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The problem with full-time Torah study


Ralar

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Single hasidic young men are deferring leaving yeshiva and entering college or getting a job because they fear they will not attract a good wife. We [hasidic community] have educated our young women, our future wives and mothers, to believe that not only is a young man with a job or a degree not to be sought after, but he is in fact someone to be avoided at all cost. Our daughters now seek precisely those men who are incapable of supporting them and their children.

http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/what-were-we-thinking/2014/01/09/

Interestingly, the woman who shared this piece on FB is a mid-20s hasidic woman with an employed husband and 2 kids (so far). One of her brothers is a year younger than her, also has 2 kids and studies torah full-time.

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What does this full time study lead to? I mean is there a end result or just endless study?

Many of these young men receive smicha or rabbinic ordination. But, rabbis are a dime a dozen in those communities and they have to support a family by some other means. And, since they are not the community's rebbe (grand rabbi) their opinions on Jewish matters don't mean much. So, unless they become a highly respected rabbi who writes prolifically in some area, their studies are mostly useless, except for the personal satisfaction they gain.

Don't get me wrong. I believe in education and don't knock esoteric studies, but one must also have some means of supporting their family. In many of these relationships, the wife works to support the family, but that is not easy to do when you are also responsible for a dozen kids and running the home.

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I've been out of shul for close to a decade, but isn't part of the defense for full time Torah study that it somehow contributes to Tikkun Olam (healing the world) and speeding up the advent of the Messiah? I remember reading that this was also part of the reason given for military exemption - the idea that these men are actually doing a great service to Judaism through their studies. It's actually similar in a way to contemplative monasticism, though I know that it's a bit of a stretch (but I work in that area of study a lot.) It really makes me think of the hermetic monks of the Eastern Church manifesting the image of god by immersion in prayer, Scripture and patristics.

(Sorry if rambling - I am at a hotel bar and it's been a long day! :))

ETA: Just to clarify I am an atheist scholar of religion so I am not advocating for either of these things.

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I've been out of shul for close to a decade, but isn't part of the defense for full time Torah study that it somehow contributes to Tikkun Olam (healing the world) and speeding up the advent of the Messiah? I remember reading that this was also part of the reason given for military exemption - the idea that these men are actually doing a great service to Judaism through their studies. It's actually similar in a way to contemplative monasticism, though I know that it's a bit of a stretch (but I work in that area of study a lot.) It really makes me think of the hermetic monks of the Eastern Church manifesting the image of god by immersion in prayer, Scripture and patristics.

That is my understanding as well. It was also believed that Israel was "successful" in the Six Day War thanks to Torah scholars and to soldiers who put on tefillin.

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I've been out of shul for close to a decade, but isn't part of the defense for full time Torah study that it somehow contributes to Tikkun Olam (healing the world) and speeding up the advent of the Messiah? I remember reading that this was also part of the reason given for military exemption - the idea that these men are actually doing a great service to Judaism through their studies. It's actually similar in a way to contemplative monasticism, though I know that it's a bit of a stretch (but I work in that area of study a lot.) It really makes me think of the hermetic monks of the Eastern Church manifesting the image of god by immersion in prayer, Scripture and patristics.

(Sorry if rambling - I am at a hotel bar and it's been a long day! :))

ETA: Just to clarify I am an atheist scholar of religion so I am not advocating for either of these things.

You are correct about tikkun olam, but that doesn't put food on the table or a roof over their heads. Plenty of OJs work and also study.

FWIW, Israel has started drafting Hassidim.

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You are correct about tikkun olam, but that doesn't put food on the table or a roof over their heads. Plenty of OJs work and also study.

FWIW, Israel has started drafting Hassidim.

Yeah, I am no fan of military drafting in general but this was a rare case of my agreeing w an Israeli policy.

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What happens when the studious young men find wives? Are they then expected/willing to find work (if it's available) or begin studying toward finding work? Isn't there a religious obligation to provide for their wives and families? Don't the young women's parents want some assurance that their daughters won't be overly burdened? Something here just doesn't seem to add up.

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What happens when the studious young men find wives? Are they then expected/willing to find work (if it's available) or begin studying toward finding work? Isn't there a religious obligation to provide for their wives and families? Don't the young women's parents want some assurance that their daughters won't be overly burdened? Something here just doesn't seem to add up.

You're so funny :dance: work? a good wife is supposed to have the babies and bring home the proverbial bacon. Maternity leave in Israel is only 3 months, so women manage to work in between having back-to-back babies. The wife's wages plus a generous stipend (child benefits are not that great, even with 6+ kids), keep the family afloat. Israel has free public healthcare, most families live in tight-knit areas with like-minded people, which eliminates the need for a car, and their standard of living is similar to that of the Duggars pre-TTH. There is an enormous grumbling in Israel among those who work, pay taxes and serve in the army, which enable a large body of people to not work.

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You're so funny :dance: work? a good wife is supposed to have the babies and bring home the proverbial bacon. Maternity leave in Israel is only 3 months, so women manage to work in between having back-to-back babies. The wife's wages plus a generous stipend (child benefits are not that great, even with 6+ kids), keep the family afloat. Israel has free public healthcare, most families live in tight-knit areas with like-minded people, which eliminates the need for a car, and their standard of living is similar to that of the Duggars pre-TTH. There is an enormous grumbling in Israel among those who work, pay taxes and serve in the army, which enable a large body of people to not work.

Full-time Torah study is common in Charedi communities in Israel, but people get stipends based on the number of kids, cchildren can attend religious public schools, and as you mentioned healthcare is free. In the US stipends are not available unless you consider welfare a stipend, all of these kids go to private schools, and healthcare is eexpensive. I think it is easier to study full time in Israel, but even in NY, people do it. Like we've discussed in earlier threads, Chasidic women frequently have much more (secular) education than their husbands and are the primary bread winners.

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Do the men do the cleaning and bulk of the childcare? I don't think that it is wrong for one partner to stay home if the family can afford it. My sister's husband is older than her and they have decided that he remains home with the kids. They both love the arrangement but my BIL actually makes a great house husband. Of course, my sister and her family don't get a stipend from the government either. Do women in these household have more power due to working outside the home?

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Do the men do the cleaning and bulk of the childcare? I don't think that it is wrong for one partner to stay home if the family can afford it. My sister's husband is older than her and they have decided that he remains home with the kids. They both love the arrangement but my BIL actually makes a great house husband. Of course, my sister and her family don't get a stipend from the government either. Do women in these household have more power due to working outside the home?

I'm not going to argue that men shouldn't be SAHD, but I find it hard to believe that the desire to be with the kids is perfectly cultural and therefore 100% flipped in this community. The hassle of pumping, for a start. And going back to work at six weeks (assuming you get FMLA and don't have to go back earlier) cannot be so easy not matter what your culture! Although, if you have nie kids it might be nice to spend most of the day with adults.

I'd love to hear more about the power balance when it's the women who do everything and the men who arete useless layabouts. But then it's often that way in many cultures and there's been no widespread matriarchy because of it.

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You're so funny :dance: work? a good wife is supposed to have the babies and bring home the proverbial bacon. Maternity leave in Israel is only 3 months, so women manage to work in between having back-to-back babies. The wife's wages plus a generous stipend (child benefits are not that great, even with 6+ kids), keep the family afloat. Israel has free public healthcare, most families live in tight-knit areas with like-minded people, which eliminates the need for a car, and their standard of living is similar to that of the Duggars pre-TTH. There is an enormous grumbling in Israel among those who work, pay taxes and serve in the army, which enable a large body of people to not work.

Kiryas Joel New York is one of the poorest places in America. The town is populated by Samtar Hasidic Jews. The New York Times writes,

About 70 percent of the village’s 21,000 residents live in households whose income falls below the federal poverty threshold, according to the Census Bureau. Median family income ($17,929) and per capita income ($4,494) rank lower than any other comparable place in the country. Nearly half of the village’s households reported less than $15,000 in annual income.

Also from the article,

“I cannot say as a group that they are cheating the system,†said William B. Helmreich, a sociology professor who specializes in Judaic studies at City College of the City University of New York, “but I do think that they have, no pun intended, unorthodox methods of getting financial support.â€

The Times article is very interesting and explains how the community functions within poverty.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/nyreg ... d=all&_r=0

(If you are interested in learning more about the Samtar Hasidic community, I recommend the memoir "Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots." http://www.amazon.com/Unorthodox-Scanda ... 1439187010 . )

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Do the men do the cleaning and bulk of the childcare? I don't think that it is wrong for one partner to stay home if the family can afford it. My sister's husband is older than her and they have decided that he remains home with the kids. They both love the arrangement but my BIL actually makes a great house husband. Of course, my sister and her family don't get a stipend from the government either. Do women in these household have more power due to working outside the home?

No, the men are at yeshiva/seminary from morning to night. The women are responsible for all household duties as well as bringing in the money. The men are required to sexually satisfy their wives, though. :lol:

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I used to live in an area of Queens, NY (outer borough of NYC) that had a very high concentration of orthodox/ultra-orthodox Jews. In almost all of the families that lived in our apartment complex, the men did NOT work--or at best held part-time job--while the women took care of just about anything and everything. The men, all of whom called themselves rabbis, spent all day and in some cases, much of the night studying. There was a yeshiva/seminary (not sure what you call it) for the men around the corner from us and no matter what time we drove past it, it was always full. If they weren't studying, they were congregating at the kosher bagel shop up the street. I rarely, and I do mean rarely, recall seeing them with their wives and families, other than on Shabbat and holidays. There really seemed to be very little interaction, in public anyway--even in it's most basic, impersonal form, between spouses. The women seemed to hold fairly responsible, good paying jobs (many were CPAs) and went back to work very quickly after giving birth. Older women in the area ran daycare, mostly, I'm assuming, illegally since the number of children they cared for would have been well over the max, given the size of the families. The women never, ever got a break. Ever. They pumped out babies, earned the money, cooked, cleaned, cared for the children, managed the finances, while their husbands studied, hung out together and were catered to hand and foot by their wives. I did get to know some of the younger women, mostly ones who were newly married and only had one or two kids. They were all extremely nice but as time went on, we outsiders would see less and less of them. The men would barely acknowledge us, expect to barge past us without a word or a thank you on Shabbat as they hung outside the security gates and doors to the building, waiting for us non-believers to let them in. Needless to say, I have very little patience with these special snowflakes who think they're above it all, including providing for their families.

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I'm not going to argue that men shouldn't be SAHD, but I find it hard to believe that the desire to be with the kids is perfectly cultural and therefore 100% flipped in this community. The hassle of pumping, for a start. And going back to work at six weeks (assuming you get FMLA and don't have to go back earlier) cannot be so easy not matter what your culture! Although, if you have nie kids it might be nice to spend most of the day with adults.

I'd love to hear more about the power balance when it's the women who do everything and the men who arete useless layabouts. But then it's often that way in many cultures and there's been no widespread matriarchy because of it.

I'm on an email list, Lactnet, for people professionally involved in breastfeeding support and education worldwide. Lactnet members from Israel have written time and time again of the low rates of breastfeeding or of low continuance of breastfeeding among Hasidic mothers. It's not that these mothers can't or don't want to breastfeed, it's that they have to go back to work so soon! There is one Hasidic Lactnetter who now lives in Israel (born in the Ukraine and lived for a while in the US) who at last count had 8 kids. Hopefully, she is able to make some small impact on breastfeeding ages in that community. She did write on her blog that she dreamed of the blessing of menopause!

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I would develop a very accidental habit of slamming the door in the faces/on the toes of such lazy pathetic loser assholes. What freeloaders. If you're too lazy to open the door for yourself, then stay inside and don't freeload off everyone else.

Also, what on earth can be so difficult that even after years of study you still don't understand it? You'd think there would come a time when someone would sit you down and tell you it's never goingto happen for you and you need to move on.

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No, the men are at yeshiva/seminary from morning to night. The women are responsible for all household duties as well as bringing in the money. The men are required to sexually satisfy their wives, though. :lol:

So who watches all of these children all day?

I've had a lot of questions about this since I first learned about Kiryas Joel a few years ago, but my understanding of modern Jewish history is really basic and so pardon my stumbling (and feel free to recommend a link if my questions are so rudimentary that they would be better answered there). But how and when did the Hasidic emphasis on the man staying home and doing Torah study 24/7 begin?

I believe Hasidic Judaism began with a rabbi in the mid-18th century. But these communities didn't always live under the more sympathetic (and stable) Israeli system. There was really no system to benefit from. Most Hasdic Jews are Ashkenazi, correct? So how could this set up have worked in the 18th and 19th centuries? Women wouldn't have been ideal for much of the more grueling farm labor, and the governments they did live under would have most likely have been the Russian Empire/Polish Commonwealth/Soviet Union, which certainly weren't going to be looking to do their Jewish populations any favors. Is this a post World War II phenomenon? I remember reading somewhere that often these families are often supported by older family members who are not as religious and don't want to see their nieces/nephews/grandchildren starve. So when did this lifestyle really pick up steam?

Sorry for rambling.

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It's religion. You can never really "finish" studying it, there is always more and greater depth for you to go into.

Plus, the very act of studying itself, the fact that there are people sitting in the study hall learning and endlessly dissecting the texts, is what keeps the world in existence according to a lot of those doing it - as someone else said upthread, in Israel a lot of the people getting religious study exemption from the army explicitly argue that it is their studying that protects the country (at which point they get snarked on by secular people saying "fine then, go do it on your hill without any army around").

In the US, often Chassidic men DO work (in jobs not requiring higher education, for the most part - traditional businesses, trades, etc). Apparently they work more often than do similar group members in Israel (where your army history plays a role in getting a job, and where people have to keep studying to get the army exemption until a pretty high age).

Contrasted with them (in the US) are certain slices of the Yeshivish community, equally "Charedi" (if you can use that term in the US at all, but seems like lately people do self-claim it) but not Chassidic. There is a large community of them in Lakewood, NJ, around the "Lakewood Yeshiva" (BMG). That community started around the yeshiva, with the families of men in kollel (post-marriage endless religious study). And, it's grown.

I bring it up because there are endless conversations about people who are trying to get their kids into religious schools there (private, and yes, tuition is a huge issue) and the schools get really selective. But one of the things that a lot of schools are selective about is the father working - many places prefer kids whose fathers DO NOT WORK, they prefer the fathers to be learning only. And in marriage too, for people in a lot of those communities, it's a status thing to find a husband who will be doing the endless studying - marrying a "working boy" would be a step down.

Interesting part is that so much of this is a very recent trend. It is not actually traditional for so much of the community to be doing this, and as a result it's unsustainable, you can find people inside and outside the communities writing about it. Very little income, insisting on sending all kids to private schools, having lots of kids. So a lot of families were supported by the previous generation, in-laws etc, where the parents did go to higher education and had white-collar careers, but that only goes so far when you end up with almost a pyramid population going on.

That part is interesting to me, and it's common to a lot of MODERN (oh how they would hate to have that word) fundamentalist communities, be they Jewish or Christian or whatever. When you effectively deny kids a secular education you limit the money they can earn, when you do not prioritize getting a job with some decent wages (better than the often paltry stipend coming from the kollel) again you limit the money, and then on top of that the pressure is to have ever bigger families, and in modern times it's Just Not Done to send your kids to public school if they're to be properly religious.

It will be interesting to see where this all goes, both in Israel and in the US (and with the Duggars, and the Maxwells, and and and...)

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So who watches all of these children all day?

I've had a lot of questions about this since I first learned about Kiryas Joel a few years ago, but my understanding of modern Jewish history is really basic and so pardon my stumbling (and feel free to recommend a link if my questions are so rudimentary that they would be better answered there). But how and when did the Hasidic emphasis on the man staying home and doing Torah study 24/7 begin?

I believe Hasidic Judaism began with a rabbi in the mid-18th century. But these communities didn't always live under the more sympathetic (and stable) Israeli system. There was really no system to benefit from. Most Hasdic Jews are Ashkenazi, correct? So how could this set up have worked in the 18th and 19th centuries? Women wouldn't have been ideal for much of the more grueling farm labor, and the governments they did live under would have most likely have been the Russian Empire/Polish Commonwealth/Soviet Union, which certainly weren't going to be looking to do their Jewish populations any favors. Is this a post World War II phenomenon? I remember reading somewhere that often these families are often supported by older family members who are not as religious and don't want to see their nieces/nephews/grandchildren starve. So when did this lifestyle really pick up steam?

Sorry for rambling.

The current kollel (religious study for married men) system is a recent development.

Previously, in Europe, there was an emphasis on religious study, especially in the non-Hasidic circles, but long-term study was reserved for those who were very gifted or very wealthy. If a boy was very bright, matchmakers might try to set him up with a bride who had a wealthy father willing to support the couple while he continued learning.

After WWII, when most of the European Jewish communities and centers of learning were destroyed, there was a real fear that the culture and learning would be wiped out altogether. That's why the Israeli government initially agreed to the system of deferring the draft for yeshiva (religious academy) students. At the time, nobody dreamed that the numbers of full-time students-for-life would ever explode the way that they did. Part of the problem, though, was that this system started off in a sort of desperate survival mode mindset, and that didn't suddenly get shut off when it was no longer necessary.

Some of the women work as daycare providers.

Part of what is fueling the system is the fact that girls are trained in their schools to want this lifestyle. It's described in glowing terms, they want to get married early and to have the prestige of a having a husband who learns. Since the average marriage age is a few years younger for women than men, and since the community is growing, there are slightly more 19 year old females than there are 23 year old males. This seems to have created some panic that there aren't enough good guys to go around, so some men (and their families) feel like they can be more demanding of the bride and her family.

August - no, it's not about studying something just until they understand it! lol. For observant Jews, religious study for its own sake is a commandment. There's a LOT to study - it's not just the Old Testament, it's also the Talmud (Oral Law) which is so large that if you are studying a double-side page per day (which is considered a fast pace), it takes 7 years to complete the whole thing. You've also got reams of ancient commentaries on everything, plus about 2,000 years of legal decisions.

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Why don't the men just stay celebate? I mean, why not create a form of Jewish monasticism for men to study for life? Is there a reason they just HAVE to get married and have children? Seems like keeping the men unmarried would solve some problems.

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I bring it up because there are endless conversations about people who are trying to get their kids into religious schools there (private, and yes, tuition is a huge issue) and the schools get really selective. But one of the things that a lot of schools are selective about is the father working - many places prefer kids whose fathers DO NOT WORK, they prefer the fathers to be learning only. And in marriage too, for people in a lot of those communities, it's a status thing to find a husband who will be doing the endless studying - marrying a "working boy" would be a step down.

That reminds me of the British class system (as gleaned from historical fiction/movies) where marrying someone in trade was not nearly as desirable as marrying a gentleman who had income from rents. But there, at least the gentlemen had income! And the wife wasn't expected to go out and work.

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Why don't the men just stay celebate? I mean, why not create a form of Jewish monasticism for men to study for life? Is there a reason they just HAVE to get married and have children? Seems like keeping the men unmarried would solve some problems.

It's a commandment to "go forth and multiply." People argue over what exactly that means (not all people are Quiverfull) but usually that means at least two kids, one kid of each sex if possible. There isn't a separate priestly class that gets exempted from that.

People do manage to get permission to limit family size due to emotional or economic reasons, but among the fundamentalist types it can be very controversial to the point that a lot of them (and particularly the ones not having much income!) are effectively quiverfull or quiverfull-lite.

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It's looking an awful lot like regular fundamentalist picking and choosing. Have they found a commandment for these men to be ordered not to work? It's sounding a lot like the Christian patriarchy justifications that don't work for me at all - just another reason for certain men to justify doing what they want.

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The current kollel (religious study for married men) system is a recent development.

Previously, in Europe, there was an emphasis on religious study, especially in the non-Hasidic circles, but long-term study was reserved for those who were very gifted or very wealthy. If a boy was very bright, matchmakers might try to set him up with a bride who had a wealthy father willing to support the couple while he continued learning.

After WWII, when most of the European Jewish communities and centers of learning were destroyed, there was a real fear that the culture and learning would be wiped out altogether. That's why the Israeli government initially agreed to the system of deferring the draft for yeshiva (religious academy) students. At the time, nobody dreamed that the numbers of full-time students-for-life would ever explode the way that they did. Part of the problem, though, was that this system started off in a sort of desperate survival mode mindset, and that didn't suddenly get shut off when it was no longer necessary.

Some of the women work as daycare providers.

Part of what is fueling the system is the fact that girls are trained in their schools to want this lifestyle. It's described in glowing terms, they want to get married early and to have the prestige of a having a husband who learns. Since the average marriage age is a few years younger for women than men, and since the community is growing, there are slightly more 19 year old females than there are 23 year old males. This seems to have created some panic that there aren't enough good guys to go around, so some men (and their families) feel like they can be more demanding of the bride and her family.

August - no, it's not about studying something just until they understand it! lol. For observant Jews, religious study for its own sake is a commandment. There's a LOT to study - it's not just the Old Testament, it's also the Talmud (Oral Law) which is so large that if you are studying a double-side page per day (which is considered a fast pace), it takes 7 years to complete the whole thing. You've also got reams of ancient commentaries on everything, plus about 2,000 years of legal decisions.

Thank you 2xx1xy1JD, that was really helpful. I guess my only remaining question is what factors made this full-time student situation "explode"?

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