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Adviceline: Embarrassed to Leave Kollel?

Rabbi Zev Leff, Rabbi Yitzchok Frankel, Mrs. Batya Weinberg

My husband wants me to stay home with the kids while he works. But in this community, I’m embarrassed for my husband to leave kollel

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

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TORAH ABOVE ALL “A person has to value Torah above all and believe that Torah holds up the world; it’s what makes us a Nation and ensures our survival. Yet realize: the value is Torah, not kollel — once someone properly values Torah, he will incorporate it into his life always,” explains Mesila’s Batya Weinberg

Igot married about a year ago and just had a baby. I’m overwhelmed and busy caring for my baby and I don’t feel able to go back to work. My husband wants me to stay home and take care of myself and the baby, and he wants to work full-time. He’s very happy to go to work; he feels like supporting the household is his tafkid now.

I’m just worried about what my parents and whoever knows me will say. In my town, everyone learns as long as possible. Also, it’s hard to find a job here, especially for men, and my husband is willing to work in a grocery store just so he can make money and support us. But I’m embarrassed. On the other hand, I’d be so happy to have someone bringing in money so I can wholeheartedly focus on myself and my home and my family, without worrying about work and the finances. What should I do?

Rabbi Zev Leff

You didn’t specify whether this is a temporary situation and your husband will return to full-time learning when you’re able to return to work, or if this is a permanent change. In either case, what I have to relate to you is relevant.

The Gemara in Berachos presents an argument between Rabi Yishmael and Rabi Shimon bar Yochai as to what is the ideal: to combine the study of Torah with a worldly occupation or to study Torah exclusively and depend on others for support.

According to the Brisker Rav, the majority of people must follow the first path, and a minority, the second. Klal Yisrael is composed of 12 tribes; two devoted themselves to Torah exclusively — Levi and Yissachar — and the other ten had various temporal occupations and established set times for Torah study.

According to most commentaries, the mishnah in Pirkei Avos, “yafeh Talmud Torah im derech eretz,” refers to Torah study combined with an earthly occupation, and is deemed to be a fine combination. If one earns an honest living and establishes set times to study Torah, makes the Torah the main pursuit of his and his family’s lives, and has the intention that his work is solely for the purpose of providing the wherewithal to be able to learn and observe Torah properly, then there are solid Torah sources that one’s work time becomes a preparation for learning and is considered as learning itself.

Hence, although the Gemara says that one is judged first in the Next World on Torah study, Tosafos tells us that he’s first asked if he dealt honestly in business, and only then if he set times for Torah study. Perhaps the reason is that until the Heavenly Court ascertains what his mindset was at work, it cannot determine how much of his work time was considered as learning time… (excerpted)

Rabbi Zev Leff is the rav of Moshav Mattisyahu, rosh yeshivah of Yeshivah Gedolah Mattisyahu and rosh kollel of Kollel Yesod Refael. Rabbi Leff is an internationally recognized lecturer, and teaches in numerous seminaries where he is valued for his incisive classes that combine scholarship, wit, and a deep understanding of contemporary issues.

Rabbi Yitzchok Frankel

The first thing I noticed from your question was how suitable you and your husband are for each other. You want to stop going to work and stay home with your baby, and your husband wants to work and support you. There are many couples who are not in tandem when it comes to this momentous situation. She wants him to go to work, but he wants to stay in kollel. Or she wants him to stay in learning, but he’s no longer happy in the beis medrash. You’re fortunate that you’ve reached this place at the same time.

While I don’t know you personally, and can’t know the details of your life, if your husband is so willing to go out to work, it very possibly means that his learning was already not a high priority. And if you’re so willing to have him leave kollel, it probably means it wasn’t a very high priority to you either. So it sounds like this is a logical next step for you both.

Rabbi Yitzchok Frankel: “A lot worse than having to deal with others’ disapproval is spending your day doing something you don’t want to be doing”

It’s nice if you’re doing a good thing, and happy to do so, and everyone else is doing it as well. But if you’re no longer happy doing it, then there’s no reason to do it just because the neighbors are… (excerpted)

Rabbi Yitzchok Frankel is the rav of Agudath Israel of the Five Towns in Cedarhurst, New York. He’s been educating both adults and children for over 35 years and has been involved in kiruv for over 20 years. Rabbi Frankel has authored four seforim on Chumash, and recently published a commentary on Megillas Ruth.

Mrs. Batya Weinberg

The decision for a man to leave full-time learning is a momentous one. It sounds like you and your husband are on the same page, which means that you’re in sync with each other, and that’s an excellent first step.

For however long a husband and wife want to structure their lives to ensure his full-time learning, we currently have tremendous opportunities to enable that dream to come true. Marauding Cossacks and grinding poverty didn’t enable such learning back in the alte heim, but things are different today. Full-time Torah learning is a tremendous opportunity and zechus, and commendably, you took advantage of that.

We live in a challenging world, and even a short stint in kollel can offer a man the fortification, strength, and knowledge to deal with a lot of the craziness out there in the wider world, be it technological issues, mixed-gender problems, and ethical challenges. Every additional zeman spent learning helps people overcome the tests the outside world presents to them. But kollel years usually come to an end. Even if someone spends ten or 15 years learning, they’ll still spend the majority of their years not in kollel.

A person has to value Torah above all and believe that Torah holds up the world; it’s what makes us a Nation and ensures our survival. Yet realize: the value is Torah, not kollel — once someone properly values Torah, he will incorporate it into his life always. As much as it takes from a woman to support her husband in kollel, it’s often surprisingly challenging to sacrifice for Torah when one is kovei’a itim. If a man is only learning two to three hours a day, his wife needs to be extremely determined to keep that time sacrosanct… (excerpted)

Mrs. Batya Weinberg is a Jerusalem-based educator who teaches, counsels, and lectures widely. She’s also the educational director of the Mesila organization.

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