Sunday, January 22, 2006

Oy vey-"Learning or Working?" --Is it Even a Question?

I was babysitting at a family in NJ recently. While the children slept, I read a few articles in their local Jewish newspaper.
Well, one thing I didn't like about it was the lack of Letters to the Editor-the only thing I read in the Yated, but I need it for laughs--and something Jewish to read on Shabbos.

Here, there were just 2 short boring letters --they were SO not juicy. And you know what else? There was, GASP, a picture of a woman! A few, actually. And there were men, who--get this-- wore knitted yarmulkes!! It can't be. Then! Oh, boy, an article quoted HaRav Joseph B. Soloveitchik ZT"L. Yeah.

Anyway, my point here was an interesting write-up about a girl's high school that had career day. They had panelists-married women- who choose to work and choose not to, and they explained why they chose the paths of life they did. Following that, they had workshops with women who have experience in the fields these girls were planning to persue. Not just OT, PT, Speech and Psychology like in the Bais Yaakov world. They had law, communications, and various others. I was thoroughly impressed.

The discussion there was an interesting one-whereas a girl who marries a working boy has the option of staying home and raising her own children, a girl who marries a learning boy and has to go out and work, and have some stranger raise her child.

ASsuming the guy "learns" the girl is basically saying that he Torah is important for her husband, but not so for her child. Her child wil sit at home with his/her siblings that she systematically pops out to fit in and compete, and they will all be raised by Ana Rosa. Is that a better option than the husband working to support his family?

In this other school, they are assuming the men will be breadwinners, and hopefully the women will have the option of not working full-time to support her family, and can stay home and remember her children's names. Isn't that a novel idea?


At 1/23/2006 7:05 PM, Blogger big mak said...

hi michelle ! i'm hapy to be the first commenter . my input on this would be very simple to understand . lets say that a man decides to learn all his life and he makes a poor living , what will be with his daughters when the time comes to marry them off ,the boy will want a father-in-law that has money so if everyone will learn who will support the bnei torah? it obviously is not the right thing that everyone has to learn , the world was created in a way that in order to keep the world alive most people have to go to work and just a minority are supposedto be kolel yungerleit

At 1/23/2006 8:27 PM, Blogger Semgirl said...

They had law, communications, and various others. I was thoroughly impressed.

Imagine that, yes Virginia, there is life after Seminary..

At 1/24/2006 5:42 AM, Blogger Angry Miserable Dater said...

Good post, Michelle. Just curious about one thing, though. You seemed so pro-kollel when the Kollel guy in your bungalow colony (oops! I mean summer home) got put in cherem. So how can you stick up for a man, who, in your mind, is selfish by basically saying that "Torah is important for me, but not for my children"?

And even if you'll say, "kollel is only for a few people, not for every guy in yeshiva," why should even a small group of Jews sit and learn while their children get raised by a maid?

- Happens to be also that Rav Avigdor Miller ZT"L felt that even if the husband was in kollel, the wife should raise the kids. What about money? Rich in-laws, I guess?

At 1/24/2006 10:05 AM, Blogger Y.Y. said...

you are 100% correct michelle

At 1/24/2006 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Firstly, you seem to be only thinking about the situation from a kollel or non-kollel point of view. You don’s seem to remember that a lot of women do not want to stay home and take care of their children. They will go out to work if their husband is in kollel or not. Secondly, if a woman wants to be a stay at home mom and her husband is in kollel, she will find a job that allows her to do stay at home and care for her children and work

At 1/24/2006 11:42 AM, Blogger big mak said...

angry miserable:"And even if you'll say, "kollel is only for a few people, not for every guy in yeshiva," why should even a small group of Jews sit and learn while their children get raised by a maid?" well the limited people that learn are the ones that have a nice income. thats the sign from god that you are the one to be the kolel yungerman, if you have the means and the brains then you are meant for it , otherwise you go to work to support your family

At 1/24/2006 12:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The time has come to vote for Michelle! It's a tough race! Go to, and find the logo for it, and go to Student Life Blogs.

And Michelle-even if you don't win-we'll still read your blog.

At 1/24/2006 7:28 PM, Blogger Jewboy said...

Your thoughts are well put. I must say, however, as a husband and father, if only it were that easy. I am pursuing a law degree and I hope that within a couple of years my wife will be able to stay home full time or at least part time. However, the sad reality is that in today's times, especially as a frum Jew, one often needs two incomes to support a family. There's insane tuiton costs plus out of control housing costs, among others. It takes a lot of money. It's hard to imagine having a typical frum family with many children, though I'd like to have a few. Where does the money come from? Unfortunatley, often times a dual income is needed, unless one spouse has a very high paying job or the parents are wealthy and generous. I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I hope my wife can quit her job, but I just don't know if it will be feasible. Essentially, while you present it as a question of either being in kollel or working, it often doesn't matter what the husband is doing, the wife may still have to work.

At 1/24/2006 10:32 PM, Blogger Elisheva said...

Very good points Michelle. I'd hate to be the 'kollel' rep here, but just to give the other viewpoint (as far as I can see myself).

First of all Jewboy is right. I know of girls who's husbands work and they do to. Alot has to do with lifestyle, but I am not saying people only work because they have a rich lifestyle. Obviously there are other factors too, but I do think that for some, the lifestyle is like a major factor.

There are also loads of ladies who work from home or who work like 9 till 2 when the kids are in school. And I think lots of kollel guys tutor too (in the school I work in, there are lots of kids that the school sets up with kollel guys for like after school hours), and that pays pretty well if you are good. So there are many different factors, and things are not all black and white.

The main thing is knowing your limits and knowing when it is too much if the kids are chas veshalom losing out because of it. And most of all it has to be real, not like because someone else is doing it.

So much for my totally inexperienced opinion. And you'll say it'm my sem idealism. But my family is this way (my father works now. but like learned till pretty recently), and I see alot living in Lkwd, so I think it can and does work beautifully and not just for a few, but definitly not for all.


At 1/25/2006 9:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The jury is still out on how children of the large number of kollel families today will turn out.

In my view, it is all about sacrifice. If the kollel person lives a spartan lifestyle and the mother's work is kept to a minimum such that she can be home for the children when they come home from school - and there is a sense of sacrifice for the good of the family and the children - that is admirable and will make an impression on children. I am worried for the children of kollel families who are raised primarily by maids so that the family can have a certain standard of living or frankly where the family is independently supported and there is no sense of sacrifice or mesiras nefesh in living the kollel life. Similarly, if someone works and their wife stays home with the children but sacrifices their personal time to learn torah and spend time with their children, that is just as important as what the kollel person does in terms of chinuch - since children notice the sacrifice and that makes the greatest impression.

At 1/25/2006 11:02 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

I guess I should have been more clear:
I know that there is still a possibility that women will have to work regardless of what their husbands do. However, assuming her husband is working a decent job, which pays more (monetarily, not spiritually) than learning, the chances are a little better.

In addition, I certainly admire Kollel people. I think AMD misunderstands what I am trying to say. I admire Kollel people who are in it completely Lishma--not because it's the in thing to do, not because she wants a good reputation, and not because her parents can support so "why not?" because many of those girls just work to look good, when technically they can be home raising their children. My point is that there ARE sincere Kollel people who live simple lives, but are so happy, because they are doing the right thing. Sometimes the mothers MUST go to work, but you know that they spend as much time with their children as possible.

This broaches on my confusing take on different types of Yeshivish, versus Black Hat, fakers, Machers, and how I kinda know where people'll be a long one. And some of you will probably attack me. I better finish it before vacation's over. Actually, I'd better START it before vacation ends.

At 1/29/2006 5:04 AM, Blogger Josh said...

Michelle, interesting take on the women's side of the "learning, earning" question. I don't think any of the choices have to do with "What" a woman chooses, ie doctor, teacher, or stay at home. I think it has to do with "Why" - is it to keep a family eating and a father learning, or is it so she can buy jewelry? Kids pick up on ideals, no matter how hard we try and conceal them.

At 1/29/2006 6:50 PM, Blogger Lost said...

Michelle. We must chill. No more talk about dating, marraige, and myriad depresssing topics. Can we 'single' girls chill plz? You still taking classes on the fifth? I'll b around this semester, lets play hooky together.

At 1/30/2006 7:06 AM, Blogger Moochy said...

Funny how some bloggers think alike.
I have posted on the same subject, titled wedding rings.

At 2/08/2006 1:58 PM, Anonymous Erica said...

I was a kollel wife the first two years of marriage and I must take issue with your post.

1. Just because someone's husband is in Kollel doesn't mean they "systematically pop out kids to fit in." Yes b'h I have two yummy babies, I didn't have them because we needed to "fit in" G-d forbid ppl. use that as a reason to have kids.

2. You also say: "assuming the guy "learns" the girl is basically saying that he Torah is important for her husband, but not so for her child." This isn't true. When a woman's husband is learning, she is supporting him for the good of her entire family, not at it's expense. To have a marriage built on the foundation of Torah is extremely important. Yes, it is incredibly difficult to work outside the home and leave your babies but it doesn't mean that you forget their names and don't care about them. If you want to marry someone who is in Kollel it involves a tremendous amount of sacrifice but it's not to say that you don't care about your children. (As a side note it is also entirely possible to have Torah as a foundation of the home even if the husband is working, I am not advocating that everyone needs to be in Kollel)

3. Even if you marry someone who works, you may still have to work. My husband is now working full time but with the cost of living and having a family, it is impossible for me to give up my job. At this point I have cut out Fridays but I don't really ever see myself being able to quit working altogether - that's just life unless you are rich.

I actually feel bad that you have such a negative opinion of Kollel -it can be a wonderful experience and something that does not mean you have to do it forever, in fact most guys are not cut out for kollel for life. In the Yeshiva my husband learns in they do not preach staying in kollel for the rest of your life.

At 2/21/2006 8:17 AM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

In response to above: Actually many women do not make money when they go out to work, or with the little that they make they might have a harder time justifying leaving their children when they could net as much with a small jobs that don't require full time sitting. I'm planning to post about the economic realities of working on my blog sometime in the near future.

At 5/10/2006 4:05 AM, Blogger JBL the first said...

Just found this cute joke if it can be applicable here.

A Jewish girl brings her fiancé home to meet her parents. After
dinner, her mother tells her father to find out about the young man.
He invites the fiancé to his study for schnapps.

"So what are your plans?" the father asks the fiancé.

"I am a Torah scholar," he replies.

"A Torah scholar," the father says. "Admirable, but what will you do
to provide a nice house for my daughter to live in, as she's
accustomed to?"

"I will study," the young man replies, "and G-d will provide for us."

"And how will you buy her a beautiful engagement ring, such as she
deserves?" asks the father.

"I will concentrate on my studies," the young man replies, "G-d will
provide for us."

"And children?" asks the father. "How will you support children?"

"Don't worry, sir, G-d will provide," replies the fiancé.

The conversation proceeds like this, and each time the father
questions, the fiancé insists that G-d will provide.

Later, the mother asks, "How did it go?" The father answers, "He has
no job and no plans, but the good news is he thinks I'm G-d."


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