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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Conflicted on Kollel

I have started a post on this topic more than a few times, and sent it to the trash bin every time. But after a particularly vociferous debate on the topic with a close friend this week, I am resolved to finally write a post about the elephants sitting in the living rooms of so many in the Orthodox world.

Kollel.

Everyone knows the drill. It happens to parents in all walks of Orthodox life. You send your kids off for the obligatory year of learning in Israel, and they come back with the loftiest of intentions: to spend the rest of their life learning in Kollel, or married to someone who is. More and more yeshiva students are approaching their parents with this life plan to immerse themselves in full-time Torah learning, and many are doing so with the expectation - or at least the hope - that their parents will support them in this endeavor.

Ostensibly, parents who raised their children in the Orthodox Yeshiva system should be ecstatic at the fact that their offspring are internalizing all they were taught about the value of learning Torah. But the reality of the situation is that there is such a mass of young men and women embracing the Torah lifestyle due to the enthusiastic endorsements of their Rabbis and teachers, that this trend, while being a very encouraging sign of how much the learning of Torah is valued in the Orthodox world, is simultaneously creating a very worrisome situation.

On the one hand, I agree that it is wonderful that the younger Orthodox generation, even with all the talk of the growing numbers that are going "off the derech", or abandoning an Orthodox lifestyle, are embracing a fad that encourages more affiliation with Orthodoxy, instead of less. And by all rights, these young idealists should be correct in their expectations that their parents and other wealthy community members have somewhat of a Torah obligation to help support those who spend their days in the pursuit of Torah learning. Doesn't everyone learn in elementary school about the partnership between Yissachar and Zevulun? I know I did.

But that biblical partnership becomes much harder to strive for when parents who have worked hard their whole lives to ensure financial security for themselves and their families in the face of raising their children in today's age of astronomical costs of Yeshiva tuition, kosher food, and living in an Orthodox neighborhood, are asked by their children to help support them in a Kollel lifestyle. Many parents simply cannot afford the added expense of supporting another family - especially a family that grows as fast as a young Kollel family is wont to do. It becomes even more impossible when parents who have many children find themselves in the position of having one grown child after another approach them to ask them for assistance. There are many parents who can and do support their children in this lifestyle, even if it means giving up their own hard-earned material comfort and financial security. I have even heard of a father who is supporting a few married children who are learning in Kollel, to the point that he was forced to push off his own retirement, and with it, his own dreams of learning full-time. To these parents, I say Kol HaKavod. May they reap the rewards that the support of learning Torah brings. But what of the parents who simply cannot afford to do so? What of parents that are not willing to endure hardship to do it?

Unfortunately, the Charedi Yeshiva world has so embraced this lifestyle "choice", that it becomes less and less of a "choice" every day. Whereas in the past learning in Kollel full-time was reserved for the very brilliant, the exceptionally dedicated, or the wealthy, these distinctions no longer seem to exist. The Kollel lifestyle is becoming more and more de rigueur of a career choice for young men and women in the Yeshiva community. Which again, is something I have no trouble viewing as an altruistic ideal that embodies true Avodat Hashem. But I also view the fact that the pressure in the Yeshiva world is so high to reject working for a living in favor of learning full-time, as extremely dangerous. How is this ever-increasing lifestyle choice going to remain sustainable for the Yeshiva community? Yeshiva tuition is already almost unaffordable for the working family that is living on an average salary - how are the Yeshivas going to fill in the ever-widening gap that is going to continue to grow as fewer and fewer families are making the money that allows them to foot their full share of tuition? And even the children of the wealthy are putting theselves in a potentially precarious position when they forego any sort of professional training to remain in the kollel world. It is not unheard of for people with the greatest of financial security to suddenly find themselves in a much less assured position. What of their children, who can rely on them for support no longer, but yet have no marketable skills if forced by circumstances to go out and (gasp) find a job?

This trend has also created major issue in the shidduch world. Whereas people in the Yeshiva community have always been known to "check out" prospective matches for their children ad absurdum, now an entirely new category of requirements has emerged. A young woman is considered an extremely desirable prospect if (in addition to her other attributes - such as wanting only a "learning boy") her parents can afford to support a future son-in-law "in learning" indefinitely. Of course, the shidduch world is (not too shockingly) a man's world, so a young man of less than expansive means is never considered anything less than desirable if he is considered a "good learner". But a young woman with less than expansive means will either have to snag the prize of a wealthy young learning man (not an easy task), or give up on the Kollel ideal that all of her friends are likely aspiring to. Which of course brings up the obvious question. Twenty or so years down the line, when all of these Kollel couples have children who are reaching marriageable age, who in the world is going to support them if they choose a similar lifestyle?

I am not willing to say that the Kollel lifestyle should be abandoned. Too much of our tradition is tied up in the pursuit of learning Torah at all costs.

But I believe I've raised some serious questions here about the present and future economic health of the Yeshiva community in the face of this trend. I also worry about the cost to the self-worth and emotional well-being of prospective singles who don't quite fit in with the wave of Kollel conformity that is sweeping the Yeshiva world.

I wish I had answers.

69 Comments:

Blogger Ger Tzadik said...

Ooooh, this is a topic very near to my heart, in terms of wanting to come to an understanding with. As a semi-outsider, I can't see how this will work. It seems like when this ideal is elevated to the point that it has been, it can only "work" for a couple of generations at the most. The people benefiting from it now are doing so on the backs of their predecessors.

You ask all the questions I wonder about. I love learning Torah, and I have the opportunity to learn it quite a bit because my own hard work has put me into a job and a position where I can make time for my Torah study. I want my children (when I have them) to have the same or better opportunities...but do I absolve them of having to learn skills they can use and pass onto their children?

In the end, I think if it's obvious that a particular child is immensely gifted in learning, they need to have those opportunities. Otherwise, they need to find a balance.

Honestly, this is one of my biggest worries about raising a family. Thanks for asking all the same questions I have!

11:56 PM  
Anonymous SephardiLady said...

A few things in no particular order to get the conversation started:

* While holding off on retirement and some of your own goals for your children to learn in kollel does not seem so terrible, there are parents of the same age who will not only be unable to retire because they have little to no savings (or even massive debt!), but who are unable to pay for things that they need (like necessary medical and dental care) because they agree to support their children and their growing families while learning.

*Many parents seem to have a very difficult saying no to their children, setting standards for their family that are out of the "mainstream," or placing appropriate limits on their children when need be.

*We should know that kollel is less and less of a choice in certain sectors when the first question a young chatan is asked is, where are you learning? or a young kallah is asked, so where will he be learning? Kollel has become an assumption just like it was an assumption in a generation ago that a mother stayed home to raise a child while a father was a breadwinner.

*Social standards are developed very young and children tend to aspire to be like their role models. While I would like my children to aspire to acquire the Torah knowledge of their Rebbeim, I would also like my sons to aspire to be like my husband, an extremely honest man with a great work ethic who takes great responsibility for the well being of our family.

One must wonder what message about work-ethic is being absorbed by children who grow up in communities where preparation for a job is looked down upon and where the opportunity for a quick buck is jumped upon?

*The fact that "support" for a young couple is assumed and the only debate is over how the support should be divided certainly has its impact on shidduchim.

*In addition to worrying about the self-worth of prospective singles who don't quite conform, we should also worry about the emotional being of adults, young and old, who are still turning to their parents for support.

Great post Orthomom! I will be watching the conversation closely. And, I loved your carefully chosen words and style for this post.

12:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great great great great post. u hit the perfect balance between respect and cocern. this is major issue, and it will just get more major.

12:08 AM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

Great post Orthomom about the economic sacrifices required to be an Ortho Jew. Unfortunately-it is making Otho Judaism one for the wealthy only-not only in Kollel. Who are the non wealthy suppposed to marry?

2:28 AM  
Blogger MDmom said...

while wanting to learn torah full-time is commendable, i think the the rabbis and yeshivas and one-year-programs are doing these children a great disservice by not exposing them to the realities of the kollel world they espouse so lovingly. i am not entirely sure the institutions really understand the more modern world these children are coming from.

many of these kids who have been "turned on" may be under the impression that they can live a kollel life while being supported by parents in the lifestyle they grew up with, or that their non-learning friends will probably have. i think parents should bring their kids to lakewood, or boro park and let them talk to people (or try to find someone who will talk to them, try the kollel wives) about the realities. my lakewood transplant friends from the community i was formerly a part of in the states gave me a real eye-opener.

first off, parents generally do not support the learning son or son-in-law for their entire lives. an arrangement is usually made that this support will continue for several years, after that, the learning switches to part time, or the wife goes out to work and becomes the breadwinner, or a combination of both. and kollel wives work long and HARD. my son's morah had two other jobs in addition to her teaching job. and this was just to support herself and her husband, there were no children yet.


more modern children must be made to understand that they cannot expect to live on long island, or northern nj, for example and maintain a kollel lifestyle. they really need to live in a kollel community where the goods and services are geared towards their consumers in this demographic. it's not fair for grown-up children to expect otherwise, for rebbeim to push it, and the parents must do their own research to find out exactly how this is done. the trappings of a kollel community look the same as other frum communities but the reality is different. let's talk tahlis -- the clothing is beautiful, but how many girls in that family wore the dress previously? all of them and the cousins, most probably. the labels in the shabat clothing are not designer. there will not be four shaitels in the closet. it is not uncommon for more than two siblings to share a room, three, sometimes four is more the norm. the house, if they can afford one will not be decorated to the nines.

are these children prepared for this life? the romanticism of a kollel life is very enticing when in the insular world of the one-year yeshiva program in jerusalem, but once the bloom is off the rose, the reality of a kollel life is that it is very difficult. the people who enter it for the most part are people who grew up there themselves and know what they are facing, and most embrace it. someone who grew up in woodmere or cedarhurst, i don't think has any idea how to go about setting this up and isn't prepared for it's reality. and neither are their parents.

2:44 AM  
Blogger kasamba said...

You are sooo right Orthomom!
I run a non-profit shidduch agency and I see this all the time. Not every boy is cut out for learning and yet the girls turn their noses up at guy who has a work ethic. I have on guy on our books who is gorgeous, comes from a fantastic family (they are not wealthy) but because he's studying to be a plumber, no one wants to know.

But the truth be told all the boys seem to want Kate Moss, but thats another subject.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Air Time said...

I believe the Yeshivas do a great disservice to the Jewish community when they encourage kids to go into Kollel. As a Yeshiva graduate, I heard far too many high school Bais Medrash Rabbeim completely discourage college, going into the workplace, and getting a job.

While it may be important for some to stay in Kollel, the overwhelming majority of young Jewish adults belong in the college classroom and the workforce.

What gives anyone the right to have seven, eight, nine, ten kids or more without a job, forcing them to go door to door collecting money to marry off a daughter. It is irresponsible and puts an unnecessary burden on the Jewish community. And while people in the work force may or may not be financially successful, at least they tried to make a living.

If Yeshivas are going to encourage students to go into Kollel, they need to have a serious talk with those students about birth control, and the financial strain those students will put on to their community.

We have a mitzvah to emulate God. The last time I read through Parshas Bereishis, it said God worked for six days and rested on the seventh. There are plenty of people who would should take note of that the next time they read through that Parsha.

As someone who learns in the kollel a few nights a week, I recognize the importance of a kollel in the community. But our Kollel is active in the community, is limited to about 12 people, and is blessed with some very special young men. It is not filled with the average yeshiva student.

8:52 AM  
Anonymous SIM said...

Great post. This is a topic that we have been discussing quite a bit and I want to throw one more thought into the mix. Traditionally, Jewish mothers were the center of the home. Hot dinners, cookies, homwork help, mending clothes, cleaning to a shine, caring for a large brood etc. Kollel mothers often work more than one job and have little time left for the 'traditional' role so what message will her kids be getting? Who is raising the kids? (I am not speaking against working mothers here but about the change for the community that once assumed that mothers stay at home) Also - how will the wife being the 'breadwinner' affect the relationship with the husband. Especially if the wife works in a buisness setting (as opposed to teaching)? She may have respect for her husband as a 'talmid chacham' but how about as a man and head of houshold if she is 'bringing home the bacon, (le'havdil) frying it up in a pan' and dealing with all financial issues?

8:58 AM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

Excellent points. I think there are two distinct scenarios here: where the issue is "only" about money, and when the issue is more ideological than financial. In the latter case,
often the conflict arises where money is not an issue, either because the boy is asking for merely a second or third year in Israel or a limited year or two in Kollel, or where the parent's are exceedingly wealthy. The conflict here is purely ideological. Modern Orthodox parents may be aghast at the notion of pushing off or foregoing college for Torah. In this case it's a power struggle: who decides what is best for children? Are parents willing to grant children the autonomy to make their own choices in life? Ultimately parents will ordinarily give in to the demands of their children, but at what price?

9:01 AM  
Blogger FR5TJew said...

Great Posts - It’s a very difficult situation only getting worse. So - what are we doing about it? In Far Rock there are 2 boys Yeshiva High Schools. 1 where they do not allow the boys to go to college. The other allows after learning in their Yeshiva for 6 months - not unreasonable. What will be of all these hundreds of boys? Are they all to sit and learn? Do they ALL have rich parents? Do they all have “PHd’s (pappa has dough). And if so what will be with the next generation? This problem is very grave. Having children of marriageable age and in college (gasp) is not easy. The people that call for Shidduchim for my daughter are generally more modern than she wants. The other boys want to "learn" and be supported - something she does not want and we cannot afford. So its kind of stuck between a rock ... kasamba - you said you run a non profit agency - how would someone get in touch with you. Luckily my son has many friends in college and going further for law, medicine, business etc. Yes they learn by day and are in college by night. (I'm sure some of you out there remember doing that). It’s very hard to change the system but perhaps our children need some more guidance rather than only from these Yeshivas' brainwashing. Don't get me wrong learning is great but which shows more commitment? The Kolel "yingerman" who is being supported in the lifestyle that he is used to or the young man who is learning a profession (yeh even plumbing) and still finds time to attend shiurim and learn. ???

9:29 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Wow. Great comments.

ger;
I'm glad the post spoke to you.

sephardilady:
Great points, as usual. I agree with you on all. Especially the point about a work ethic, and taking pride in supporting one's family.

mycroft:
The non wealthy will marry other non-wealthy, I guess. And they will unfortunaltely be relegated to (hasp) working for a living. A shanda.

mdmom:
You hit on the one point that I wish I had gotten to. There is a lack of understanding that many of these "kids" making a decision to live the Torah lifestyle, are still expecting to be supported "in the manner to which they are accustomed". Many young adults do not understand that the Kollel lifestyle does not generally include designer clothing or steaks every night for dinner.

kasamba:
Agreed. Getting any kind of professional training has become a taint on amyone in the shidduch world. Scary.

air:
I am with you. And even if these young men choose to go into kollel, I feel most of them should do so AFTER attending college.

sim:
Another great point I didn't get to. I know many "kollel wives" who work like dogs to support their families. The toll it takes on them to do so, and then still manage to keep the house running is one that must be massive. In addition, your point about the mother leaving the home is an interesting one. Though many women work, even those whose husbands work, generally when a woman is the sole breadwinner there is more dedication required. One has to wonder whether she is giving up precious time withher children in exchange for living the Torah lifestyle.

krum:
There is defintely trhat point at play in many families. Though that is less of a concern to me. I have seen cases where parents in certain circles would be more supportive of a child that is looking to live a less observant lifestyle than a child that is looking to live the Kollel life.

fr5t:
I hear you. I am very worried for the time when my children hit the "shidduch market". At the rate things are going for us, it is an impossibilty that I will be able to volunteer to support my children if they choose to learn in Kollel.

9:54 AM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"The non wealthy will marry other non-wealthy, I guess. "

Of course, that what happens in general anyway-Nobel Laureate Gary Becker wrote about that in the economics of marriage.

"And they will unfortunaltely be relegated to (hasp) working for a living."
Orthomom what do you think-the poor, middle class and even upper middle class Ortho Jews have been doing for a long time. A lot are being priced out of Ortho Jud even wo Kollel etc.

A shanda-scarcasm unwarranted for couples who are both working and have been for decades.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

these kids are having their minds poisoned by these racketeers running "yeshivas" in Israel.Stop sending your kids to these people and stop giving money to yeshivas which preach this stuff.There are no hungry rosh yeshivas and school administrators.

10:49 AM  
Blogger S.I.L. said...

It's not that Black and white :)

Kollel doesn't necessarily mean that:
- the husband learns Torah all day for the rest of his life and doesn't work at all
- they get money from their parents
- the wife doesn't work

My husband learns full time in yeshiva and we DO NOT get support from anyone. I work full time and my husband has a few side jobs. We live very simply. My sisters' husbands who are also in Kollel both work very hard to bring in income. No one I know is planning to be in kollel forever. Many men who are in kollel are also in school at night or studying for their CPAs, LSATs, etc. so they can work when they feel that it is time. (Even in Lakewood, most people learn for about five years in kollel.) It isn't true that everyone learns in kollel, regardless of their ability to do so. Trying to learn all day, if you can't, can be very demoralizing and most guys wouldn't subject themselves to it. People naturally like to feel productive.

There is a whole range of situations. Some kollel families are self-supporting. Some kollel families get help with rent. Some kollel families are fully supported for a few years. Very few people stay in kollel for life and are being supported by their own fathers-in-law who are also still in kollel. Do you know anyone like that? And if someone has the finances available, he could choose to fully support his children.

The worst thing is that parents feel pressured to agree to support in order to get their daughters married off, even if they can't afford it. Really, if a girl wants to marry a kollel guy, she should make sure to have a job with good earning potential. (Um... speech therapist?)And when they have kids, they should pray for an amazing babysitter.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I am not a fan of the system, as it seems to promote classism. I have to work like a dog all day to support my wife and mother in-law, and I can barly find time to learn. Meanwhile, those with money can afford to sit around all day learning to their heart's content. It seems like eventully we will have a class of very smart, very rich jews, and a work class group of am haretizim.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Jewboy said...

Very well said, Orthomom. As usual, you add a voice of reason to an increasingly unreasonable world. I am a young father of one and I did spend a year in kollel before pursuing parnasa. I liked learning but knew I wasn't cut out to do it forever and I didn't like the idea of having to rely on others to support me. Baruch Hashem, my wife and I are almost entirely self sufficient. Yes, our parents give us a little help here and there, but we pay for all our main costs. I find it greatly disturbing that young Jewish men and women are being raised to be in a culture that doesn't value self sufficency. This leads to lack of initiative and laziness, plus countless peopel "sitting and learning" who actually are spending more time schmoozing and drinking coffee. Not everyone in kollel is like that by any means, but there are plenty of fakers. Where in the Torah does it say that work is a bad thing?
It is an absolute epidemic that we have young men looking for a rich girl to support them. Little good can come out of these marriages, as the Gemara in Kiddushin says. One more point: A husband in kollel often means that the wife has to work full time and give the kid(s) to Jaunita to watch. This is not healthy for the child, not to mention the wife who gets run down, all because her seminary told her she had to marry a "learning boy." When will the Jewish world start to emphasize that a a working boy can be a ben Torah, and sometimes be a bigger ben Torah than a learning boy? Hopefully before it's too late.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous SephardiLady said...

s.i.l You are correct that most kollel couples do not remain as such for the long term. However, even the widespread phenomeom of short-term kollel, combined with the quick growth of families, leaves little time to pull ahead. Eventually, living "hand to mouth" does not leave a necessary cushion to pay the big bills like tuition and one will either find themselves reliant on the community, reliant on their parents, or reliant on debt. The lack of self-sufficiency is not healthy for a community as a whole, and poses problems for the individuals and couples who are never free from their debtors.

One of the most basic concepts that a person learns about personal finance is the power of compounding. Basically when you sock away money and keep it locked up, down the road it will pay for what you need. But, the catch is, to take advantage of compounding you need to put away money early and regularly.

Currently we have entire population of young people who are living "hand to mouth," have little to no savings (and oftentimes even debt), and are having lots of children (b"h) who they expect to send to private school.

How do we expect these young men with little job experience to leave kollel and catch up with children underfoot? It is near impossible to catch up when you are so behind. And, this I think is one of the major issues with widespread learning in kollel after marriage combined with the push for large families.

3:48 PM  
Anonymous shmutzy said...

Wow. You really struck the nail on the head with this one. Good questions - but I am afraid no good answers. Great post.

6:28 PM  
Blogger Jak Black said...

Very well said.

I too feel the same conflict, despite the fact that I'm a rabbi teaching in one of "those yeshivas" in Israel. Let's face it - the kollel system is most healthy when only the stars of the system engage in full-time learning. It was never meant to support everybody.

For myself at least, I guide my students to take the route of "torah im derech eretz," unless they are spectacularly gifted, have tremendous bitachon (or support) and are thoroughly aware of what they're getting into.

2:43 AM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

It is interested that you feel conflicted as a Rebbe in the system. Is it possible that others feel like you but don't want to say anything either out of fear of what others might think or because your parnasah depends on kollel?

8:42 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Hey, look folks, Sephardilady has her own blog now!

2:25 PM  
Blogger Jak Black said...

Sephardilady,

There's much more to it than fear.
Keep in mind that the vast majority really does still choose to get a parnassah. It's just that the numbers of kollel yungeleit are increasing rapidly. I can already feel a shifting of sentiments, and some (such as R. Azriel Tauber in a recent sefer) are already beginning to vocalize the idea that not everyone is fit, or should necessarily be running to kollel.

Many Rosh Yeshivas (and I'm wont to agree with this sentiment) feel that Torah must be pushed with full force in public venues. Again, not because of fear, but because Torah always needs shoring up. In private, however, each student must work with his personal rabbei'im to find his place in life.

On the other hand, of course, it's hard to argue with a fellow who wants to devote his life to Torah (though I have, and will continue to do so in the future.)

This is only the tip of the iceberg, but I'm sure you get the idea why it's such a difficult subject.

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Fed Up said...

I have little sympathy for many who support their sons-in-law in Kollel. They complain but they themselves are also (proud) fathers and mothers of boys who demand support from the family of a future daughter-in-law. Sure there are quite a few "serious learners" but for the most part, these Kollel Yungerleit are outright GANOVIM who should be WORKING and not STEALING from their over-worked wives, burnt out in-laws (and/or parents) and the government, etc.

What happened to the PROMISE of the Ketubah that says the husband will provide for the wife???

I grew up in Brooklyn surrounded by this lifestyle and I dare anyone to consistently show me wives who aren't a stone's throw from a breakdown.

Let's not "beat around this bush" and call things for what they really are. A God that is proud of this travesty is not my God!

10:20 PM  
Blogger pro ban said...

You are all missing the basics.

Siyata Dishmaya.

In Israel, the general custom is to buy apartments ($50,000 - $80,000) for the young couple.
Which is why there are so many meshulachim in the states. I asked many of them - why is the system like that? such pressure on the parents!? why not just pay a monthly rent?

I got the same answer from all of them.

When you have Siyata Dishmaya, hashem will help.

Same for the kollel system. If we become the yissachar and have bitachon, god will provide the zevulun.

10:22 PM  
Blogger Moze said...

My son is learning this year, and possibly more ears downthe road. We told him that we understood he would not be able to learn a secular trade while he is learning (part social pressure, part Israeli government regulations), but got his promise that he would learn a religious trade; he has started learning to be a sofer STaM. It may never provide a lavish living, but it will pay the bills, and no one tells a sofer he's indulging in bitul Torah.

12:51 PM  
Anonymous charliehall said...

'Doesn't everyone learn in elementary school about the partnership between Yissachar and Zevulun?'

Doesn't everyone learn Rambam's Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:10?

The kollel in my neighborhood is a part time affair. They learn every morning at what I consider an insanely early hour, pray, and then go to their jobs. Has anyone ever considered the possibility that if this were the typical kollel model, a lot of funds might be freed up for to help alleviate the Yeshiva tuition crisis? Has anyone done the calculation to see if that additional funding might make a difference? Has anyone even tried to estimate the number of people learning in kollel, as Marvin Schick has done for Jewish Day Schools?

Maybe we may have to consider that Rambam might have been correct?

Also, the big Orthodox High School in my neighborhood is pushing kids to go to Ivy League colleges, not kollel.

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Shula said...

I can't post under anything even remotely resembling my real name because I like my job and I intend to keep it. But I will tell you that I work for an Orthodox institution of higher education that serves a largely yeshivish and chareidi population. I've worked for this organization long enough to have seen some of its good and bad points, but I will say this: My employer is fighting tooth and nail to make the case that a Jew can be shomer mitzvot and work for a living, and to ensure that Orthodox Jews get the education they need in order to do so. Even in our more chareidi-oriented branches, at the very least the women are being trained to support their families. Our school is adamantly in favor of Jews being self-supporting. I hope and pray that this is not a losing battle. If so many go to kollel, who will support the next generation? And if my own generation eats up our retirement money to support our children beyond, say, their mid-twenties, what will be left for us when we need it? This notion that you can depend on your parents and/or in-laws to support your children after they've supported you just turns the whole idea of kibud av va-em (honoring father and mother) on its head. And for a healthy individual to take welfare money simply because he choses not to work, expecting the taxpayers to support his children, is g'neivah (theft), in my opinion. If working for a living was good enough for Rashi and Rambam, it's good enough for us.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Chana said...

If you are looking for answers, I suggest you read Eyes to See by Rabbi Yom-Tov Schwarz. It speaks about precisely this issue with great incisiveness, caring and compassion. I truly agree with his outlook.

8:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a man I know who's almost 70 and has 3 jobs. Why? He has 4 married children, and many grandchildren who rely on him for financial support. He always looks like he's about to collapse. I strongly believe in self-sufficiency, but apparently his children do not.

12:55 AM  
Anonymous charliehall said...

Here is an English translation of the Rambam I mentioned, followed by a discussion by Rabbis Yitzchok Fishman and Yitzchok Etshalom:

http://www.torah.org/learning/rambam/talmudtorah/tt3.10.html

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, orthomom. Your post included definite sympathy and understanding regarding the kollel system that is usually lacking in others' attacks against it. As a teenage girl who is close friends with many girls who recently returned from seminary and many on their way, and, though I hope I'm not being overly optimistic, I slowly see the tide changing. I myself, and several of my friends who are top, solid BY girls, sincerely want working boys who will support us. My friends are bright, intelligent people who see the problems that may accompany a kollel lifestyle, and they are really worried about going to a sem that pushes kollel, as they know that's not what they want for their future.
Also, I heard recently that a prominent Rebbitzen spoke to a BY senior class and told them that not every boy HAS to learn in kollel. So maybe I'm being too quick in judging the situation, and maybe my opinion is not accurate as I live "out of town", but could people be wising up and starting to understand that kollel is not necessary for everyone?

9:58 PM  
Anonymous wessel said...

Wow! OrthoMom, I don't get over here as much as I should, but I'm glad I stopped by today. I am a new olah, husband and I are BTs, so we are outside that whole kollel thing, but we think about it a lot since it affects so many in our community. I find it a total, total disgrace for all the reasons people have listed here (and have said better than I can).

When did it become inferior to work for a living? When did ego and classism become the driving force in the Torah world? I can only hope that the tide turns soon, before the next generation comes of age. I have no problem with the best and the brightest being given a chance to become Talmudic scholars, but everyone? Hmmm.

Also, someone mentioned apt. costs in Israel at 50K to 80K -- what? Where? Please write me! We are looking right now and even modest apartments needing renovation in Jerusalem are about 350K. I've always wondered how families with a lot of marriageable children provide homes for all of them.

12:46 PM  
Anonymous wessel said...

I had better clarify what I mean when I say "total disgrace." I certainly don't mean that learning in Kollel is itself a disgrace -- I hope that's obvious! The disgrace is in placing undue burden on those around you to support you, or pressuring boys to learn in Kollel when they aren't cut out to do it, or shaming them, or shaming girls who marry working men, or thinking it is okay to beg or live off charity, or thinking you are more deserving of honor or blessings than a person who doesn't learn full time.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Kollel system may be hurting Jewish families in the following ways. A young man who is better suited towards working for a living rather than learning all day may feel that he is not accomplishing anything worthwhile, but wasting his time. For a young man, this can be devastating, and lead to drug or alcohol abuse, spousal abuse, and eventually divorce or an unhappy home life. Also, should the mother be working outside the house, a stranger or baby sitter would be raising the children and the mother would still have many household duties in addition to working. Thirdly, values may be coming skewed. Marrying into a "wealthy" family may be desirable for a young man who wants to learn. Instead of finding someone with good midos, finding someone with money becomes a priority.
sorry to be so negative. The fact that there is so much discussion about this topic reflects the uneasiness that many feel about this relatively new custom.

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Living in a tiny old south orthodox community, I love the idea of Kollel, and all the amazing things it could do to help a community. But I don't see any of them living here and teaching our children even being a good example of learning, they seem to all be in a big lump up north or in Israel; if ya'll will excuse the expression "Preaching to the choir"! Push those scholars out into the small communities where orthodoxy is dwindling into conservative practice. Where a good orthodox rabbi has to worry, if he tells people not to drive on shabbos, he'll have an empty schul. There's a tremendous trend of people returning to an observant life style, and we'd be glad to share a "part" of the expense of supporting these scholars. But when we looked into bringing a kollel group here we were told we'd need 200-300k to even consider it. And quite honestly the people with that sort of money don't want to upset the dwindling standards of small town orthodoxy.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

other interpretations yissacher and zevulan solidier and farmer,the rambam support for learning is a chullel hashem/ work and learn is the way of righteousness/ kollel a way for mediocre students to hide inthe bet hamedrash without facing the world of making a living /there are no tests no failur4es just sit and be supported on someone elses back/ wake up

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a traditional Conservative Jew whose college-educated daughter with a decent job frum-ated and married a Yeshiva bucher and Kollel-wannabe. My wife and I are delighted that our daughter believes she found her b'sherte and the two of them seem happy together, but I made it clear that I would not economically support their family. (I have to work very hard to support mine.) In my Judaism, that's the husband's job. Study as much as you want, but also develop the skills and work ethic to support your family. So, my question is, what is the genesis of Kollel? Where in the Torah does it state that young husbands and fathers should study Torah to the exclusion of working to support their wives and families? I'm aware that one of G-d's first prescriptions to Adam was that he would eat bread only by the sweat of his brow. In other words, if you want paradise, you'll have to work for it. The concept of Kollel (beyond a year or two equivalent, perhaps, to college) seems alien and unsuited to modern realities. Even our local Chabad rabbi says that the Torah emphasizes a strong work ethic. Can someone provide a Torah reference to the Kollel concept?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

what I know is the following.

Rambam : hilchos Talmud Hatoire 3:10-11
כל המשים על לבו שיעסוק בתורה ולא יעשה מלאכה ויתפרנס מן הצדקה הרי זה חלל את השם ובזה את התורה,
==>in my eyes the Kollel world is build on tzedaka.
מעלה גדולה היא למי שהוא מתפרנס ממעשה ידיו. ומדת חסידים הראשונים היא. ובזה זוכה לכל כבוד וטובה שבעולם הזה ולעולם הבא שנאמר יגיע כפיך כי תאכל אשריך וטוב לך אשריך בעולם הזה וטוב לך לעולם הבא שכולו טוב:
==>if someone want's to archive real and true greatnes...

Rambam : deos 5:11
דרך בעלי דעה שיקבע לו אדם מלאכה המפרנסת אותו תחילה. ואחר כך יקנה בית דירה. ואחר כך ישא אשה. שנאמר מי האיש אשר נטע כרם ולא חללו. מי האיש אשר בנה בית חדש ולא חנכו. מי האיש אשר ארש אשה ולא לקחה.
==>is this happening????
אבל הטפשין מתחילין לישא אשה ואחר כך אם תמצא ידו יקנה בית ואחר כך בסוף ימיו יחזור לבקש אומנות או יתפרנס מן הצדקה
==>I have got the feeling that it is rather this .

now of course Toireh is the most important and we all have to strive for Toireh , but I believe that instead of having a system with a norm , we should start looking at every case individual

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Anonymous TG said...

i guess we're anomalous because we got our degrees (two each) and worked first and then got married and my husband joined a kollel only towards the end of our shana rishona. he still has his old job, which doesn't care how little he works because he bills by the hour, and i work full-time as i've done for almost six years now (we're married just over two years). so TG we had savings (that we don't touch) and earning potential before starting to learn. we spend relatively little and don't qualify for most government assistance. our baby is in daycare adjacent to my office, which would obviously be too expensive if i didn't have a proper job. my very-MO parents were completely taken aback that their long-emancipated daughter suddenly found herself married to kollel, and registered their discontent, but don't really have any leg to stand on, seeing as we don't ask for anything from anyone. but, honestly, why should my husband be doing anything other than learning right now? the point you made about earning potential is the kicker- people should have a way to finance their kollel lifestyle before embarking on it. if anything, the women should get decent jobs. supporting children is certainly unsustainable.

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