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October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Beis Yaakov’

There’s Still Something Wrong with this Picture

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

There is a new Charedi girls’ high school that has made a bold move to advance the education of Charedi girls in Israel. According to an article in Ha’aretz (republished at Failed Messiah) Darkei Sarah requires their students to take the standardized matriculation exams that all Israeli secular and National Religious high school students take in order to graduate.

While this doesn’t sound like much to those of us in America where the majority of even Charedi high schools have a relatively decent general studies department – it is nonetheless a step forward for Charedi Israel. Most Charedi girls’ high schools do not have those standards. Although they do teach a variety of secular subjects they have purposely avoided teaching the girls ‘too much’ so as to avoid the the “Michshol” (stumbling block) of university. They consider much of the subject matter taught there at best inappropriate and the environment to be anti Torah.

But at least the girls get some secular education. Charedi high school boys have none! They spend every educational minute on Torah – mostly Gemarah. Secular studies have little value to them. It is considered Bitul Torah (a waste of the precious “Torah learning” time) to study secular subjects.

Charedim may not agree with the Torah U’Mada principle that secular studies have intrinsic value – but what about the men preparing for Parnassa – earning a living?

Not necessary, they say. Their wives will be doing that. That’s why the girls have any secular education at all. So that they can eventually support their husbands! But even for the girls, they must not be taught too much lest they end up in college.

I guess necessity is the mother of change. Charedi schools like Darkei Sarah now realize that the Charedi family can no longer survive on the kinds of menial jobs women can get without a decent education. Here is how Sima Valess, the principal of Darkei Sarah put it:

“These girls will one day support their families [while their husbands study Torah and Talmud]…”

But in the same breath she adds:

“…in a way that could not possibly suggest that they will follow independent careers.”

As the article points out she had to add that they have not departed from the Charedi Hashkafos of not making career women out of Kollel wives.

I guess she wants to have her cake – and eat it too. I’m not sure what she means by a career. But these new standards are definitely designed to give Charedi families a better means of support. And that usually means a career in one of the fields studied at a university level.

I don’t know whether this will catch on in other schools. My guess is that it won’t. But there does seem to be some basic common sense among a few Charedim who can see the handwriting on their wall of increasing poverty… at least enough to enroll their daughters in that school.

Is the view of educating women so they can support their “Torah learning” husbands the right one for Judaism? I don’t think so. One of the most basic ideas expressed in both the written and oral law is the idea of a man earning a living: B’Zeyas Apecha Tochel Lechem – By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread – God tells Adam.

This theme is repeated throughout Shas. Ein Kemeach Ein Torah; Yaffa Torah im Derech Eretz. The Mishna in Avos tells us that if there is no income the end result will be Bitul Torah anyway. It is also obvious from the Gemarah the sages worked and supported their families. This too is the case with the Rishonim. Two of the greatest – the Rambam and the Ramban – were both doctors. That is how they supported themselves. There is no evidence that either of their wives worked.

So how did we get to the current Charedi paradigm of men not working at all? The idea stems from another concept mentioned in Shas: Talmud Torah K’Neged Kulam . Torah study is the most important Mitzvah one can do. All energies should therefore be put towards that goal. If one can find a way to learn full time, he must do so.

What about people of the past like the Rambam? Why not follow his example? As I recall, Rav Moshe Feinstein mentioned the reason for that. He says something along the lines that we have so much Torah to learn today as a result of the volumes written on Torah subjects throughout history – that even if we devoted our entire lives to it – every waking moment – we would still not be able to fully cover all of it. In our day it would therefore be impossible to learn all of the Torah properly – certainly if we had to put in a full day’s work. Says Rav Moshe – the Rambam’s example can therefore no longer be followed.

I am not one to argue with Rav Moshe. But I still have to ask, how can we ignore our own history? How can we just reject the values the Torah itself posits? And the example the sages and the Rishonom set for us? On the other hand, how can we ignore the rationale Rav Moshe gave us for putting all else aside – including Parnassa –so that we can learn as much as possible?

For me the answer is quite simple. Not everyone is capable of being “Rav Moshe.” One needs not only the high intelligence he had, but his determination and diligence. There not too many people who can fill that bill. For those who can become great in Torah knowledge, yes they should spend their full time in learning Torah.

Whether they should learn Mada or not is a separate issue. But even for those who say it isn’t necessary, they should admit that not every person who sits in front of a Gemarah will end up being a Rav Moshe – or even anything close to that. They will never cover all the Torah that Rav Moshe said we need to know. At best they will only scratch the surface.

That does not free people from trying. But in my view the majority of people who are not cut out for it should follow the directives of the Torah SheB’Ksav and Torah SheBal Peh… and get a job! And then try and learn Torah by establishing fixed times for it. What about producing Torah scholars lie Rav Moshe? The cream will rise to the top. Those who have the potential for greatness in Torah will do so. And they should be supported. A lot better than they are supported now. The rest should “by the sweat of their brow – eat bread”!

But that is not the current Charedi paradigm in Israel. There is no concept of preparing for a job. No matter how ill suited an individual is for the task of dedicating their lives to full time Torah study.

That is in fact increasingly becoming the paradigm in America as well. All Charedi men are encouraged to learn full time here too. Secular studies are discouraged – and even disparaged – becoming increasingly marginalized even in those Yeshivos that have them.

The burden of supporting a family has shifted to women. B’Zeyas Apecha Tochel Lechem has been transferred to them!

I’m glad that at least in one Charedi school women are being better educated. Maybe this trend will catch on. Who knows…? But that does not change what I see is an Olam HaHafuch – a world turned upside down from what the Torah itself intended. A world that existed from the beginning of time until the post Holocaust 20th century.

Visit the Emes Ve-Emunah Blog.

How Bais Yaakov Almost Ruined my Life

Friday, August 31st, 2012

It started when I was in first grade. I was an active kid with bright orange curls, and I’d never sit in one place long enough for my mother to even attempt to brush my hair. I was six years old, the youngest in my class, when my teacher called me to the front of the room. “This”, she informed the rest of the class, “is what a Bas Yisrael does NOT look like.” She then proceeded to braid my hair in front of everyone else as I did my best to hold back my tears.

That was the first time I realized that I was not going to fit in. That there was an “us” and a “them”, and “they” were not to be trusted.

I attended Bais Yaakov for ten years. I participated in their day camp every summer. All of my friends were from school. This was my whole world, and I was prepared to be an outsider for a long, long time.

As we got older, we were split into two classes. The “high” class and the “low” class. Premeditated or not, the “high” class all had fathers in Kollel and lived in the same religiously insulated community. My daddy was a doctor, and it didn’t matter that he finished all of Shas and had a chavrusah every night. My house was a mere ten minute walk from the neighborhood the other girls lived in, but that didn’t make a difference. I wasn’t “Bais Yaakov” and that was it. I pretended to own it – yeah, I was a rebel – but the truth is that everyone just wants to be accepted. I tried, but it was clear that I was never going to be. I wasn’t a bad kid. I never did drugs and I didn’t drink, I hardly talked to boys and I dressed more or less the way I was supposed to. It was other things. It was the fact that I’d go bike riding with my family, that we listened to the radio in the car, that I was a dramatic, sensitive kid who just couldn’t accept religion the way it was given to me. I always needed to understand why, why I had to keep Shabbat, why the boys had to put on tefillin but I didn’t, why saying Shema at night would protect me from all the evil in the world. I needed to know why, and the only answer I ever received from my teachers was “because Hashem said so”. I would get frustrated and angry every time I hit that wall, and at some point they stopped calling on me and I stopped caring. Clearly, I was too dumb and too unconnected to understand what everyone else seemed to accept. Clearly, I was just bad at being religious.

I have ADD to an insane degree, and davening was basically impossible for me. I had a system with my friends where we would all leave at different points and meet up in the bathroom until it was over. We got caught a few times, but no one ever spoke to me to find out why I was skipping it. I just got in trouble over and over, reinforcing in my mind the idea that there was something wrong with me. I just wasn’t ever going to be good at being religious.

In Bais Yaakov, you were either they way they wanted you to be, or you were wrong. Until I left the school – until I was sixteen years old – I actually thought that wearing short sleeves meant that you were irreligious. I thought that by skipping davening, I was “off the derech”. The girls who were wearing nail polish, jeans, even sandals – they were either already a lost cause or close to it. It took me a long long time to break out of that mindset, to realize all of the colors and shades and layers there are in Judaism.

Now, thank God, I’ve left that world behind me. The only valuable lessons I’ve taken from those years are memories of all of the things that I will never tell my children, memories of feelings I will never allow them to feel.

Dilemmas Of The Kollel Wife (Conclusion)

Wednesday, June 20th, 2001
Special Note: Several weeks ago, I published a letter from a young kollel wife who wrote of the conflict that she was experiencing in trying to be an akeres habayis – wife and mother, and at the same time a breadwinner for her family. She wrote that while she had, Baruch HaShem, succeeded in making her niche in the business world, the toll that her schedule was taking on her emotionally and mentally was overwhelming. Despite the fact that she had competent Jewish help, she missed being a ‘hands-on’ mother, and found it painful that, upon returning from work, she collapsed and lacked the energy to communicate with her husband and child.

In that same column, I also published a letter from a young girl who was in the shidduch parsha and was committed to marrying a full and long-term learner, but she too was conflicted by the fact that her parents could not lend any assistance and she would have to be the sole breadwinner. These letters evoked much comment, and I published two of the responses – one from a 23-year-old young woman who has been dating for the past three years hoping to find someone who is machshiv Torah (devoted to learning) and also capable of earning a living. The second letter came from a 22-year-old Beis Yaakov girl who was experiencing the same frustrations, but who also had to live with the reality that her mother is an almanah – widow, and is unable to offer any help. Both young women come from yeshivishe families, and are determined to marry bochrim to whom Torah learning is a priority, but who would also understand that mothering children cannot be relegated to strangers.

‘I want to be the primary mechaneches – educator of my children…’ ‘I want to be able to be alert, awake and relaxed enough to create a warm, Torah-filled, loving home for my family…. I want to imbue my children with love of Torah and Yiddishkeit, and I don’t want to rely on a babysitter to fill this role…’ ‘I want my home to be a makom Torah, my children to be b’nei and bas Torah, but I also want to be able to do this… to have my children see their mother actively involved, and if I am working, how will they ever see that? Children need a mother in the home who will actualize these lessons? wrote the 23-year-old. While she was open to the idea of supporting her spouse for a year or two, she wrote that the ‘good boys’ who are machshevei Torah want to learn full-time for many, many years. Her question is, should she date these boys even though she knows that neither she nor her family can provide long-term support, or should she restrict her search to those who are planning to earn a livelihood? She also writes that she is confused and doesn’t quite understand when and how the roles of men and women were reversed. Traditionally, it was always women who were in charge of the home and the husbands were the breadwinners. Today however, women are expected to assume responsibility for both.

The second letter writer wrote that the mother of a young yeshiva man who had been recommended to her, actually asked her how much money she was earning because she wanted to be certain that her son would be supported comfortably. Her question is: Is it fair for young women to run themselves ragged while juggling the impossible, and is it fair to see parents working two jobs and killing themselves to support their sons-in-law?

Dear Friend:

This is not a question of what is fair. Actually, the word ‘fair’ does not exist in Lashon HaKodesh – the Hebrew language. Either things are right or they are wrong, and there is no quick or easy answer. For some people, working and homemaking may be right, while for others – women who run themselves ragged, parents who have or work two jobs, it is wrong and disastrous. Each person must be aware of his/her own limitations and not allow peer or social pressure to place them in an untenable situation. Not every girl can be a Rachel and not every man can be a Rabbi Akiva, but we must all be Yirei Shamayim (G-d fearing) and make our hishtadlus ‘ put forth our best efforts to fulfill our mission in life.

You are quite correct when you note that somewhere along the way, a role reversal has taken place. And as a result women are expected to be both homemakers and providers. In the Kesuba however – the marriage contract, it is clearly stated that it is the husband who must commit himself to supporting and sustaining his wife and yet, despite this, there are mothers like the one described by the second letter writer, who have the audacity to interview a prospective kallah and ask how much she earns, and whether she will be able to provide for her son comfortably. It is neither right nor realistic to expect women to be supermoms and super-earners. Under such pressures, something is bound to give. In many instances they just collapse under the pressure.

Undoubtedly, there are exceptional young men who should be learning full-time and undisturbed, and there are families, Baruch HaShem, who are able to support them, but this does not apply to everyone. There are some excellent young men however, who are ‘learner/earners’, who are kovea itim - who set time aside daily to pursue their Torah studies and at the same time, earn a livelihood, and I believe that it is in this direction that you should both focus when considering Shidduchim. To accept dates from Yeshiva young men who plan to be full/long time learners can only lead to disappointment and conflict since you cannot deliver that which they seek.

I know that it is not-easy to find that special young man who meets all those qualifications, but the Ribbonoh Shel Olam is ‘Mezaveg Zeevugim’ - It is He who makes the matches, and surely, your shidduch is already waiting for you, You need only maintain your bitachon – your trust and faith. Do a lot of davening (especially mincha) and make your hishtadlus – spare no effort in contacting friends, neighbors, and rebbeim in yeshivos, and you can call upon me as well. May I suggest that you come down to Hineni either in Tuesday evening at Kehilath Jeshurun, 125 East 85 Street, at 7:00 p.m. or on Thursday at The Hineni Heritage Center, 232 West End Avenue at 8:15 p.m.

B’Hatzlocha!

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/dilemmas-of-the-kollel-wife-conclusion/2001/06/20/

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