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Elul 5760 – Is Kollel For Me?? Part 1

1 Elul 5760

Dear Chana,

It is now several months since I have been home from Eretz Yisroel. When I first came home, I would not hear of a boys name who would not be able to commit before a first date to learning in Israel for 2-3 years. My parents were supportive of this for a while, they realized that this was not simply a result of being ‘brainwashed’, but, this was a result of havng watched others throughout the year living this lifestyle and striving to have such a home established for myself.

Now, I must admit that I am not the frummest seminary product. This is why I was not able to find my Kollel man. For any boy who wants to learn for 2-3 years in Israel, is on a COMPLETELY different frumness level than I am, a level that I know I will never be able to commit myself to and actually be happy.

So now I have found myself going out with boys who don’t want to learn in Israel, but are learning part time and working. Well, you see, after a couple of dates with these kind of boys, I realized that I was in fact being silly and brainwashed in that first bit of time that I was home, and that a learning boy was not even something I wanted.

But, here is my problem. I finally found a boy that has been learning in Israel, and is home now to date. After he gets married, he wants to move back to Israel, learn for a few years there, and then eventually come back to the states and go to college. You don’t understand, this is THE EXACT mold that I had handed to my parents just a short time ago, to the very last detail! My only problem is that he is 2 months too late!

I actually find myself very close to turning him down for a date. After dating the other kind of a boy and seeing ambition and responsibility for a future, I am nervous to go out with a boy that has never embarked on his career, or even college. But, this all seems so hypocritical to what I was just preaching to my parents. It has been such a short time and I’m finding myself slowly wilting out of my Israel perspectives….. will this only continue? Do I just need more chizuk, or this it? I have decompressed from my seminary pesonality. Is this really who I am? Please, give me some advice!

Thank you!

[Name & seminary withheld upon request]

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1 Elul 5760

Dear Chana,

I feel that I truly want a chasan who is learning and will continue to learn. This is the way I want to live. I am working now and plan to continue to work and be the one supporting my family. I feel guilty thinking this, however, sometimes I feel the burden will be completely on my shoulders. It would be much easier if there would be a second income. If he knows how to learn and does learn, then what is the big deal if he works half a day and learns the rest? I know all is from Hashem. Is it a lack of Bitachon?

Someone came to me with a shidduch, a terrific bachor, he is in college now and then on to law school. I explained why I wasn’t interested, but, then I started to think about it, and now I’m just not sure why not! I’m feeling very confused – please, can you shed some light on this very big issue!?

I would appreciate a response. Thank you so much.

[Name & seminary withheld upon request]

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These are just a sampling of the many letters that I have received on this topic.So, here is the letter that so many of you have been waiting for! Through this months JemSem and the next, I hope to indeed ‘shed a little light’ on this very important and perplexing subject. It is something that affects every Seminary girl sometime after she gets back home.

The all important “IS KOLLEL FOR ME? ISSUE”

So, sit tight and we will try to get to the bottom of it and give you some hadracha. Please note that I am giving you my own perspective and I don’t pretend to be Da’as Torah.

Here are the 5 issues we will be discussing:

1) Where does the concept of Kollel come from?
2) What are the fallacies about Kollel?
3) Facts about Kollel and Learning.
4) Can I really be a Kollel wife?
5) Where does that leave me, and what does it mean if it’s not for me?

1) WHERE DOES THE CONCEPT OF KOLLEL COME FROM?

The post war Kollel system is a Hora’as Sha’a – FOR OUR TIME. The pre-war Gedolim never said that learning in Kollel was a L’chatchilla situation for the average man. We are living in a world where it is becoming increasingly harder and harder to be frum. The purpose of Kollel is to create Ba’alabatim who will continue to learn throughout their lives in a Kovai’a Ittim setting. The Kollel system for the Klal is our way of combating 60% intermarriage. While for the individual this system helps to insure that a man will become more knowledgeable in Torah learning, it will be a way of life to him, a magnificent habit, a part of his everyday existence, even over the age of 30. For as you know, the world survives only through Torah learning.

If you think back to ancient times, which Sh’vatim were really involved with Torah learning? Just Yissaschar. Levi was the priestly tribe and Shimon the teachers and scribes. Levi, Yissaschar, and Shimon. That’s it. What were all the other Sh’vatim doing? Being Good Ba’alabatim. Making their parnasa, following halacha, and learning at fixed times. So, the vast majority of Clal Yisroel were being good Jews. No full time learning or other clerical lifestyle for 9 of the Sh’vatim.

2) WHAT ARE THE FALLACIES ABOUT KOLLEL?

a) A person in Kollel stays in learning for years and years and years

Based on what we have written, it would be useful for our purposes to have the following perspective about Kollel: The idea of Kollel is really to create a “finishing school” for Ba’alabatim. The standard way is for someone to learn 1-2 or 3 years and then settle into some sort of a working and learning situation. Some do go into Chinuch or Kiruv, most work. You do have the select few that will stay in learning for a long while, but it is only a minority. These unique people become our modern day Levi, Yissaschar, and Shimon. They are the ones that will be supporting the world through learning Torah lishma, and from them will come our future Roshei Yeshivos and Gedolim.

b) Living a Kollel life means living in a povertry stricken way.

It is not so overwhelming if you think of it in terms of only a few years. The situation isn’t really as dire and dreadful as all that! If “You” the wife is working and perhaps there is some help from the families and a Kollel check – couples can manage just fine. Plus, before the kids come along, the bills are lower and in general, those first few years, financial issues are less complicated.

c) You might be saying to yourself – ” My mechanchim must have sat for years in kollel to become who they are – surely, my husband will have to do the same”

To gain perspective on the matter, I asked a Rabbi who taught at a prominent seminary to take an ad hoc survey of how many years the staff had learned in Kollel after marriage. The average ‘unadulterated’ Kollel time of many of the Rabbeim was 3 years! Of course, these Rabbeim continue to learn as they teach, but, looking back, they were only in full time Kollel for a few years.

3) FACTS ABOUT KOLLEL AND LEARNING:

a) A working and learning situation is much harder than anyone really thinks. It is quite easy to slip away from learning once someone is out there working. It takes a tremendous Avodah to keep up the Kovei’a Ittim. So if your husband has learned those few years and he is an advanced learner and is motivated and enjoys his learning, there is a much higher chance of him being Kovei’a Ittim. Go have a look in your local bais hamedresh [figuratively I mean!] and see how many balei batim over the age of thirty are learning every evening at an advanced level. And from those that are – ask yourself – how many years did they learn first to reach that level of commitment? Of course this takes a huge effort on your part as well! You, as the wife must create the right atmosphere and attitude toward his learning and help make the time available for him to do it.

b) It is important to understand that the level that the man has attained on the day that he steps out of Kollel will determine the level of how much he’ll continue to grow once he enters the working world. While a person is learning full time, he grows in his learning exponentially. If he is on an enriched level when he begins to divide his time, then there is a ‘foothold’ there for him to remain at an enhanced stature in his learning.

c) M’chanchim strongly recommend that if it is at all possible, a couple should try to work out that the husband should be in full time learning for a year or two at the beginning of the marriage. Spending the 1st year together in K’dusha can adorn and develop a relationship. The beginning of a marriage is very much a meshing and solidifying time. If the relationship is cemented within the realm of the Torah that is being learned and of it’s importance in the home…well, you’re off to a terrifically wonderful start!

Stay tuned for the continuation of this important topic. It will be featured in in the JemSem newsletter for Tishrei.

Sincerely,
Chana