Thursday, November 20, 2008

High School Memories and Kollel

When I was in High School I shared pretty much the same opinion as most of the bloggers here. I was totally against Kollel and the thought of Kollel disgusted me. I couldn’t understand how these people chose to live in poverty. My views were mostly influenced by my brother who was adamantly against Kollel. He was against the Kollel people being off the books and stealing money from the government by getting food stamps and all kinds of government help.

He told me a story of how there was a daughter that went to one of the schools that advocated marrying a kollel guy, and she did just that, then when it was time to enroll her daughter in a school, she figured she would send her daughter to the school she went to. So she applied, but then unfortunately she didn’t have enough money to pay for tuition, so she told the school she can’t afford to pay all of it. They said sorry, but we can’t help you with that. So he was telling me how it was hypocrisy, the same people that told her to live a kollel life, weren’t going to accept her daughter because she didn’t have money. So I was naturally appalled by this story.

My brother was also very pro college, so it made it very easy for me to go against my school and apply to a cuny college. My teacher took it upon herself to call me out of class every week since she found out I was going to college, and tried to convince me not to go. She said I was going to start believing that abortion is okay, and that people being gay is okay. I looked at her thinking that’s crazy, I would never believe that stuff. It came to a point where I couldn’t stand being the middle person, I felt like I was the child of divorced parents, where both sides tried to get you to side with them. At first also, I wasn’t going to go to seminary, I thought it was going to be like 13th grade. So I finally said I will check out a seminary, I found one that had a college program too, so I told her I’m applying to there. At first the seminary closed down, so then I felt helpless, but then it opened back up again. So it all worked out, my teacher thought that I was going to be going to the seminary's college program and didn’t realize that I was only going to the seminary part, and was still going to go to the cuny college.

My good friend actually enjoyed drawing sketches of my life, So I’ll put up some illustrations.




brooklyn college

My teachers would always talk about the importance of being a yarei Shamayim, and the importance of learning. I just never understood all of it, and it went over my head, and I wished they talked about more practical stuff. I got annoyed at hearing about learning.

In High school, I was one of the few with internet. I was brought up on it since I was a kid, so I knew how to work the computer and browse the web. I would print out funny e-mails I got and bring it in to class, and my classmates all loved it, during class it got passed up and down the rows for everyone to look at. They would look forward to the things I brought in. I had a collection in my loose-leaf of them. Then when it was time for tests, especially literature tests, I would go to spark notes or some other website and get multiple choice questions on tom sawyer or whatever book we were having a test on, and surprisingly the teachers questions on her test were the same ones! so everyone was thankful to me for bring it in. Come to think of it, I was able to do so much chessed because I had internet. Girls would come to my house to use my computer, to check out aish’s website, or to check their e-mails for important e-mails from organizations, and all kinds of stuff.

In seminary, I went to a more open one, that was very different from my HS, and gave me the perfect balance, and it was exactly what I needed. It showed me a love for being Jewish, and gave great logic based classes which I truly enjoyed. For the first time in my life I realized that so many things which I thought were Halachos were actually chumras, and it was very comforting to find out there’s a distinction between the two. Then somehow my views changed, and I started appreciating what learning is, and better understood what it means to be a yaarei shamayim. 

So now getting back to Kollel, I understand the joy in learning, of finding a chiddush, and finally understanding something. I always loved learning Chumash, it was my favorite subject, with all the Rashi’s and different meforshim, with questions and answers and arguments. I always felt so proud when I was able to figure out Rashi’s question and answer’s and to fit the whole puzzle together so that it made sense. I loved hearing the teacher say “Excellent” to what I said. It felt good when teachers quoted me when I had the right answer. Of course there were times when I was wrong too, but I never let that stop me from guessing.

in class

So anyways, I realized how much joy learning could be, and I understood why men would want to join Kollel for that reason. Imagine being able to fill your mind with so much knowledge a whole day, to learn so much. To figure things out and become enlightened as to how you are supposed to be living your life.

Of course I acknowledge that not everyone can get the same joy out of it, and not everyone can truly appreciate what it is to learn and how it puts you on a high. Some can’t follow along so well, and their brain doesn’t allow them to grasp the material so easily. So for them of course they wouldn’t belong in a Kollel.

I of course still don’t plan on marrying a guy who will only sit and learn and not work, I believe it’s a man’s job to make parnassah and support his family. But yet, because I understand the value of learning and why men would want to choose that way, I would support them, and give tzedaka to help them. I feel that these 2 paths are really connected, there is allowed to be both and both are good, after all there was a yissaschar and zevulan relationship. I used to always use that argument to be for working and against Kollel. But now I’m going to twist it, and say that the working is for the sake of the learning. The main goal is the learning.

As it is, I think the people who do join Kollel, only do it for a short few years after they get married, and then they go to work. My neighbor actually pointed out a pro to this, he said why would you want your husband to be working with immodestly dressed woman during your shana rishonah. So this way when their learning that first year, their mind is on higher things, and their not distracted by what’s out there, and they will be more faithful.

So I don’t think it’s a problem if a man wants to learn in Kollel for a short few years after he gets married, if afterwards he plans to work and support his family. So it won’t be a continuing chain of him leeching. For those that want to spend their whole life in Kollel, they should truly enjoy it, and not just want to sit and schmooze with friends and take coffee breaks all the time. If they are truly into it, then I look up to it as a great thing, and who knows they may become the next gadol hador.


Anonymous said...

The thing that stuck most in my mind after all that was the sheer idiocy of a teacher suggesting that if you go to college you automatically end up believing in abortion and gay rights. I'm surprised she didn't go the full nine yards and suggest that you'll end up as a homeless crack addict, if they're using fear to stop people going to college. What a crock.

But yeah, kollel is fine if you're actually learning and if you're not asking the community for tzedokah for it. If its a situation of the father or father-in-law paying then thats just a Yissacher/Zevulan setup, isnt it?

The Babysitter said...

yea, it was crazy, then also I don't know if you were able to read from the picture, but she actually said she went to the same college herself and graduated in 1967. Perhaps back then it was more liberal or, she studied liberal stuff. So she thought that I was going to be influenced by it. Also, because she thought of me as such a "frum good girl". But she hadn't realized that I wasn't like all the other girls in my class. (aka. I've been wearing denim skirts since I was a kid).

right, yea I would see that as a Yissacher/Zevulan relationship. Also, in HS I always remember hearing stories of how wives would get upset at their kollel husbands for sleeping late and not going to minyan, cause after all they were working so that their husbands can learn, so it was as if they were stealing. So I suppose they were on top of learning the whole time and not wasting time.

I remember hearing a story about a father in law asking the son in law to say a devar torah on shabbos so that he can see that he was actually learning before he went to support him. So I guess there are ways to make sure that the learning is being done, and that they are accomplishing something.

Anonymous said...

So she went during the hippy era? Tell her its different now. Everyones disaffected. :)

The Babysitter said...

I suppose, didn't think of that. lol

I haven't seen her since HS, I was always afraid that I would see her at classmate's weddings, but so far I came across no teachers. Going to a wedding tonight, hope I'm not making an ayin hora.

Anonymous said...

You were the only one to have internet in HS? I went to a very BY school, and a good portion of the girls had the internet, whether or not they'd admit it is another story.

Mrs. Lakewood Falling Down said...

I believe that we need very strong learners to be in kollel full time. BUT,not everyone is cut out to be a full time learner. I also believe that you can learn 1/2 a day and either teach or tutor to help make ends meet. My husband learned in bais Medrash for a year after HS and realized he was not cut out for full time learning. He became a special ed. teacher and he learns daf yomi in the AM and he stays for the pre or post Maariv shir in the PM. As for college, if you only have a HS or seminary education who is going to pay the 7,000 tuition per child. I happily give tzedaka but I don't want my hard earned money going to people who have limited their potential and then require my assistance. That's why touro and other frum higher ed. institutions have been created.

rickismom said...

For some exceptionally good and strong learners, we need community support. These are our future leaders.....

Mikeinmidwood said...

College will turn you into a gay loving person. Lol. Teachers cracked.

The Babysitter said...

Update: So I just came back from a vort and a wedding, and it's so funny to see what worlds of a difference my HS friends are from online people. Both the girl who's vort it was, and the one who's wedding it was, are moving to Lakewood and their husbands are going to be learning in Kollel. So girls were saying it's so amazing that they are doing that. They all seem to look up to Kollel people.

I got to speak with my best friend who drew the pictures, and I mentioned that I was thinking about her today, cause I was looking at what she drew, so it made her happy, and she said she has to see it again. Then she was telling me how she remembers when she came to my house and would use my computer, my mouse was a dancing lady. It's amazing how she remembers more details of my life than even I do. I'm going to try to put a lot of effort into keeping in touch with her, since she was such a good friend. I still have to check out her new apartment...

TooYoungToTeach: there were exactly 3 others, that I can think of, that had internet, and I would e-mail with them. Others got internet at work after HS.

Mrs. Lakewood Falling Down: you make good points. I understand it's not cut out for everyone. It shouldn't be "Institutionalized" as Prof K puts it. I definitely think it's best if the man can learn and work, so he can support his family. Right, so I think more people are going to touro and sara shneirer and raizel reit so that they can have an income.

Ricki's Mom: I agree with you!

MikeInMidwood: lol, luckily I didn't see her at the wedding. But yea, what can I say...

Anonymous said...

Well Babysitter, there's one person online who is just like your friends from high

After high school, I didn't think much of kollel, and would have married a year learner to satisfy my parents...but I've changed, I admire the real kollel people (not the kollel system), and do plan on living that lifestlye. I'm graduating with a Masters in December, so I will be able to fully support my husband in his learning without relying on my parents or in-laws...

The reason I think schools and teachers pitch the kollel system, is not because they think it's for everyone, but because theoretically they think that that is the ideal. And why should they preach anything less than the ideal to their students. The fact that it doesn't pan out in reality is irrevelent. Think of all the theory you learn psycology, economics, education, politics etc. Every side has their ideal "The way it should be". Most of these theories are just that, and when they are applied to reality, they become watered down versions of themselves, or they cease to exist or apply at's the same thing happening here.

The Babysitter said...

Sporadic Intelligence: I'm glad you said that.

That makes a lot of sense.

Lion of Zion said...

"I was totally against Kollel and the thought of Kollel disgusted me."

i'm not mekabel

"I couldn’t understand how these people chose to live in poverty."

a lot of kolleniks, at least here in america, don't live in poverty. far from it. there is a sense of entitlement and no lack of people willing to satisfy it.

in israel it's different, where you have masses living in real poverty and exhibiting מסירת נפש

nmf #7 said...

Babysitter- thanks for a well thought-out post.
I'm just wondering about the part in your post:

I think the people who do join Kollel, only do it for a short few years after they get married, and then they go to work.

It's wonderful to spend your first few years in Kollel learning full time- as emphasized by Lion of Zion, who said that in Israel there are masses of Kollel families living within their limited means to be able to live in that spiritual sort of atmosphere. But what if they want to continue? There are 5,000 men in Mir- are most of them only learning for a few years and then heading out to work? If you are able to live within your means and continue to function as a kollel family- then why shouldn't you continue?

sporadic intelligence- just must say that I really liked your comment here. Thank you.

aliza said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
frumskeptic said...

I didn't read all the comments, so i'm sorry if I'm repeating soemthing someone else said:

firstly, I don't really want to argue this, as people already know my view on kollel. lol. So I'm just going to point out a few things that I don't think were covered in the MANY other discussions in which kolel was brought up.

1- You made a good point that there is no problem with only learning a few years, but you have to understand, most of these guys do NOT have anything to fall back on to get jobs once those few years are over.

One of my teachers husbands learned for like 3-4 years after marraige. they have already been married for about 7-8 years, and he still does NOT have a job. Becuase by the time he got to college, and figured out what he wanted to do, he killed alot of time. So they're extremely poor, and I feel terribly bad for them.

about the immodestly dressed woman, you have to understand, unless he literally lives in a ghetto (which he will not), he WILL inevitably see immodestly dressed woman. He will see them on the bus, on the train, in the mall, in the supermarkets, etc. This is not something you can avoid. So, to me, that argument is just not good enough.


Loved th post...sorry took me so long to read it. :).

The Babysitter said...

Lion Of Zion: "i'm not mekabel"

as in you don't believe me?

Your right, I do see that they aren't living in real poverty here, but in Israel they have to live in one bedroom apartments. It's good you call it Mesiras Nefesh.

NMF#7: Your welcome, thank you for saying that!

"If you are able to live within your means and continue to function as a kollel family- then why shouldn't you continue?"

Then I would think it's great, and I wouldn't stop the family, I do think that's the ideal, as in highest madraiga, like Sporadic pointed out.

Aliza: I see you removed your comment, but I liked it, so thanx!

Although to answer your question of why they felt it was necessary to have that year of seminary, as if the other years weren't enough, to guide you into the real world. I suppose not everyone needs that seminary year, as I was planning on not going to seminary in the beginning. But for me I'm glad I went, because I went to a more open seminary, actually from the same branch as the seminary you went to. So it helped balance out my HS years. Also, since I went to college the same time, I figured at least I would have a link to a Rabbi just in case my teacher was right and that I would get influenced.

FrumSkeptic: you actually didn't repeat anything someone else said, so your all good!

Your right, they may have a hard time at first trying to get a job after learning those few years. But I would say it's the same hard as finding any first job, whether it's right after college, or after a few years.

I understand that it can be harder, if the husband is going to college once he's married and has a family. Time is limited, and he has other responsibilities, and not as much money as when he was single. But then touro lets all married men go to college for free for that reason. Your teacher was obviously working at that time, so she was making some income which helped. But yea, some people have a hard time finding a job.

lol, I knew you would say that, about the immodestly dressed woman. I was waiting for that response.

Thanx, and no problem :-)

Shorty said...

I love reading your exeperiences in HS

mine was so different

No internet back then, computers were just coming "en vogue"

we were EXPECTED to go to university

although some were expected to go to UNi to find a husband. others were expected to be doctors.

i did neither ;)

The Babysitter said...

Shorty: Thanx! I'm glad you enjoyed reading about it!

That surely is different from what I had

That's actually funny, because I forgot to mention, that when my teacher tried to convince me not to go to college, I thought it would be because it's mixed and that there are guys there. but she didn't mention that at all.

Seems like everyone gets proud of doing the opposite of the norm! :-)

frumskeptic said...

babysitter- When a guy is looking for a job, and already has a degree, its differnt than if he only gets a degree at around 28, with no work experience at all.

Its not so much that its hard to find a job after working, its that he literally has to start from the the beginning...he has to GO to college, which is about 3-4 years, and only THEN look for hte job. So if he is learning for 3-4 years, thats like 6-8 years he's NOT working.

A complete waste of time, and manliness. So don't understand how men dont feel immasculated by this whole kolel thing.

The Babysitter said...

FrumSkeptic: Your right, it is different. But the wife is working during that time so those years aren't so hard. Plus it's their Mesiras Nefesh.

The Babysitter said...

Update: I have to say I really do love learning, and seems like I'm on a roll here 1. Remembering what I learned about Thanksgiving 2. Having Learned about Moshe and R' Akiva 3. Remembering what I learned about the status of Halachos over time.

Second, I went to a friends vort, and she welcomed everyone with a hug and a whole mushy speech. So when I came she gave me a hug, and was thanking me for being a friend and the whole deal, and one of the things she thanked me for was for letting her come to my house and use my computer for 3 hours to look for scholarship stuff, back in the High School days. I couldn't believe she remembered it!

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