Saturday, December 23, 2006

Bittul Torah?

I met a woman in charge of a Res-hab program, and she openly discussed one challenge she faces constantly, "There are soo many girls willing to do this, but when it comes to boys, it's so hard to find just one." She told me, asking if I knew any young men or boys willing to help her out. Unfortunately, I don't.

Another woman told me of a family who's going through a hard time, and the parents spend a lot of time in the hospital. The boys' grades are slipping, and they need someone to go there and help them Mishnayos and that sort of stuff. She said she has girls by the dozen who are willing to help the one daughter, but there seems to be a lack of boys willing to spend time there, even to give them some male companionship. My father suggested that she call a local yeshiva, and I wonder if that will be successful.

From what I see, boys are taught that everything that isn't learning is considered Bittul Torah. Maybe that 'helping' is the girls' job. Or that Chesed is for the bums who can't do anything better. That's bad on many levels, but not something to get into now.

From what I've seen of the counselors at local Bais Ezra houses and things of that sort, they are not "yeshivish" or "learners" but they are warm guys with a big heart and lots of patience.

Why can't there be "learners" who do things like this? It's often the kids that yeshivas were worried about who end up doing outstanding work there.

Why must these guys choose to either be helpful, but "bummy", or not give their time for a very worthy cause, and be "frum"? And not every "bummy" kid is helping out, some are just on the street smoking weed. What I mean to say is, of all the counselors I've seen at these homes, none of them are of Yeshivish ilk.

I don't either mean to say that the only chesed a boy can do is in Bais Ezra, or other such programs. I know that not everyone is cut out for that. But there are many other chessed jobs that guys are capable of. (That could even produce better husbands down the line)

Why would Yeshivas never dream of saying, "instead of Mishmar three nights a week until 9 pm, we'll have mishmar twice a week (which is still shoving it down the boys' throats) and one night a week, each boy, or in pairs will be sent to a house to help out and do chesed."?

They can teach them the importance of Torah AND Chesed, because aren't we supposed to be learning Chesed from the Torah??

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31 Comments:

At 12/23/2006 10:38 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Don't fool yourself. Kids don't do Bais Ezra out of the kindness of their hearts. They get paid well for basically unskilled labor.

 
At 12/24/2006 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why would Yeshivas never dream of saying, "instead of Mishmar three nights a week until 9 pm, we'll have mishmar twice a week (which is still shoving it down the boys' throats) and one night a week, each boy, or in pairs will be sent to a house to help out and do chesed."?"

As a guess I'd assume that they never thought of it, or if they did, they'd stay the way they are because yeshivas want to be at the top of the yeshiva food chain. The way to do it is by hammering learning down the bochurim's throats. They might think doing something like this would make the community think the boys are doing this because they aren't up to the standard in other yeshivas.


Another anon

 
At 12/24/2006 8:02 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Orthorpax--it's not even close to comparing to flipping burgers in Kosher Delight. They're helping people. Listen, do all doctors become doctors out of the goodness of their hearts? No, they make lots of money for few hours of work (after the hellish beginning)

Another Anon-excellent point. I guess the problem lies deeper than I presented it. Do you realize how sick what you said is, yet completely true? Everything revolves around what the community will think about the yeshiva, rather than people in need.

 
At 12/24/2006 8:24 PM, Blogger Independent Frum Thinker said...

The Halacha is that one who is studying Torah should only interrupt his learning to do a Mitzvah if there is no one else to do the Mitzvah.
Yes, many Yeshivos emphasize the importance of Chessed, but be honest, if boys were sent out on Chesed missions they would never grow to their fullest potentials in Torah.
Since these Chesed missions are being adequately dealt with by others, there is no need for boys who are learning to go out and do it.
Every Torah giant was also a Chesed giant. Yet they never would have become Torah giants without total dedication and devotion to their studies during their golden years.

 
At 12/25/2006 12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

IFT,



"if boys were sent out on Chesed missions they would never grow to their fullest potentials in Torah."

Why? If boys were sent out to do Chesed missions, they would have some practical experience to which they could apply their Torah knowledge.

"Since these Chesed missions are being adequately dealt with by others, there is no need for boys who are learning to go out and do it."

I think Michelle's point is that they're not being adequately dealt with by others.

"Every Torah giant was also a Chesed giant."

Maybe some were, but certainly not every one. Won't mention any names, but there are some in prominent places in the Torah world, who definitely are not. I suspect that even those who have not done anything scandalous, still share many of the character flaws that the rest of us have.

Learning morning, noon, and night in a setting that's isolated from the world isn't likely to create emotionally healthy people. Nor is it likely to develop sufficient numbers of the type of gedolim that the Orthodox community needs to have. There may bs some exceptions, but they would be very rare.

It seems like you're taking an idealized view of what a yeshiva education accomplishes. I see a lot of people who can learn much better than I can, but some of them sure have problems in being able to deal with the world.

Another anon

 
At 12/25/2006 2:45 AM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Michelle,

"it's not even close to comparing to flipping burgers in Kosher Delight."

Right. The pay is much better and the work is much easier. These houses will pay you two hundred dollars just to sleep over for Shabbos. It's an ideal job for a college student.

I know firsthand what goes into these jobs. Most of my friends had jobs in these places and I would hang out with them while they worked.

"They're helping people. Listen, do all doctors become doctors out of the goodness of their hearts? No, they make lots of money for few hours of work (after the hellish beginning)"

Not even close in comparison. If you are going into medicine for the money you are in the wrong business. And I don't mean ideologically. The pay really isn't that great compared to the effort. (And I should know. I'm going $200,000 in debt and working my ass off in med school.)

Though I do note your "all" there. Yes, some folks do go into the wrong business and there are doctors out there who are in it for the money. Usually these are guys who make bad doctors. On the other side, yes there are likely some guys in Bais Ezra who do it for the chessed. But, you see, the "somes" are reversed between these two jobs.

 
At 12/25/2006 9:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

in my experience, yeshiva boys do, in fact, perform acts of chessed when there is a need. they may not have regular visits to the local hospitals and nursing homes as is more common among girls, but they tutor other boys, learn with homebound students to keep them up to par, and pay bikur cholim visits, if necessary during the time they would normally have learning seder. these are not the ones who would ditch seder for the fun of it. not only that, the rebbeim do bikur cholim in their limited spare time.

as for the bais ezra issue, that kind of work is NOT an easy buck. it takes someone with an abnormal amount of patience and energy to stay sane in such a field. ortho- you've obviously never done any long term special ed work.

 
At 12/25/2006 9:46 AM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"as for the bais ezra issue, that kind of work is NOT an easy buck. it takes someone with an abnormal amount of patience and energy to stay sane in such a field. ortho- you've obviously never done any long term special ed work."

Who are you kidding? It's like being a counselor and/or a babysitter. Don't make the job out to be more than it is.

Like I've said, I've spent many hours watching (and helping) my friends do what they do. The only reason I didn't want the job was because then I would have to give up my Shabbossim at home. I also didn't need the money like these other guys did because I tended to work through the summer when they still took summer classes.

 
At 12/25/2006 1:37 PM, Anonymous gavi said...

It is never easy to balance the requirement of talmud torah with the requirement of chessed...

When I was in yeshiva gedolah (i.e. post-high-school full time) in Israel, the yeshiva officially discouraged us from getting involved in chessed programs, on the grounds that we had come to Israel to learn, not to volunteer. The yeshiva told us that if we wanted to volunteer, we should do so in the summers or during bein hazemanim... and several guys I know did just that, coming back to do Magen David Adom, Yavneh Olami, or any other number of chessed organisations.

Nonetheless, I think that organised, scheduled, and supervised chessed programs have an important place in the high school curriculum. Let's face it, the kids in a North American yeshiva high school have more on their plate than just torah learning, so they are already not considered "torasam umnasam" (i.e. they aren't the same as yeshiva gedolah boys whose sole job is to learn) and would undoubtedly benefit from participating in chessed projects. It would probably add to the level of derech eretz in the community - something that is often lacking...

BTW Michelle: you still haven't explained to me how I am pretending to be someone I am not...

 
At 12/25/2006 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMHO flipping burgers can be just as much of a chesed as being a doctor.One can argue that doctors save lives but then farmers should be on the highest level of chesed as they are the most neccesary of all jobs.As long as someone doesn't volunteer I don't see the moral benefit of one job over the other.If ones pupose is to serve the public then flipping burgers is equal to prescribing medicine IMHO.

 
At 12/26/2006 7:56 AM, Anonymous Haych said...

I'm confused as to how someone can try to "calculate" how much chessed they need to do.
If you have learned Torah you should know that the purpose of learning is to lead to action.
I would also asume that you have learned about a mitzvah called Ahavas Yisreol.
If you see a fellow jew who needs help, you help them. It's not hte time to start contemplating the exact mesure of time you should devote to it...
And for someone who is goign to tell me that it's bittul torah...
If you think that helping out another Jew is going ot destroy your spiritual life then have a little Mesiras Nefesh and do it anyways. Yup you heard me right.
If your reason for not helping is b/c your going to lose out on a little bit of your olam haba then you have learned nothing about Ahavas Yisroel. (something - those of you who learn should know - that Hillel said is the foundation of the entire torah)
I am sorry if I come accross very strongly but i don't undestand how you can look a jew in the face and tell them "I can't help you now, I have hollier things to do".

 
At 12/26/2006 8:27 AM, Anonymous Kay said...

Michelle, you're so right and it's sad that anyone disagrees with you. I see the same thing where I volunteer. There are plenty of Stern College girls, but next to no Yeshiva College guys.

 
At 12/26/2006 9:03 AM, Blogger JBL the first said...

Michelle you may be right on this one but don't blame Yeshivos. It just seems that girls are chesed doers boys aren't. As you see from Kay's comment it's not only in Yeshivas that they have this problem but from colleges.

 
At 12/26/2006 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Girls have more time to be involved in chesed then boys do and since they have fewer mitzvos are able to focus on chesed more.Moreover visiting people in hospitals etc. is more of a womens form of chesed.Orinazations like hatzaloh,chaverim,tomche shabbos(delivry) are almost exclusivly done by men.Does that indicate that women are lacking in chesed?
Anyhow I agree that a bocher learning in yeshiva should not be asked to stop his learning to do chesed unless there is NOONE else to do it.My personal experiance in yeshiva has been that if they were to send bochrim every time some hospital needed somone to do bikur cholim or tutor etc.they would have no end to those requests.When I was in yeshiva and asked to do "essential" chesed I would say how much would it cost to to pay someone to do it?I'll give the money(rather then take off time from learning)

 
At 12/26/2006 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ortho--

special ed is not babysitting. it is tough, rigorous work. when one babysits, one can allow the children to occupy themselves and only be there in case of emergency, if that's the type of babysitter one is. special ed kids have less of an ability to be unmonitored, often have multiple medical problems that must be dealt with constantly, and sometimes have a limited understanding of what is or is not appropriate in social settings, speech, and general behavior. a babysitter's job is to keep the kids safe. a special ed teacher/para/assistant's job is to keep the kids safe while teaching them life skills on their own level. this often involves becoming emotionally attached to the student and much more physical labor than regular babysitting. Some of these kids are over fifty pounds and can't walk. they need to be lifted fairly often. and disciplining some of these kids for thirty seconds can leave you with a headache that lasts all day.

and, unlike babysitting, you can't set your own price. if you work for a special ed program that is not run by the department of education (formerly the board of education) you get paid very little. and if you want to get health insurance through your place of employment, you'd better have a second job. after paying taxes and benefits, there's very little pocket money. so let's not badmouth the people who toil at what you consider "unskilled labor." I dare you to try this kind of job for one month. You have no idea what you're talking about.

--the third anonymous

 
At 12/26/2006 1:09 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Anon,

You can quit the BS game. You are way overplaying your hand. I know what taking care of the mentally handicapped entails.

I never put down the people who do it, but they don't do it out of the goodness of their hearts. That was my point. If flipping burgers was less work and better pay and better hours I am certain more of my friends would have been doing that instead.

Does it pay all the bills? Could you support a family based on the amount of work my friends did? Not really. But that's why it's a perfect job for college kids. Get it? The hours are super flexible and they pay you to sleep over.

 
At 12/26/2006 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BS game, huh?

nice way to put it. you know how this stuff works? for your info, bais ezra is not just being paid to sleep over. what you refer to are the group homes, usually for adults with special needs. i admit that i have known one person who slept over for the money-- but quit after two nights because she felt uncomfortable. most of the college people i know who have gotten jobs like this strictly for the money couldn't handle the job.

and yes, those who do bais ezra in their teens and go on to make it their career generally do it out of the "goodness of their hearts." no one does that kind of work for a living if they don't want to-- and don't tell me that i'm BSing you. i've done the work, and you admit that you haven't.

 
At 12/26/2006 4:43 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"most of the college people i know who have gotten jobs like this strictly for the money couldn't handle the job."

Funny you say that because I had one friend after another take the job for the money and stick with it with no problems. Maybe the people you know just have weak stomachs.

"and yes, those who do bais ezra in their teens and go on to make it their career generally do it out of the "goodness of their hearts.""

Sure, either that or because they can't find a better job. But I wasn't talking about career folks.

"don't tell me that i'm BSing you. i've done the work, and you admit that you haven't."

Sounds more like I've hit a sore spot and you can't see your job for what it really is. Not that I don't think it is an important job, but don't make it out to be more than it is.

 
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At 12/26/2006 5:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a guy, and I'm in yeshiva-
to start the reason that girls help more then guys is that the girls schools tell all of them that they "must" do a certain amount of chesed a week- and who wouldn't mind getting a headstart on a teaching job?
on a serious not,
I do know lots of guys who would learn with a kid to help him, I have a close freind who learns daily with a kid, buys him food and nosh and doesn't get a penny- there are those out there.

I know guys who every thursday night the package and deliver for tomche shabos (THEY DONT GET A PENNY)

I know guys who are "on call" for chai lifeline and bikur cholem- regular yeshiva guys- who have driven an hour or more to drop off bagels for a cancer patient in a hospital (talk about not being paid for their car time or the food)

I know some camp simcha guys who are big brothers for sick kids and their siblings and they spend hours upon hours helping them with homework- playing games shmuzing with them etc.
YES yeshivas should put more time to teach kids what chesed is-
they say I think its from Reb Moshe Feinstein the same way one must give maser from money one must give from his time as well.
Basicly guys aren't that bad (just the girls do a bit more!!!)

 
At 12/26/2006 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a guy, and I'm in yeshiva-
to start the reason that girls help more then guys is that the girls schools tell all of them that they "must" do a certain amount of chesed a week- and who wouldn't mind getting a headstart on a teaching job?
on a serious not,
I do know lots of guys who would learn with a kid to help him, I have a close freind who learns daily with a kid, buys him food and nosh and doesn't get a penny- there are those out there.

I know guys who every thursday night the package and deliver for tomche shabos (THEY DONT GET A PENNY)

I know guys who are "on call" for chai lifeline and bikur cholem- regular yeshiva guys- who have driven an hour or more to drop off bagels for a cancer patient in a hospital (talk about not being paid for their car time or the food)

I know some camp simcha guys who are big brothers for sick kids and their siblings and they spend hours upon hours helping them with homework- playing games shmuzing with them etc.
YES yeshivas should put more time to teach kids what chesed is-
they say I think its from Reb Moshe Feinstein the same way one must give maser from money one must give from his time as well.
Basicly guys aren't that bad (just the girls do a bit more!!!)

 
At 12/27/2006 9:37 AM, Anonymous Kay said...

To 9:17 Anonymous: the reason why there are so many men in Hatzalah, etc., is because they don't let women in!

 
At 12/27/2006 3:59 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

anon 5:26-point well taken. thank you.

 
At 12/27/2006 10:30 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Kay,

"To 9:17 Anonymous: the reason why there are so many men in Hatzalah, etc., is because they don't let women in!"

This is true. But I was a member of a volunteer ambulance service in Brooklyn that was open to men and women. Even there relatively few women ended up being EMTs - though there were plenty who were willing to dispatch.

And of the women who would become active EMTs a fraction of them were religiously observant.

 
At 12/28/2006 9:24 AM, Blogger dzleeh said...

Orthoprax,

I can't speak for the other anonymous, but you have definitely hit a sore spot with me. Ever since I was little, our house was full of people from a nearby home for mentally handicapped adults. Many of them came from religious families who lived far away and could not afford to be with them for Shabbos and yom tov. My parents always had them over so they could still have the experience. Nothing to do with pay or personal gratification. Unlike your comparison to a babysitter, it was extremely hard work, and I was involved with diaper changing, medication, feeding, sign language, etc from a young age. Even now that we have moved away my parents still have them bussed in. Not only that, but they employ several youngsters and adults with special needs. Not only are they not getting paid for this, but they are paying these people. If I'm coming across like I'm tooting their horns, that was not my intention. But being raised around both the people who have the problems and the people who care deeply for them, I resented the flippant way you handled this discussion. I cannot speak for other people, but I know that I and all my siblings were imbued with a deep love and respect for them, and whenever we have time, we try to utilize it properly. And whether or not money is being offered in each circumstance, it would never dawn on me to accept it. I always tell the people in charge to keep it. Because this is my life, I love them, and I get so much out of it, and why would money help those feelings? I can make money in other ways. So why don't you stop with the gross generalizations?

 
At 12/28/2006 10:03 AM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Dzleeh,

I apologize if I came off flippantly. Granted there are plenty of people with huge hearts like you and your family and my intention was never to put down this kind of work.

But on the other side of the coin, I think you would also be bound to recognize that some people just see this as a job. And that is the primary reason why they do it. If they didn't get paid then they wouldn't be there.

 
At 12/28/2006 10:40 AM, Blogger dzleeh said...

Orthoprax,

I, too, should apologize for not taking a few deep breaths before responding before. This is one of the few areas I get very "feisty" in. B"H, I have the great fortune of working with many Friendship Circle volunteers, some of whom are religious and some who are not. Either way, it is neither for money nor for Chessed hours. So I feel thankful that I have been exposed to that side of people. It seems as if you have experienced differently.

Yes, I do realize that some people see it as a job. And it hurts me terribly because it shows. And the worst part about it is the victims of the apathy and, at worse, abuse, often cannot speak up for themselves. The same goes for children. Many times when it is done only for the money, the poor service reflects that. But not always. Just this type of thing differs because there are not always "defenders" for them out there.

I dunno....they are the loves of my life, as difficult as they can be at times (at times?! many times!) because G-d granted them with an extra measure of stubbornness. So everything you were saying hit home because it is hard for me to come to terms with the fact that other people might not see it as such.

To be fair, though, there are certain aspects of the job that are extremely distasteful (and would be in regards to anyone, just they can't take care of the matters themselves), and I could understand why people would want to be compensated for it.

Once again, I am sorry for jumping down your throat. You are correct in your statement, but the way you wrote it made it seem all-inclusive.
:)

 
At 1/01/2007 7:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

dzleeh,

why apologize? he called it a bs game. the way ortho has voiced his opinion seems the exact opposite of his apology,

 
At 1/02/2007 5:07 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

i dont see why getting paid for this kind of work should detract from its value. orthoprax i thnk you were completely offensive in the way you spoke about it, and of course it should hit a sore spot to anyone involved in this kind of work. its hard work (for most .. even if not your friends) and to have someone be so flippant and rude and unappreciative is hurtful.
honestly i could never do that kind of work, for a little or a lot of money, im just not strong enough, and i see no reason why anyone involved in this kind of work shouldnt get paid!

why britney gets the big bucks is what really gets to me..not these college kids sacrificing their shabbats to "babysit" someone that no one else wants to take care of.

 
At 1/03/2007 9:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no issue with people getting paid for work but it does bother and confuse me to see people who are getting paid very nicely for what they are doing be treated or talking about themselves as if they are doing some sort of favor.

 
At 2/27/2008 8:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont know what ur talking about im in 10th grade in an all boys school and got really involved into bais ezra. and bais ezra was having a shabbaton and asked if i could get some boys and i ended up getting around 20 boys. we had so many that we didnt have enough kids to fill up the counselors and some of the counselors were "floaers"

 

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