level shiur), especially when they first consider leaving kollel. 4- if a minimum-wage job will not pay enough to get by on it has little appeal, even if it is more than a kollel check.

    It seems to me that there can therefore be a percieved advantage to sticking with a kollel check that is guaranteed, rather than entering a workforce that you do not understand, where you do not know what you will find, and you do not have any relevant training, or any reason to think you will be able to adance. Of course, you are correct that this is a mistake, and there is normally no true financial incentive to stay in kollel (unless your wealthy father-in-law is very generously supporting you.)

    As far as what the default preference should be, its worth quoting the Rambam (Talmud Torah 3:10) “Whoever decides to lear, and to rely on charity instad of working, he causes a chillul Hashem, disgraces the Torah, dims the light of religion, causes bad for himself, and uses up his reward that he would have had in the next world.” (see also the Kesef Mishna who comments extensively).

    I understand the Rambam to be reffering to someone whom the community is not specifically interested in supporting. If they want to pay for a kollel so that the community should not be as a whole without torah (asara battlanim/community kollel), or they want to support an exceptional scholar (as i understand the Vilna Gaon was supported by the community without having an official position) then there is nothing wrong with that. The Ramabm is talking about someone who is not in this category, but decides on his own to learn, and then must rely on the community to support him, regardless of wether they consider it a good cause. The point that learning is important even if the learner will not be a great scholar is true if he supports himself (or is supported by family). The community should however try to support those whom it expects to become great, and who will be sharing their reatness with the community.

    I believe that alot of people in kollel are ignoring this Rambam, and that for most of them it would be more appropiate to support themselves.

  7. Aryeh says:

    David, as to your first point, I never meant that. Not everyone’s capable of learning productively the whole day. And those people should be happy with what they’re doing. This discussion is not about them (just like no one will argue that people who have to go to work should not be looked down upon). But I’m sure that the proportion of people who can learn full time is higher than the proportion of people who can afford it.
    As to your second point, I’m not sure your assertion is true. The point of Torah is not exlusively to produce great scholars. Torah is studied for the sake of studying Torah. If the guy has a rich father-in-law and he’s not bateling, what do you care that he’s not going to become great in Torah? His own learning is reason enough to continue learning. And if his father-in-law is supporting him, so what?
    As far as the women working and babysitting, and whether the father’s learning takes precendence over the better raising of children, that’s not my call to make. But I would venture that there’s a great advantage of being raised by a father who’s in the beis medrash 9-5+ as opposed to a father who’s in the office 9-5+. Perhaps the advantages accrued by the father’s learning outweigh the disadvantages of mother’s working. Perhaps they don’t. My guess is that there’s no one answer that’s true for everyone.

  8. Eliyahu says:

    david, if you read aryeh’s comment carefully, you will see that he agrees with your first point. As for your second point (babysitting, etc.), there are some women who find it very difficult to stay home with kids. Secondly, one has to weigh which bdieved is bigger. That answer is different for different people. And if a guy is lucky enough to marry into or come from a rich family and is sincerely trying to do his best learning torah lishma, and is growing spiritually, why shouldn’t he? The mitzva is to learn torah lishma. One does not have to be R’ Akiva Eiger to do that.

  9. david says:

    Aryeh, you left many things out. First, you seem to be saying that everyone is capable of learning productively an entire day. We know that’s not true. So for that person, even if he could afford to stay in kollel, working IS his tachlis and he should be happy doing so, with of course being kovea ittim. Secondly, being supported by others, or a wife going out and the resultant babysitting is a big bdieved, so it should be reserved for those who can really accomplish things in knowing kol Hatorah Kullah, not for every guy who is lucky enough to marry into a rich family.

  10. Aryeh says:

    David, working for a living is not a mitsvah in itself. One has to support oneself so for that one has to work. However, if one is independently wealthy (wealthy as defined by sameach b’chelko), then there’s no mitsvah to work. What should one do with oneself then? Learning would be choice #1. Helping out people–chesed would be choice #2. If neither one works for the person, then bdieved one should work to escape idleness. Chovos haLvovos says very clearly in Shaar Bitachon that working and building up the world IS a mitsvah, also says very clearly in Shaar haPrishus that if one can avoid working with gashmius and focus on ruchnius, he should do that and leave the mitsvah of building up the world to others. If he cannot, due to circumstances, then he should be happy working as that too is will of Hashem.

    So to summarize, it seems that working for a living is not a mitsvah if you don’t have to and a mitsvah if you do. So if you have means of staying in kollel then going to work (because you’re bored or whatever) would be bdieved to a degree. If you don’t have the means of staying in kollel then it would be lchatchila (a lchatchila response to a bdieved situation).

    You’re that the person who’s working should feel happy doing that, but only if he left kollel against his will due to the financial pressure.

    Binyamin–financial reasons to stay in kollel? From my (admittedly limited) acquintance with kollel checks, they don’t seem to go above a $1000/month. Surely, one can make more than that even doing unskilled labor for $10/hour. Can you explain the economics to me (i’m not being sarcastic, btw)?

  11. david says:

    Eliyahu, you’re just sidestepping my point. What do you think most people would answer to the question, ‘Is working for a living (even if you can’t afford to give away half of your earnings to tzedakah), a b’dieved, a reshus, or a mitzvah’? I don’t think too many people would give the correct answer-it’s a mitzvah. Which means you should be happy doing the ratzon Hashem, if that is your personal derech, and you shouldn’t be made to feel guilty your entire life why you’re not a Rabbi Akiva Eiger. Funny how all those people who keep preaching how you could be a R. Akive Eiger if you only wanted to, aren’t one themselves.

  12. Binyamin says:

    Eliyahu,

    There are many reasons why people stay in kollel besides for a true pursuit of ruchnius. I believe the primary reason is social/educational/family pressure, which tells them not to leave unless they can’t survive. Some people actually have a financial reason to stay in kollel – they do not have a secular education, and they have no idea how or where to earn a living (or they are being supported by thier father-in-law). Also, since the ideas are presented in such a black-and-white manner in yeshivas, that learning is good and working is not (as long as you can possibly afford not to, maybe even then) many people are not capable of making the intellectual transition necessary to explain to themselves why they are leaving. They stay in kollel because emotionally they cannot leave, and not because of pure dedication.

    It is also incorrect to say more learning == greater ruchnius. Learning gives us the capacity to grow in ruchnius, but it does not create automatic growth. Someone who learns without consciously applying themselves to growth will not grow. (See Even Sheleima 1:11) This opens a new question of how to define what growth is. I am not convinced that a standard mussar seder qualifies. However, the idea that growth is an automatic result of being in kollel is wrong.

  13. eliyahu says:

    david, a guy who works for a living is not Zevulun. Zevulun is a guy who works for a living and gives half his money to a guy learning full time. The reason why Zevulun is giving such prominence is because he went above and beyond the call of duty and shared his wealth with Yisschar equally. Much more than the 10% maaser kesafim that a Jew is supposed to give (and does not necessarily have to give to support Torah learning either). As to why the gedolim don’t emphasize working for a living as a life path, it is probably because financial pressure provides more than enough emphasis and encouragement for a person to go to work. The constantly reiterated message that learning full-time is so wonderfull is necessary to counter the usual pressure and the materialism of our society. This of course does not justify snide comments to people who work for a living. Another point is that unless you are wealthy dealing with kollel induced lack of money is hard. So a sincere person who is in
    learning is clearly pushing himself to do something hard for ruchnius reasons. Someone who is working for a living is not so obviously motivated and striving. Doesn’t mean that they aren’t, it’s just less obvious and on the surface. So there is room for people to suspect that someone who leaves learning has essentially given up on ruchnius or was not interested in it in the first place. It’s a wrong thing to suspect that and make hurtful remarks about it, but realistically the suspicion is not always unfounded.

  14. Zalman says:

    Thinking like the Chafetz Chaim’s businessman, your questioner is playing in a much bigger market than the yeshiva world. He has the opportunity to live a Torah life AND be a (realistic) role model and kiddush hashem to his peers and the unaffiliated. The capital gains could be tremendous!
    But his critics give value only to the yeshiva world, all the others (the majority of the Jewish world!) don’t count. So those capital gains have no value to them.

  15. david says:

    I suppose the posuk “S’mach Zevulun Betzaisecha…” should be changed to “are you sure you want to do this, you’ll never be as great as us, Zevulun Betzaisecha…”

  16. Avi says:

    Thanks, Steve.

    I heard Rabbi B. Wein quote the Kotsker Rebbe as saying that for certain issues, there comes a point when a person must give the world “The Feig” [=not-quite-obscene yiddish gesture of contempt]. Anyone who knows a bit about the Kotsker knows he didn’t just mean the non-Jewish or non-Observant world.

    If we’ve consulted our Rebbeim, and come to the honest conclusion that a standard job is what Hashem wants for us, then what we need for condescenders is a strong, healthy, mental “Feig”.

    I always say, “Speak softly and carry a big ‘Feig’!”

  17. Yonasan says:

    I am really happy to see this post. I actually just finished grad school and at the age of 30 I will make my first dollar. I am a bit disappointed by Rav Weinberg’s response. I left learning because I needed $ to support my family. I might bring more kvod shamayim as a physical therapist, but I would not be able to support my family, especially since I think it is important for my wife to be home with the kids. I think the biggest problem plaguing the Jewish people right now is the “kollel” requirement for anyone who wants to be considered a “lechatchila” Jew. We talk and write about many “issues” in the Jewish world, but the biggest “issues” are merely a symptom of this problem. I point you to:
    (1) the tuition crisis (people can’t pay. those who can; pay double),
    (2) the shiduch crisis (girls have to marry a guy in learning) (it is ery hard marrying off your daughter when you are a kollel guy with 10 children)
    (3) kids off the derech (if you don’t think you can make it in learning, you are a “lo yutzlach” and might as well go off the derech–find me a Rebbi who thinks it is a good thing that his 11th grade talmid has a knack for science, business or computers, but might not be the best learner.
    (4)bad machanchim (many mechanchim are there because they need to make some $ and can’t afford to learn full time anymore, when we really need mechanchim who love teaching),
    (5) kollelim and yeshivas not paying enough salaries (not enough balei batim and too many kollel yungerleight),
    (6) the quality of Torah has never been so poor (cause anyone can go into learning–funny not everyone who wants to get into med school can be get in, you actually have to be good.)
    (7) Divorce–In most divorces in America and in the Jewish World, the single biggest problem in the marriage are the “finances.” It becomes more complicated when wives are forced to support their husbands or when in-laws are involved. Many wives lack respect for their husbands in such scenarios.

    Suggestions: Have serious bechinas in kollel where if you can’t pass a bechina on 50 blatt you DON’T GET PAID, or if you don’t pass a bechina on 100 Blatt–YOU DON’T GET IN OR No COFFEE During Seder OR No Cell Phones During Seder OR if your kids are sick, no missing seder.

    I look forward to the day when I can hear from the halls of Lakewood Yeshiva and all the seminaries that a man who works to support his family is just as lechatchila as someone in kollel. We have to remember that klal yisrael has 12 shevatim, differences are ok, it’s a question of how we approach our differences.

    I have a lot more to write and am actually working on an article on this topic. I am still waiting until I ffurther hear from gedolei Yisroel in Israel and America before publishing the article. I will conclude with a comment from a very big Rabbi from LAkewood who would like to go nameless. He said that not only would Rav Aron be amazed by how many people were learning in LAkewood today, he would not be happy.

  18. Jewish Observer says:

    “how many of us really made an honest assessment that we could make a greater contribution to kavod shamayim by being insurance salesmen, etc then klei kodesh?”

    who says you have to make such a cheshbon? who told you that the default is chinuch???

  19. Rivka W. says:

    When did working for a living and supporting one’s family become “an alternative life path”?!? Of COURSE learning is important, and some people should be learning full-time. But many should not. And certainly it is not possible for everyone to do so.

    What is Yissachar supposed to eat if there are no Zevuluns?

  20. 4jkb4ia says:

    Yasher Koach!! On the other side, my husband observed about our rabbi’s drasha on how it would be better to greet each other as Boaz did instead of “What do you do for a living?” as “10 years overdue!”

  21. David Gold says:

    So would people in the chareidi world value an ehrlich baalebas over a rabbi who is less than scrupulous?
    I don’t think so.

    The focal point, the zenith, of the chareidi world is the rebbi/rosh yeshiva/rav.
    That is the stated or unstated goal in the chareidi world. In that world, being the best Jew you can be NEVER means becoming a lawyer.

    Can daas torah come from a lawyer? After all, he is the best Jew he can be, while the kli kodesh is [for argument’s sake] not. Yet somehow society does not put the attorney even on equal footing with the kli kodesh.
    What RYW says is fine, but it does not at all translate.

  22. Steve Brizel says:

    Avi-The Daf in Chagigah is 5b.

    FWIW, there is an awesome letter by R Hutner ZTl to a talmid who was apparently taking up a career and “leaving learning.” It is located in Pachasd Yitzchak: Igros Uksuvim.

  23. joel rich says:

    Let’s see if I understand this. Is anyone saying that in the current charedi hierarchy someone who stays full time in learning even if he isn’t “suceeding” (to be defined) is not considered at a “higher level” than someone who doesn’t?

    Isn’t the theory that anyone who wants it bad enough can be Moshe Rabbeinu?

    KT

  24. Avi says:

    I can empathize; I left kollel when my savings went dry and my learning went stale. I then entered and left a multiple-years’ chinuch/ kiruv career, after severe “teacher’s burnout”.

    But I’ve discovered that now that I have a standard job that suits me well, I’ve had the peace of mind to become a much better teacher to my kids, my Torah learning has greatly improved, I’m trying to do kiruv with co-workers, and doing my best to make a kiddush Hashem with my demeanor and actions on the job. I’m still a studier and teacher of Torah, I’m just not being paid; which,if anything, has made these experiences much more pure and enjoyable, and less stressful.

    It’s like R’ Noach Weinberg says: our jobs do not define who we are and what we are doing with our lives, any more than coffee-drinking does; the effort at being great agents of Hashem in all phases of life does.

    P.S. Steve–would you mind finding and posting that daf in Chagigah?

  25. Mordechai says:

    Bravo and kudos.

    After I left kollel, lo these many years ago, to enter the work field I was never made to feel an “ausvorf” by my roshe yesivas/rebeiim. Nor, did I feel more than a smidgen of being looked down upon (and considering my dismal level of Torah knowledge it was well deserved!)

    However, one must still wonder, how many of us really made an honest assessment that we could make a greater contribution to kavod shamayim by being insurance salesmen, etc then klei kodesh? How many of us simply decided that we could not make the grade as rebby’s etc when we really menat that we were afraid to face the sacrifices?

    Without the advice and consent of our mentors we are all subject to our personal “shochad” ….

  26. Steve Brizel says:

    Great response. One source that is well worth considering is a Gemara in Chagigah wherein it is stated that HaShem cries over those who are in misplaced professions and specifically those who are in Torah Umnasam and should be elsewhere and vice versa.

  27. Shlomo Nissenbaum says:

    See also Pachad Yitzchok – Igros u’Mikhtovim ( Epistles (?) and Letters )#97.

  28. Jewish Observer says:

    “regardless of what our Gedolim (such as Rav Weinberg, quoted above) have been saying about the validity of alternative life paths.”

    We are fooling ourseles if we think that “our Gedolim” are pushing for the validity of alternate life paths.

  29. Rabbi Zvi says:

    People who make these comments do not truly understand what the Torah is all about.

    Indeed, one of the Mitzvo’s HaAv al HaBen is L’Lamdo Umnas – to teach him a skilled trade. A good percentage of the Torah deals with the laws of working, selling, being an employer, making loans etc. The Gemara in Kiddushin, last Amud, discusses the need for all types of work. Rabbi Akiva sent his students home for the harvest – his students were adults. Many of the chachamim throughtout the ages worked or were employers.

    Most Jewish Institutions would not exist were it not for the support of those who work to fund them. Where does all the financial support for those who are learning full time come from? It certainly doesn’t rain dollar bills in my neighborhood.

    Also – these comments are extremely insensitive and show a lack of concern for another. The positive command of V’Ahavta L’Reacha comes to mind as does the negative one of Onoas Devarim – loosely translated as painfull words.

    Please ignore the foolish and insensitive words of those who don’t know any better.

    BTW, I have a job in order to support my family. And, yes, it does cut into the amount of time that I can devote to learning.

    In this case it is quality time that counts – quality can be the devotion that one has and effort that one makes, not the quantity of time or blat gemorah.

  30. Binyamin says:

    The common conception that learning full-time should be everyone’s goal is wrong. I know many people, as I am sure everyone does, that are learning full-time, and worse off for it. I am not talking about the financial stress it causes in many families, but the misuse of personality. Many people are not cut out for being rabbi’s, and they cannot properly address their emotional needs when they are stuck in a position which does not suit them.

    While acknowledging that learning is the highest calling, that is only true if the person is best fit for learning. Someone who should be working and learns instead is on a lower level then he would be if he worked.

    Also, “Yaffe talmud torah im derech eretz” – “Torah learning is nicer when it is combined with work”.

  31. Bob Miller says:

    It’s necessary to develop a thick skin, since some people who ought to know better still won’t get it, regardless of what our Gedolim (such as Rav Weinberg, quoted above) have been saying about the validity of alternative life paths.

    It’s human nature for people to value the career choices they made over the choices you made and they didn’t. Also, many mean well but speak not so well.