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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 9/05/08

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Dear Rachel,

You are doing a disservice to all those involved by your incessant encouragement to our young men to sit and learn and not work. Ditto, for encouraging our young women to marry them.

In case you haven’t heard, we are going into a recession. People are losing their homes, people are losing their jobs. This includes the parents of learners.

Your plan spells disaster

Dear Plan,

Huh? I must be missing something, or perhaps you meant to send your letter to another paper/columnist.

The last time I checked, this column allowed readers to air their varied opinions on this subject and gave equal billing to both the ayes and the naysayers. (See Chronicles 6/13, 7/4, 8/29 of 2008 and 2-3, 4-14, 4-28, 5-26, 6-2, 7-28 of 2006).

Moreover, the last I checked, this column concurred that there was indeed a problem with the way some individuals abuse the kollel system and merely submitted that those with the wherewithal, intellectually and economically and with the moral support and encouragement of wife and family have the right to choose their particular lifestyle.

And, by the way, the last I checked, learning Torah was still a high priority in ensuring our survival both in this world and the next.

Allow me to reiterate for those who failed to get the message: The competent, sincere learner who is passionate in his pursuit of the lofty ambition of Torah study deserves our respect, admiration and support.

Read on for yet another take on this topic.

Dear Rachel,

Regarding Disgusted onlooker and this “full time learning frenzy” – I take a more idealistic approach. I am a ba’alas teshuvah since age 25 and went to a strong seminary for ba’alos teshuvah girls.

I was determined to make full time learning a part of my home for as long as physically possible. That meant NO parents helping out; it meant my husband being dedicated to be mesiras nefesh for Torah, and, if necessary, one day when we couldn’t do it anymore he would work.

Meanwhile I worked full time, and after I had my first baby I would take her to a babysitter nearby and would go feed her on my lunch break. She did not touch formula for nine months. By the time our third child was born we were in an out-of-town kollel. My husband could learn and still get extra parnassah to make ends meet. He also gave back to the community by teaching, which inevitably involved much learning preparation.

I started home businesses so I could be a mummy, and he continued learning for 10 years. No regrets, no pressures, and my kids grew up with a positive feeling for our ideals. Yes I am idealistic, but in all this uproar of the “kollel crisis” we seem to be forgetting one thing: Torah is the ikar, and so few people are learning full time. The world is in such a dismal state that it is a positive, not a negative that so many people are learning.

I am not touching upon the issue of shidduchim, which today is a pressure-filled parshah in itself. Neither am I addressing what happens to the children of kollel families and how they will survive financially. Does the learning man present a problem for future generations? I leave that to Daas Torah. Seems to me, though, that Hashem has a treasure chest full of money and will distribute it as He sees fit. (Isn’t that decided on Rosh Hashanah of each year?)

And yes, a man should try as much as he possibly can to be serious while in kollel, but one should bear in mind that men are human and that people at work also take breaks and have a shmooze. My main point is that Torah learning where possible is the most beautiful thing on earth that a man can do.

Allow me to add that I would be 100 percent supportive if my girls preferred a working boy or if my son wanted a profession. People are entitled to make up their own minds.

No point in being disgusted

Dear No,

You have summed it up so beautifully and have expressed your heartfelt conviction sensibly, making it abundantly clear that you are guided by Torah principles. Not only have you allowed nothing to deter you from your goal, but you pursued it with dignity.

Your children are lucky to have you and your husband as role models and whichever the path they will choose to follow, it is certain to be an honorable one − undertaken in as dignified a manner as you have embarked upon yours.

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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