Winter 2015: Responses
For the questions, click here.
Too often, individuals who achieve enormous success in managing their multiple roles of husband, father, breadwinner and oved Hashem (servant of G-d) view themselves as failures. Ironically, it is often those with the most to be proud of who are the most discouraged and frustrated, and the least appreciative of their own achievements. Yet, from their rabbi’s perspective, these men are giants. Why the apparent disconnect? Why do they not see what is so obvious to their rabbi?
Unlike an angel, which can have only a single mission, people are endowed with the capability, and sometimes, the responsibility, to be what’s called a בר ב’ שליחויות – a man of multiple missions. Throughout the yeshiva years, young men are on a single mission, immersing themselves in learning to the exclusion of all else. For most talmidim, however, this idyllic period comes to a close, and they must adopt additional missions. Though many of our talmidim have not been adequately prepared, with proper effort and mindset, multiple objectives can be harmonized, and pursued collectively.
Observations on the Transition from Kollel Yungerman to Ben Torah Baal Habayis
Many of the challenges facing the ben Torah baal habayis trace their origins to the especially vulnerable period of transition between yeshiva or kollel and the workplace. This period is so vulnerable in part because of the “availability heuristic,” which can substantially narrow a young man’s sense of his options and opportunities. Additionally, there is currently no support system available to serve as a “transitional space” to bridge the great distance between the insulated walls of the yeshiva and the workplace outside. Perhaps yeshivas and kollels could create programs to help young men adapt more smoothly to their new identities, in a safe environment in which to discuss and adjust to new spiritual challenges, while preserving their connections to their Torah institutions as well as to each other.
The non-Chassidic community can learn three key lessons from the Chassidic community that would assist b’nai Torah in maintaining the intensity of their commitment after leaving yeshiva or kollel: (1) do not invest your self-image in striving for unattainable greatness, (2) strive to be associated with a good chevra (social group) and (3) appreciate and embrace a Rav.
The ben Torah baal habayis is a most impressive oved Hashem. One can only imagine how much more he could be if taught to appreciate the growth he can yet achieve after leaving yeshiva, if he were allowed and even encouraged to find his personal voice within an understandably conforming-oriented community, and if he were assisted in choosing a career that complements his strengths and interests.
The key to a successful life includes identifying and pursuing goals, as well as learning how to prioritize them appropriately. Although there is no magic formula for selecting appropriate goals, this article suggests a four-step process: articulate specific goals, examine the motives behind the goals, ensure that efforts are geared towards the ultimate goals rather than mere results, and remember that success is not measured in comparison to others.
When a man struggles to balance his identity as both a ben Torah and a baal habayis, one can expect that his wife will struggle with their family’s identity, as well. In fact, there is often a sharp disconnect between a wife’s initial expectations of an inspired family life and the reality she faces once her husband enters the ordinary workplace, often leading to her own crisis of identity. Suggestions include raising the stature of the baal habayis in the community, redefining “working” as part of the life of a ben Torah and not separate from it and a concerted effort by the baal habayis to develop close relationships with a rav and with peers.
A ben Torah baal habayis should embrace his role with a positive attitude, develop and follow a goal-oriented plan and engage a rav as a support system. The community can help by providing rabbanim with the capacity to engage a community of baalei batim serious about avodas Hashem, tweaking the messaging about the stature of the baal habayis as a serious ben Torah and, perhaps, by acknowledging the role of the yeshiva system in preparing talmidim for the futures that await them.
Many of the most serious yeshiva students often allow their Torah studies to dwindle, if not lapse entirely, during their transition into baalei batim. With the exception of the Daf Yomi movement, there has been, unfortunately, relatively little communal effort to address the spiritual needs of this segment of the community. However, there is a model from pre-war Europe that has been successfully replicated in recent years in many communities throughout the world. Called Tiferes Bochurim, this approach provides a social network for young baalei batim to learn together with an insipring rav, socialize together, and become a chevra (peer group) through their shared spiritual aspirations.
While a successful transition into today’s workforce is certainly no trivial matter, on the whole, it is unlikely that things right now are any worse than at any other time in the past, and we would be better served by recognizing that. Some areas that deserve attention are the need to be comfortable with compromises, for increased financial training and vocational planning and the tendency to downplay certain principles in Torah.