So What do the Shvers Think?
Return on Investment Revisited
Last week I brought you a Letter from the Yated by two not-so-young learners who haven't seemed to learn the basics of derech eretz. Not surprisingly, this week's Yated brings us a slew of letters from father-in-laws who have something of their own to say. And they are none too happy.
But truth be told, I feel sympathy for these young married men. In a way, their parents have turned their children against them by providing too much. They are so smothered by gifts they don't have a chance to achieve by themselves and little they accomplish can be attributed to them alone. The instinct every toddler has to "do it myself" has been chipped away and at this point they are almost completely dependent on others. Monthly checks from parents and large gifts have deprived them of the esteem they desire. The "help" has gone to "hurt" and instead of seeing young men desiring to share their Torah learning, we see them biting the hand that feeds them.
Ariella agrees with my sentiments and puts these thoughts into Torah terms. She writes "parents must take on some of the blame for bringing up a generation of people who feel no shame in na'ama dekisufa [bread given without having been earned]. In Jewish thought, the rationale for creating the world is to allow people to earn their reward. If people would simply get a "free lunch," they would not enjoy it as much as one they worked for. But our society seems to have forgotten that principle altogether and believe that beating the system -- that is avoiding earning one's way by getting it all free -- is the ultimate object."
I am posting the newest letters in full below with no comments. Unfortunately, two of the letters are extremely loquacious. Nonetheless, if you read on you will see that most letter writers took an ROI standpoint. One letter writer reminded us that many in-laws are going into debt to provide this support and another letter writers states the support they give is at their own expense and at the expense of their younger children (is that just?).
One letter writer bemoans "the system" that "forces" young people to take support saying most young people hate taking the support and would rather live in poverty, and tells father-in-laws they have no right to be controlling even if they are footing the bill.
IS HE GETTING HIS MONEY’S WORTH?
I was appalled by C. R.’s and M. F.’s letter bemoaning their fate when they visit their shvers. As a shver myself, all I can say to them is that supporting married children for most of us is a very expensive and often difficult undertaking. Many shvers go deep into debt to assist their married children. The very least they are entitled to is to shep nachas, seeing that their dollars are indeed producing what they are meant to produce - talmidei chachomim. If you already have 5 children ka”h, then I have to assume you’ve been learning for many years now. At this point, you should be confident in your learning, and the sugyah you are learning should be shogur befichah enough to have a meaningful discussion with your shver without preparation.
Parental support is a privilege, not a right. And your shver has the right to feel that he’s getting his money’s worth.
Chaim M. Cohen
Far Rockaway, N.Y.
AN AIDEM IZ A SHTICK SHVER
Dear Editor, Dear C. R. & M. F.,
Since my eldest child is only 13, I have not yet achieved the hallowed status of “shver” to anyone. However, your letter elicited from me a very viscerally sharp reaction, and I believe that it will help you (and perhaps other Yated subscribers) to read what I have to say.
Perhaps you view it as an entitlement, but the fact is that your in-laws are investing in your and your wife’s lifestyle in general and in your learning in particular. When they send you checks, they are acquiring an equity position in your learning and your ruchniyus. (I suspect that, in your case, they may be overpaying, but that’s another matter…)
When your shver quizzes you, he is checking up on his investment. The fact that you find this to be an annoyance is quite sad and speaks volumes about your lack of hakoras hatov.
My advice to you is that, if you really resent having to share your learning with him, you should find a different vocation and amass enough wealth to be able to repay him in full - and then offer him a refund for the bad investment that he made. Someone who had a genuine appreciation of Torah would relish an opportunity to share it with another Yid, especially one who is facilitating the learning in the first place.
THE SON-IN-LAW AND THE SHVER
There are no words to express my shock and horror (yes, horror!) at the mind-boggling display of ingratitude that C. R. and M. F. expressed regarding their fathers-in-law in the last edition of the Yated. They admit to being generously supported and assisted by their shvers, who they admit are very nice people. The only “problem” is that they ask their sons-in-law to actually talk in learning when they come to their house!
If he were a senior medical student, would he resent it if his shver asked him medical questions when he visits? To top it off, we are told of a different friend’s shver who is supporting him in Eretz Yisroel and nebach asks for a faxed shtickel Torah once a month! Can you imagine?! Here is the shver, probably spending close to $2,000 per month to support his son-in-law, without even having the pleasure of seeing him and his family very often, and all he asks for is a once-a-month shtickel Torah? I am appalled by this incredible lack of hakoras hatov!
We are also long-distance supporting our wonderful sons-in-law who are learning. The finances to manage this come right out of our own needs and the needs of our younger children at home. We think the world of our sons-in-laws, as they are truly baalei middos tovos, wonderful husbands to our daughters and fathers to our grandchildren, and serious Bnei Torah. However, my husband never hears from them. No quick call on Erev Shabbos to wish a gut Shabbos and perhaps a short vort. No call even once a month on Rosh Chodesh. In fact, no calls at all unless there is a specific reason. While we never so much as hinted our displeasure, the letter in the last Yated strengthens my feeling that today’s generation is simply lacking in the basic skill of feeling and displaying gratitude where due.
I urge all chosson teachers to include this topic in their discussions with chassanim. And I urge all sons-in-laws to think about this seriously and start giving your hard-working and generous shver as much hakoras hatov and nachas as you can, whether with a vort, a fax, a phone call, a visit, a picture of the ainiklach, etc. The time to start is now.
Name Withheld by Request
THE “SHVER FARHER” CRISIS
I am writing in response to the letter titled “Quizzed by the Shver” signed by C. R. and M. F., two friends. The letter was brought to my attention by my 12-year-old son. He was flabbergasted and speechless after reading the letter. He simply could not understand the immature nature of the comments. Had the letter been read aloud, it would have sounded like a whining six-year-old. My son also commented that the writers of this letter simply do not know how to express hakoras hatov. But enough about how my son feels. I do not disagree with him, but I feel that there is a lot more than a fundamental lack of maturity and expression of hakoras hatov.
My gut feeling is that no such writer truly exists. These “friends” are not in such a “predicament,” there is no “shver farher” crisis, and the “issue” described in the letter does not exist. The letter is a figment of someone’s imagination and published for no reason other than to “stir the pot.” Why do I feel this way? I simply cannot comprehend how someone who spends his entire day immersed in Torah can be so lacking in such a fundamental middah. It is true that the writer did not explicitly state that he learns full-time in kollel, but the implication is there.
Regarding some of the “points” made by the writer:
He is grateful for the support provided by his shver. How is it expressed? By saying thank you once a month? Is that showing hakoras hatov or is that a habitual reaction that one would express to the FedEx guy when he delivers a package? Doesn’t the shver deserve more thanks than the FedEx man?
Boruch Hashem, I have a wonderful father-in-law who loves me as if I were his own son. He takes an interest in my life. He asks me how things are at work, and how things are doing with my chavrusah and the chaburah I am a part of (not necessarily in that order).
Why does he ask?
Because he cares!
He is not looking to question the things I do at work, or whether I learn with my chavrusah every day. He cares about me, has an interest in my life, and asks about it. Oh, and I might add, when I eat at his table, he asks me if I have any divrei Torah to say, not because he is looking to see how much I know or to “shlug me up,” but because he knows his daughter is not married to an am ha’aretz and, from time to time, I actually have something worthwhile to say and it gives him nachas to know that he married his daughter to someone who can say a nice devar Torah, and he gets to witness it firsthand. All this “horrible monster-of-a-shver from Brooklyn” wants to do is connect with his son-in-law and show that he cares. Would C. R. and M. F. feel any better if their shvers asked them a question about current events? Do they realize that their fathers-in-law take an interest in them and what they do? Perhaps they are not interested in reciprocating this relationship. Perhaps they think shver is spelled A-T-M.
This shver is investing the money that Hashem bestowed upon him in a worthwhile venture - the ability for his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren to grow up in a home steeped in Torah and for his son-in-law to engage in the learning of Torah. Is it such a crime for him to see how his investment is doing every so often by asking, “What are you learning?” Or for a quick vort? Is he not entitled to see some nachas from his investment in this world?
Let’s call a spade, a spade. How often does C. R. or M. F. travel to Brooklyn to the shver for Shabbos that it is so difficult to review a seven-line shtickel in the Mayanah Shel Torah and repeat it when they see their father-in-law? How difficult is it for C. R. or M. F. to say, “We are now up to Tes Zayin Amud Bais in the sugyah of ploni and we saw an interesting Rashba,” and then relate the chiddush?
Was there a need for C. R. and M. F. to state that their shver lives in Brooklyn? After discussing this new “Shver Farher Crisis” with all their friends, did they determine that this is limited to Brooklyn shvers? Are Bostonian shvers easier on their aidems? How about the Baltimorians?
I wonder just how many shvers out there were annoyed - justifiably so - when they read the letter? How many started wondering if the letter was written by their own aidem? How many wondered if they were viewed as nothing more than an ATM machine? How many started thinking about whether they have any real, meaningful relationship with their aidem?
There is so much more to write about this self-centered, thoughtless letter, but I am sure others will write in about it as well. At this time, I think I’d rather call up my father-in-law and tell him a nice vort.
A Proud Son-in-Law
IN-LAWS, SUPPORT, AND PASSING GO
When I read the letter last week from C. R. and M. F., I said to myself, “Oh no. With the way this letter was written, all fathers-in-law are going to come out of the woodworks, irate over the ungratefulness of these sons-in-law.”
I must say that while I feel that the underlying point of the letter - which I will get to in a moment - is a legitimate one, the letter was not written astutely and therefore opens itself up to criticism from hardworking fathers-in-law. For all I know, my very letter is sandwiched between two letters from fathers-in-law who can’t believe that their children or children-in-law don’t appreciate the money they are given.
I myself am a young father-in-law. It seems like not that long ago that I was receiving assistance from my own father-in-law. I am now helping out my oldest child and her husband who recently got married.
Over the years, due to activities that I am involved in, I have spoken to quite a number of young (and not-so-young) married men. The overwhelming majority has told me that while they do receive money from their fathers-in-law on a monthly basis, they would strongly prefer not to have to take the money. Some of these individuals told me that they would rather live in poverty than take the money because of the shibud that they now have to their father-in-law. In more than half of these cases, the fathers-in-law are wielding tremendous power over the lives of these couples. They tell them what to buy, when to buy it, and how to buy it. They tell them when to go away, what schools to send their children to, and what their occupation should be. They basically control their lives. Many of these fathers-in-law don’t even realize it. Some of them do, but rationalize it because they provide some financial assistance to their children.
Thus, there is really more to this matter than the “talking in learning” issue raised by the sons-in-law last week. That is, perhaps, the most minor part of the equation. Granted, it can be very annoying when a father-in-law pesters his son-in-law to see if he is “getting his money’s worth,” so to speak. But that is the way it goes and that is something that young men have to deal with. While the two young men last week griped about, most sons-in-law are willing to deal with it, even if they don’t like it. They realize that their father-in-law works hard and sacrifices for them, and they wish to show him the respect and gratitude he deserves.
I can attest that these are the sentiments of most sons-in-law.
None of the sentiments shared with me over the years suggest a lack of appreciation on the part of the sons-in-law. They all express sincere and unequivocal appreciation for the monetary assistance from their in-laws - whether it is $400 a month or $1000 a month, or more. And the young men I speak to are not all learning full time. Some are learning part time and some are even working full time but still receive assistance to help them until they can survive on their own.
As someone who had to deal with a very controlling father-in-law for many years, and as someone who has witnessed others going through similar situations to varying degrees, I made a silent promise not to replicate that behavior when my turn comes. And so far, I have kept the promise. I give my children money b’mesiras nefesh, but my wife and I stay out of their way. We are always there to help them and my children know that and appreciate that. But we don’t ask questions about why they do certain things. We didn’t get involved when they made their decision about where to live and what apartment to rent, and we will iy”H not get involved when they make their decision regarding where to send their children to school. And when my son-in-law comes to our home, I make light conversation with him. I don’t drill him about the Ketzos he learned the other day, or the machlokes Acharonim in the sugyah of Takfo Kohen. Some fathers-in-law will say that it is their “right” and that if their son-in-law is learning, he should have no problem with such a discussion.
But that would be missing the point.
The point is not whether your son-in-law is Talmudically up to par or whether he is earning his keep in exchange for the monthly stipend - no matter how generous - you give them. The point is to know your place.
In my eyes, giving our children support is not a green light to pass Go, collect $200, and tell our children whatever we want.
Unfortunately, the system that is in place puts a tremendous burden on parents and in-laws. It is not a fair system. It may be surprising to some, but most young couples despise the system just as much. They don’t like taking money. They wish there was another way. But for now, at least, there isn’t any alternative.
If people would realize that most young couples (there are exceptions of course) don’t like to be takers, perhaps the situation would be approached differently. The couples have to take the money to live, because of the way the system is set up and they have no other way of living without it. And just to ensure that I am not misunderstood, I would like to add that those young couples who do take the monetary support of their parents or in-laws for granted should indeed be ashamed of themselves.
Hakoras hatov is paramount.
No one owes a young couple anything.
But I believe that such young couples are the exception.
Regarding the other fine young couples, parents and in-laws should remember that the monthly check is not a permit to rule their lives.
HE’S YOUR BOSS
I was really quite amused at the naiveté of the young man who was upset that he was asked to share some of his learning with his father-in-law who supports him. He wanted some answers. Well, here’s mine. Unless you are self-employed, everyone has a boss. A teacher is expected to hand in his lesson plans, an architect his blueprint, etc. Make no mistake; your father-in-law is your boss. He gives you a monthly check, a car and gifts. You, in turn, are expected to produce divrei Torah when you come to visit. That’s your job!
Why do you feel that you can take monthly checks, a car and presents, and not give anything in return? I’m sure that, in the course of your learning, you’ve come across the concept of hakoras hatov. Your father-in-law cannot learn full-time like you because he’s busy earning a living so he can support you and his own family. It should give you pleasure that your father-in-law is willing and able to spend time learning with you.
This generation has spawned too many young adults who feel that everything is coming to them. You are a husband with five children, yet you sound like a whining child who doesn’t want to take a test. Grow up!
Sunday, June 22, 2008
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I'll just comment on this false assumption:. The system is flawed but there is no other way. There is another way. It's called making it on your own. In other words, it is not sustainable to have both the young husband and wife earning nothing, particularly when there will babies who need diapers, clothes, etc.. For those who say they would live in poverty rather than take the money, that is fine if only they are living in poverty. But I understand a father not wishing to see his daughter or grandchildren living in poverty.
Rashi was a vintner, Ramba"m was a doctor, and R' Akiva was a shepherd.
I would be curious to know whether any of the folks being supported in their learning are producing more value to the Jewish community than the above three Gedolim did. If not, why should they have less of an obligation to support themselves than the Gedolim?
Wow: 2nd to last letter
"Over the years, due to activities that I am involved in, I have spoken to quite a number of young (and not-so-young) married men. The overwhelming majority has told me that while they do receive money from their fathers-in-law on a monthly basis, they would strongly prefer not to have to take the money. Some of these individuals told me that they would rather live in poverty than take the money because of the shibud that they now have to their father-in-law"
UH...No. Obviously they wouldn't rather live in poverty. They have that choice. They choose to take the money. If they'd prefer poverty, why don't they refuse to take the support?
"Unfortunately, the system that is in place puts a tremendous burden on parents and in-laws. It is not a fair system. It may be surprising to some, but most young couples despise the system just as much. They don’t like taking money. They wish there was another way. But for now, at least, there isn’t any alternative."
This guy acts like there are no other choices. There are at least 2 other ways 1) living in poverty or 2) getting a job. Kollel is a privilege not a right
Just a clarification on R' Akiva. According to the story we have, it was his wife -- not her father, who, in fact, disowned her for marrying this man -- who supported them while he studied. And they did live a life of poverty -- at one point taking their shelter with only straw as furnishing. Yet they saw themselves as better off than another couple that lacked even straw. This is very different from today's kollel couples who expect to live in a nice apartment with all new furniture -- no mere straw. The wives are not selling their hair to make ends meet but are buying custom sheitels for thousands of dollars -- bill sent to parents. And, to be frank, very few of these kollel men are on the path to becoming a gadol beYisrael.
From an outside perspective, there is an astounding culture of entitlement that seems to have sprung up around the Kollels.
Witness Seattle, where after one of the Rabbis killed a man (the second pedestrian he had struck with a car), members of the Kollel apparently sent letters to the judge asking that he not be given jail time because it would interfere with their learning.
For those interested, a reference: http://www.jtnews.net/index.php?/viewpoints/item/4086/C26
"I urge all chosson teachers to include this topic in their discussions with chassanim."
That's like encouraging all bar tenders to have a serious conversation about the dangers of alcoholism with their customers.
You cannot simultaneously support a person financially while teaching him to appreciate that support and realize how much hard work it is to pay the bills. It is a mindset that is impossible to teach, and must be lived. If I were the father-in-law, I'd cut off support tomorrow. Guess what? As the pangs of hunger start to set in and the children start to scream, you can bet he'll go get a job. Maybe his wife will even sell one of her 5 sheitels to pay for their shabbos meals where they invite tons of guests and serve the finest large portions of red meat.
These kollel bums are the Jewish equivalent of trust-fund babies, who become numb to life because everything is so easy they don't appreciate what they have.
There's a lot of debate in the secular world right now about the definition of marriage. We seem to have changed the definition in the frum community as well. Once marriage was when two people left their parents' homes and became independent, setting up their own home, which they were responsible for maintaining. Once upon a time, frum couples had whatever they could earn, and they lived accordingly, some with more affluence, some with less. Today we have multiple marriage definitions in the frum community--marriage is different for the kollel yunge leit then it is for the more MO young marrieds. Kollel couples seem to have all of the pleasures of marriage life without experiencing all of the responsibilities that marriage used to bring with it. And from the tenor of the letters the sons in laws sent in, along with not making parnoseh, they are also not reaping the "maturity" benefits that marriage should bring. They still sound like little kids--and spoiled ones at that--because that is how they act and yes, how they are treated in some cases.
I asked someone I know if she had ever dictated to her children whom she is supporting about what yeshivas they could send their children to or where they could live or where they could vacation. She was blunt and the answer was "yes." I asked why. She answered: "Because I frankly cannot afford what they want and as long as I am the only one doing the paying, I'm only going to pay for what I can afford. The kids do not have an unlimited credit card in us. When they overspend on item A don't come to me when you can't afford item B. They have made us shittufim in their marriage and partners get a say."
I also asked her if she would do it again if she could roll back the clock. Her answer? "No!Never! We might have given them one year in Israel as a wedding gift but that would have been it."
In my opinion the kollel system needs the following radical revision: Let a man combine torah with worldly occupation and child rearing until 60 or so. Then let him retire to full time learning while his sons-in-law (and/or sons) support him. When the children reach 60, their adult children can support them in turn. With many children supporting one parent (instead of the other way around) the financial burden is lessened. As long as people have many children the system will not implode.
I also asked her if she would do it again if she could roll back the clock. Her answer? "No!Never! We might have given them one year in Israel as a wedding gift but that would have been it."
So why not tell them they have one year left of support,and let them start now to make arrangements to start paying for themselves?
More and more MO couples are getting married while still in school, thus relying on parental support for at least several, if not many, years to come. Some of these young couples seek to emulate the (affluent) lifestyles to which they were accustomed (prior to marriage), and in order to do so, parental support is required, even when both the husband and wife are working.
I was going to say what tnspr said. Most MO couples who marry young are far from independent, especially in Israel with the army's obligations. Many girls are taking two years after high school before continuing their education--one or two years of national service and another year of "midrasha" (yeshiva for girls).
We're just imitating the goyim here.... the kollel phenomenon is not a return to the yeshivas of old, but a kosher version of the boomerang generation. In the non-Jewish world, kids go off to college, totally supported by their parents, and then move back home. Parents support them into their 30's and sometimes 40's while they spend their days hanging out with buddies. The kosher version is identical, except the parents give you a house and pay for your kids, while you hang out with your buddies in a kosher pool hall (yeshiva) bumming with the guys (learning).
The other funny thing I see---baby products are becoming more designer and deluxe ($1k strollers, designer diaper bags, etc), because by and large, the non-frum world is having kids at a later life stage when they are already established. They can afford $500 diaper bags when they have 1 kid at 40. You should see the expensive child accessories I see the kollel women using that I could never afford. The same people who imitate the non-Jews in being supported by their parents imitate the non-Jewish luxury child raising, but instead of doing it with a high-paying job, at the age of 45, with 1 kid, they do it at the age of 25, with no job, and 5-10 kids.
This is not an imitation of the larger non-Orthodox and non-Jewish world or a "kosher version of the boomerang generation." When people send children to college, it is with the expectation that they will work hard and graduate able to and wanting to support themselves. My oldest child is 18 and going to college this fall and he and his friends are not going with the expectation that parents will pay while they raise families and do not work. Some of my friends may help their post-college adult children pay back loans because those adult children make lower salaries, but they have every expectation that college is the beginning of the road to self-sufficiency and economic independence. That is why college is considered a worthwhile investment.
From what I read here and elsewhere online, my 14, 16, and 18 year-old children are more responsible than these married so-called adults.
If those 60-something dads who are first sitting down to learn have not had to support married grown children then they won't need to be supported by their married children when they stop working. Presumably they will have been able to fund retirement funds or put away money. We have such a kollel in our neighborhood--Kollel Baal ha'batim--and it consists of all retired men who now have the leisure to learn because they've "paid their dues." None have married children they are supporting and none are being supported by their kids.
In terms of learning at 60, it will never fly. I was told by several friends and rabbis trying to convince to take a year in Israel (and this in a MO yeshiva) that if you don't learn now at a young age you'll never have time or the desire to learn later in life. It was a load of baloney then, and it's a load of baloney now, but nonetheless everyone believes it.
You're 100% correct. Several couples in our building and other people we know are MO and getting married with 1 or more years of school left to finish and absolutely no way to support themselves. The family buys the ring for the girl, and the support continues from there. We know couples who have been totally supported for 2 years as they finish up school. While some are finishing up degrees that will lead to jobs with high salaries, others are not. Some have graduated, but have low-paying jobs and/or children immediately and need support.
I believe these parents thought the support would be temporary, but have no control over when their children have babies, or what careers they will choose, such that limited support becomes non-ending support.
Ditto the MO with the $1K strollers and fancy baby equipment. Our shul has become a parking lot for SUV strollers.
I don't understand, nobody said it didn't happen in other communities.
Knowing that it takes place elsewhere does not make it right.
There is also a difference in something "happening" and something being the accepted way of things.
My parents didn't even pay for my wedding, and they certainly don't support us now! Ditto my husband's parents. Okay, except a little bit of afikoman money that is my inlaws' gift to us yearly... and they choose the amount, it's not a huge amount, and if they didn't give it one year, we wouldn't even complain to ourselves, because it's a gift.
I so don't understand the "support your children forever, even if you can't afford it" syndrome. The plan is to help them grow up to be self-sufficient. I'm in no way against full-time learning, but only if they can make it work, and I mean really work.
My father got smicha in his twenties and then went to work. He was able to retire at 60, make aliya and now he learns. He payed for his children's years in Israel and their college education and now they are on their own. All of his children take torah learning seriously and he has set a wonderful example for them and his grandchildren.
B"H, I was fortunate enough to have my parents pay for my education, including seminary in E"Y and a good portion of college costs (I also took some loans and got some scholarships). However, starting as early as I can remember, they did NOT give everything I wanted or asked for, and when I went to Israel and college we had an understanding--they paid to get me there, and I was responsible for any expenses while there (transportation, food, hostess gifts for Shabbos, shopping trips, etc.). Now that I've finished my undergraduate education, I am paying my own expenses--rent, groceries, transporation, extra-curriculars, incidentals, etc. Often my parents will pay for my travel expenses if I come home for a visit, but lately I've been covering that too.
In addition, they'll occasionally pay for a big-ticket incidental, although usually only after I've already expressed an intention to pay for it myself, and such incidentals are also usually family-related. For instance, going to E"Y to visit my sister when she has a baby--they're going too, and I had already planned on going before I knew they wanted to go. I'm planning on taking care of my own living arrangements while there so as not to place an even greater financial burden on them. (As I see it, there is no reason for them to pay for me to stay in a hotel--I'm not that spoiled or high-maintenance!) However, I know and they know that this is an "extra" (and a HUGE one, at that!), not a necessity, and b"H they're able to afford it because they're no longer paying for tuition and other expenses for my sister or myself. Am I a little wary of the strings that may come attached to this gift? Absolutely. Am I taking it anyway? Yes, I am, and I am aware that this will mean that I have to put up with any strings with the happiest face I can possibly put on. I am also taking it because I know, realistically thinking, even if I paid for it myself, as my parents will be around for part of my trip, I would be subject to the same strings whether I paid for my ticket or not, so if they're offering, I might as well take them up on it. But at the end of the day, am I still thankful? ABSOLUTELY!!!
I was dumbfounded at the level of kafui tovah that was apparent in the letter to the Yated from the sons-in-law. How anyone could be that ungrateful is just beyond me.
Anon 2:31 PM:
My dad too! He went to the US army, and is now retired. He has time to study, and he's not supporting any of his kids - they put us all through college and two of us through grad school. (most of the above in Israel, where school is a lot cheaper)
After that, my parents have given us very generous gifts at times, but mostly stopped supporting us.
They certainly never bought any of us a car or a home.
I come from a different perspective: I'm a Conservative Jew with a son in graduate school. (Yes, he's our only child--for those snoopy enough to want to know why, see here.) From my own point of view, kollel is the frummeh velt's equivalent of grad school. There is, however, one major detail which, if you'll pardon my saying so, the frum community won't touch with a 10-foot pole, and that is that many, if not most, non-Orthodox Jews (and non-Jews, for that matter) wait until they're out of grad school and self-supporting to start their families. If my son called tonight and said he wanted to get married, I'd congratulate him, but if he called six months later and told us that his wife was pregnant, I'd give such a long lecture that he'd have to replace his hearing aid batteries. As parents, we are responsible for supporting our *children.* We are *not* responsible for supporting our grandchildren, barring, heaven forbid, some major tragedy. Our job as parents is to raise children in such a way that they're capable of supporting themselves and their children, should they be blessed with any. No able-bodied human being has a right to expect his or her parents to support him or her and/or his or her family indefinitely. It's also poor financial planning, as SephardiLady might say, since parents don't live forever. Seriously, what happens when the shver kicks the bucket? My father-in-law died when our son was less than a year old. If we'd been dependent on him as a major, or sole, source of income, we would have been up a creek without a paddle. Wherein is it written that a shver will live to see his grandchildren wed? This dependence is, in my opinion, hazardous to the financial health of the frum community.
Kollel is not the equivalent of graduate school. The vast majority of graduate schools are market-driven; there are many more openings for MBA students than Philosophy PhDs because graduate schools try not to graduate more students than the market can handle. What job market will be able to absorb the thousands of men with an education in Talmud?
Also - graduate schools are assessment-based - for entrance, progession and graduation. What assessments are men in kollel subject to?
Shira, I had two kids while in grad school and we supported ourselves with money earned in grad school (maybe your son is in a grad school that doesn't pay?) and money that had been saved. Now, we look back and laugh at how decrepit our apartment was, but that's part of the bargain. For a little while we were even eligble for WIC (we thought it was pretty amusing and, no, we did not use it).
You can have kids in grad school - you just need to plan well...
Assuming that the support needed for grad school is identical to the support needed for kollel, it's still not even vaguely similar.
Grad school is, by nature, for a limited time (2-3 years).
When you put your kid through college, grad school, medical school, law school, etc, you do so based on the assumption that in X number of years, they will be able to support themselves, and you've given them a nice, soft platform to jump off of.
Most secular (or Modern Orthodox) parents would not be willing to pay for their children to be in a grad school program which didn't have a built-in endpoint. (ie. a degree)
Even those who stay in academia forever eventually become lecturers, instructors, professors, etc. and start earning a salary.
If all kollel boys eventually became rabbanim... then we'd have a different situation.
For the record, we told our son from the get-go that he would have to be self-supporting once he got his Bachelor's, and that we would not pay for grad school. So one of his criteria for choosing a grad school was that he had to get free tuition in return for working as a teaching assistant for ridiculously low pay. He's living on his paltry earnings, with assistance from us old geezers when necessary only. Elitzur, since our son made no plans to raise children during grad school and most certainly has neither the income to do so nor the free time to take a second job (since physics students do research in their so-called spare time), we certainly hope that he chooses to wait. Kudos to those who can manage to support a family and still earn a graduate degree.
Since I'm not from a frum family and never had the privilege of spending even a day of my life in a Jewish day school, I hope you'll forgive this dumb question: I'm aware that many men attend kollel for a number of years, but are there actually men who make this a career and never work a day in their lives? I honestly don't understand how they expect to eat, much less feed their wives and children. If you'll pardon my saying so, this sounds like a frum version of Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up.
Shira - Even if they WANT to go out to work, most have very little by way of marketable skills - but think about it - the original letter writer had EIGHT children. Unless he has two sets of quads, he's been sucking the proverbial teat for a while.
The real solution needs to be a situation in which a man is expected to spend 1-2 years post high school in yeshiva full-time (on *his* parents' dime or on scholarship) sans wife/kids, and then marry and have a career and schedule study around the career.
My brother spent two years at yeshiva, and I see that it made him much "stronger" and much more eager to take time to study. Today, he wakes up at 5am to get to a daf yomi shiur and an early minyan. He then bikes to work (it's the only time he has to exercise without taking away from his time with the kids), and he earns a salary to support his children.
Only those who feel driven to teach or study to research and write books/articles should stay in the system forever, just like in academia.
For those who feel the need to stay steeped in the kedusha - there are non-teaching *jobs* like safrus, hashgacha, shechita, publishing, etc, which are needed.
Of course, I think few things are holier than being a medical doctor and saving people's lives... but... certain communities would disagree with me.
"The real solution needs to be a situation in which a man is expected to spend 1-2 years post high school in yeshiva full-time (on *his* parents' dime or on scholarship) sans wife/kids, and then marry and have a career and schedule study around the career."
An excellent idea, though, if college or other higher education or career training comes afterward, he'll still have to count pennies and/or depend on parents for a while. Still, that's a vast improvement over being dependent for life.
"Shira - Even if they WANT to go out to work, most have very little by way of marketable skills" I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that the Torah requires a father to teach his son a trade (and how to swim). When did it become even mutar (permissible in accordance with halachah/Jewish religious law), much less a given in certain segments of the right-wing Orthodox community, for parents to deliberately deprive their children of the education and/or training necessary to make a living?
I'm posting this as a separate comment in case SephardiLady chooses to delete it, as I suppose that some folks may find it offensive.
It is my sincere opinion that any school, no matter from what sources it receives its funding, that does not, at an absolute minimum, teach its students 1) to speak, read, and write in the native language of the country in which they live, and 2) to do at least basic arithmatic should be illegal. To deprive any child of the ability to make a living before that child is old enough to make such a decision for himself or herself is, in my opinion, a form of child neglect.
Shira - you are referring to the mishna at the end of the first perek of Kiddushin. However, there seems to be a contradictory statement at the end of Kiddushin from R' Nahorai who says, "I will leave all worldly pursuits and teach my son only Torah." This boils down into an arguement between Maharsha (and others) and Meiri. The Meiri says that one who teaches his son Torah does not have to teach him a trade.
I don't like it but one has to be honest with the sources...
Elitzur, thanks for the information.
I was not aware that there was a contrary opinion. I suppose that I would pose the same question to the Meiri, if I could: How do you expect your son to survive if his education and/or training does not enable him to make a living?
I would argue that the statement in Pirkei Avot (one who does not teach his child a trade teaches him to steal) is the accepted opinion. Unfortunately, we see a lot of fraud and the emet is being demonstrated.
I'd respond to the letter writers' question with a question:
Anyone who is passionate about something loves to talk about it. A fisherman talks about his lures, a golfer talks about his clubs,etc.
YOU have the pleasure to learn Toras Hashem ALL DAY LONG, at your FIL's expense. What a privlege!
Don't you enjoy it? Don't you light up to "Talk in learning" and share a chiddush?
So, my question is --- do you really hate what you do? If not, spend all Shabbos afternoon learning with your FIL. It's a high! If you really do hate it, please make way for another, more deserving, Talmid-Chocham-in-Waiting to receive a stipend and become a leader in Klal Yisrael.
There is not one "correct" system of funding young family's financial needs. There is nothing wrong with a shver-funded life if it works w-out putting emotional and financial stress on both parties.
- Shver must be comfortable with his commitment to support his son / son-in-law young family. If this support is conditional on some sort of "exams" he should make it clear before-hand. He should also be financially comfortable with commitment beyond the second-guessing which might cause "exam" like "whats my ROI on all this"-driven quizzes.
- Young man clearly seems to be bothered by the "exam" settings of his father-in-law, so he should communicate to his shver about his frustrations with this setting in a respectful one-on-one conversation not forgetting to emphasize his appreciation for support.
Each situation is different. Being a father of three girls with middle-class income I dread a possibility of having to support young family of my children, however in all other cases H"B has provided means in time of need, so I hope that will happen if necessary. In any case I know that I will not make commitments that go beyond my financial capacity at the time when commitment is made.
I know this is a really late comment, but I just came across this while browsing your blog. The lifestyle of many in kollel bugs me. In yeshiva we're taught that learning full time is the ideal, with no mention of realistic ramifications. This, and the sense of entitlement that living off your parents/in-laws creates has been covered exhaustively. What I find hard to understand is how the kollel couples can accept the money. Since I was married three years ago, my wife and I have never accepted money from our parents. We were both students until recently, and I worked a low-paying job to pay our bills. Both my parents and in-laws have offered money to help us out, but I always felt that taking it was wrong. I made enough for us to live on, and I know how hard I worked for my money. My parents and in-laws work just as hard for theirs. How could I justify taking money for things I don't absoloutly need?
My wife often goes shopping with her mother, and every now and then her mother will pay for some small item my wife gets. Even that makes me uncomfortable. I can't imagine actually living off of them.
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