Winter 2015: Questions
Klal Perspectives, The Ben Torah Baal Habayis
For the foreword to this issue, click here.
Contemporary life is extremely challenging for any individual, and the added pressures and expectations of an Orthodox husband and father make it all the more daunting. Is the community adequately preparing and supporting its members for these challenges, and for the emotional and psychological results?
This issue of Klal Perspectives seeks to identify the significant issues that the contemporary observant baal habayis must grapple with, and explore the spectrum of appropriate communal approaches that might be introduced to enable him to better confront these challenges.
Doing it All / Prioritizing: A thoughtful, conscientious and responsible father and wage-earner is pulled in so many directions that it appears virtually impossible to fully address his many responsibilities. These unrealistic expectations may leave him feeling inadequate, despite his many accomplishments.
Torah Study: He knows that Torah study is central to Avodas Hashem and spiritual growth. Ideally this includes hours of intense and deep learning daily. Practically, this may be out of reach for him, as he can find neither the hours nor the headspace for this kind of learning, and instead does his best to maintain a consistent, basic chavrusa or attend a daily Daf Yomi. This is a painful compromise for him, and even more so if he is someone who had aspired to or engaged in long-term full time Torah study.
Home and Family: He is aware that success in marriage usually requires a significant and unhesitating investment of his time, for both helping at home and spending undistracted time with his wife. Raising children to be bnai Torah is more difficult today than ever before, and requires of him both quality and quantity time. Yet, he rarely is able to be home in time for weekday family dinner hour, and even when home from work his evenings are often an internal struggle between paying adequate attention to work responsibilities and attending his Torah learning seder. He finds that time for doing homework with the children or a weekly “date night” are not realistic considerations.
Work: He learns how expensive it is to raise an observant household. Costs of clothing, food and housing are all higher than for his non-Orthodox peers, and that is even before considering the likely larger family size. As his family matures, the bills begin to arrive for tuition, camp, seminary, and ultimately – if so fortunate – weddings and some amount of post-marriage children’s support. He may face decisions about expanding his commitment to work to pay for all of this, or he may be humiliated to discover that despite his best efforts and long hours of toil and stress he will inevitably need to appeal to a yeshiva scholarship committee.
Community – Tzorchei Tzibbur: He is invited to an increasing number of Bar Mitzvahs, Vorts, l’chaims and weddings, as well as fundraising dinners, breakfasts and parlor meetings. And when he starts skipping simchas and events other than those of close family and friends he begins to sense that the neglected baalei simcha or dinner guests-of-honor are insulted and slightly alienated. He would also like to allocate time to the needs of the community; his children’s school, local chesed programs, his Shul, or a kiruv project.
Other Obligations: He understands the importance of davening with an unrushed minyan three times daily. As he gets older, he realizes that it would be wise and responsible to engage in daily exercise, and that absent adequate hours of sleep his alertness and long-term health are compromised. And he would really enjoy a bit of “down time” for himself, or with friends.
To fulfill these basic obligations of the responsible and committed baal habayis would require a day of 35 hours or so. Given his limitations, he finds himself doing most things inadequately, leaving himself feeling frustrated, confused, and horribly inadequate.
Nisyonos: Challenges abound. For some it is economic pressures and for others it is the challenge of wealth. For many it is confronting a mixed gender work environment, and for many others it is resisting the intrusion of views and sensitivities of Gentiles or non-observant Jews whose discussions and attitudes may dominate his time and thoughts while at work. And one and all must deal with technology issues – both its lures and its intrusive blurring of boundaries.
How, then, should the baal habayis undertake the myriad competing demands on his time, energy and focus?
Since each person is extraordinarily unique, how is each individual to determine his own appropriate allocations of time and energy?
How should he cope with the internal feelings – or the external messages – that he is failing or inadequate due to his inability to master any or all of the many spheres of obligations and goals?
How can he come to recognize that unfulfilled goals may just as likely be a path to growth as a path to despondency and failure?
What can be done to support the baal habayis in the face of his nisyonos?
What challenges – other than those listed above – should be on this “short list”?
How is the baal habayis to be properly prepared to continue to grow spiritually in the context of these demands, and nisyonos?
When should preparation for these challenges begin?
Are there adequate human resources for guidance and chizuk in all of these issues?
How can the community, its mosdos and its rabbinic leadership create the environment and the relationships that will not only assist the baal habayis to cope, but also allow him to thrive and grow during every stage of life?
To view the Responses, please CLICK HERE.