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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 8/29/08



Dear Rachel,

This is in response to another disgusted onlooker (Chronicles 7-4). The subject is a painful one. Parents are trying to instill in their sons that they must prepare themselves for parnassah and at the same time they are trying to explain to their daughters that living a kollel lifestyle is a big sacrifice/strain on the part of the wife/mother as well as parents and in-laws. However, the children of today’s generation listen only to the advice of their rebbeim/teachers/principals, etc. The shalom bayis between parents and children is severely eroding.

It is difficult for children to take their parents’ advice seriously when a rebbe tells his talmidim that it is only the yetzer hara talking when parents insist that their sons leave the bais medrash prematurely to pursue parnassah preparations. Then there is the supposedly true story of a Rosh Yeshiva (back in Europe before World War II) who held back four letters that were sent to a bachur from his mother back home. The first said that his father was sick and could he please come home; the second that his father died and could he please come home; the third that the mother and the children are starving and on the streets and could he please come home to help bring in some income; and the fourth that the whole town burned in a fire and things are even worse than before.

The Rosh Yeshiva said to the boy, “Do you see how the Satan is even willing to burn down a whole city in order to attempt to get a bachur to stop his learning?” This story is being repeated to impressionable young men today.

If I may suggest: Parents who feel they are being denigrated and stepped on should stop sending their money − and their sons and daughters − to schools that promote ideas they are uncomfortable with. All schools that have the opposite approach − that it is kosher to have working parents, that it is kosher to have sons prepare for parnassah before they are married − should heavily advertise themselves in newspapers, etc. so that parents can be aware of them and consider sending their children to such institutions (and to support them with their tzedakah money as well).

In addition, we need to promote the idea that boys who will work and learn after marriage are just as chashuv as those who will learn full-time. In concrete terms, we need to steer our sons in that direction so they will be available to marry our daughters’ friends. And our friends should steer their sons in that direction so they will be available to marry our daughters. Let’s stop feeding into the system by throwing up our hands and saying there is nothing we can do.

There are programs available today where boys can still put in long hours of learning and spend only minimal time going to college to prepare for parnassah. There are schools for men only, and there are degrees that can be taken online or via satellite courses while still in yeshiva. It is time to put down the pens of protest, which get us nowhere, and start doing something concrete!

“Do not make words of Torah a crown with which to aggrandize yourself, nor a shovel to dig with” Avos 4:5. “And any Torah that is not accompanied by work will eventually be nullified and cause sin” Avos 2:2. “One who hates gifts will live” Mishlei 15:28. Rabbeinu Yonah on Avos 4:5 “Whoever derives personal benefit from the words of Torah removes his life from the world.”

There are those who like to quote “Talmud Torah K’neged Kulam.” In two Hebrew-Engilsh dictionaries, the definition of “neged” is “in the presence of, before, against, in front of, toward, opposite.” The word “equivalent” is not mentioned. Yes, whatever we do in our life must have the ideals of the Torah in the forefront and must be done in the spirit of the Torah’s teachings. Causing machlokes between parents and children and denigrating parents in the eyes of their children is not in the Torah spirit.

Yet another disgusted onlooker

Dear Rachel,

A disgusted onlooker (Chronicles 6-13) took issue with the married couple that lives a Kollel life − he learns and the wife is at home with children (she may or may not be working), and they have other family supporting them. You pointed out in your response that “families are entitled to use their assets in any way they see fit…

I have a further statement and question on this subject that has bothered me for some time: the Ketubah is a legal contract and stipulates that the husband is to provide food, shelter, and clothing for his wife and family; so how can a man who plans to learn indefinitely get married and NOT fulfill this contract? I can understand if he wants to learn for a set number of years after which he WILL start fulfilling the contract, but otherwise I see it as fraudulent.

Just sharing my thoughts

Dear Sharing,

For one, any agreement that is arrived at by both sides prior to the marriage overrides the traditionally worded Kesubah. Moreover, the (proper) study of Torah rates not only as a vocation but also as a prestigious post demanding of hard work.

If one undertakes to make learning a full-time occupation (with his wife’s knowledge and consent − a shared ambition), then this becomes his line of work.

Fraudulence can be claimed when a man purports to be a learner and idles his time away, or when he assures his future spouse that he is a steady wage earner, then proves himself to be a habitually lazy individual who wastes his time instead of bringing home a living wage.

Absolutely no fraud is committed by the man who, with the blessing of his future wife, planned to “learn indefinitely and lives up to his commitment.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

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