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Out-of-Town Living: Not the End of the World

Barbara Bensoussan

The boundaries of the Jewish world have expanded in recent decades. How far out is “out-of-town” today? A sampling of families who are living Torah lives regardless of where they have chosen to settle.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

OOT living

Many children have read Aesop’s fable of the city mouse and the country mouse. The city mouse, visiting his country cousin, is disappointed by the plain, simple kernels of corn and berries his cousin serves him. “Come to my mansion in the city!” he tells his cousin. “There you’ll see what real living is all about!”

The country mouse, tempted by the offer, follows him back to the big city. He indeed finds a luxurious house, where choice wines, imported cheeses, and white loaves of fine bread are left out on a massive table. The two mice start regaling themselves on big-city delicacies. Suddenly, an enormous cat leaps onto the table, and the terrified mice run for their lives. After they finally reach safety in the mouse-hole and collapse, panting from exhaustion, the country mouse says, “You can keep your fancy food. I’d rather eat my grains of corn in the country, in peace!”

This simple child’s tale encapsulates a deeper truth about human lifestyle choices. Do we opt for a simpler, quieter life, whose comforts are less grandiose? Or do we seek the excitement and high living of big-city life, even though it may mean paying a high price in stress? For a Jewish person, the decision is about ruchniyus as much as it is about gashmiyus. Are you drawn to a large center of Yiddishkeit, where there lies before you a plethora of choices of yeshivos, minyanim, shidduch opportunities, shiurim, all waiting for you to take your pick? Or are there greater benefits to be derived from living in an environment where you may have to build your own yeshivah or minyan? Or, in the absence of that shiur you’d like to attend, maybe give that shiur yourself?

Some of us are city mice by nature, preferring the bustle and activity of large urban areas; others are country mice who like a slow, easy pace and the luxury of finding parking absolutely everywhere. Then there are city mice who find themselves transplanted to the country, or vice versa, as the winds of destiny blow them in unexpected directions. Those of us who have lived life on both sides are especially well-qualified to comment on the challenges, joys, and trade-offs of big-city life versus life in smaller, “out-of-town” communities.


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