The Gedolim Speak Out Against Excessive Demands In Kollel Support

BMG_BldgMishpacha magazine reported this week about a meeting that was held recently in Bnei Brak by an organization called Shehasimcha Bimono. The purpose of the meeting was to try and put an end to the prohibitive demands of support made by bochurim in shidduchim from girls’ parents, such as expensive apartments in Bnei Brak and Yerushalayim. The article showed a picture of Rav Berel Povarsky Shlita, Rosh Hayeshiva ofPonevezh, who said that making such demands are a matter of pikuach nefesh, causing illness and even heart failure in parents who overextend themselves to marry off their daughters. He said that bochurim must not make demands from those who could not possibly afford it. Rav Povarsky suggested that young couples should buy apartments in distant cities where the cost of an apartment is only $70,000. He also suggested that Roshei Yeshiva travel to these places on a regular basis to give shiurim and visit with those living there to make the idea more tempting.

While this is long overdue, this brings up a number of issues that many of us have with the current system:

  • Parents buying apartments for their children: The assumption that is the given in E”Y that parents must purchase apartments for their children is something that defies both math and logic. Why should one person be required to pay for 10 apartments – even if its ONLY!? $70,000 (one for each of his 10 children), if one person could instead just pay for one (his own)?
  • Living far away: Many girls are too attached to live far away from her parents. There will always be those parents who wish to keep their daughters close by that will extend themselves to keep their children close. This will cause others to follow suit, defeating the entire plan being proposed.
  • Exceptions for the “best”: As with all great takanos, rules were meant to be broken. There will always be the roshei yeshiva, VIPs, the wealthy, and those that have to appear wealthy, who will act as if the rules don’t apply to them. No one will have the courage to stop them from setting a bad example for everyone, and the “rules” will end up applying only to the “regular” people.

Instead of putting a band aid on a gushing wound, its time to do massive surgery. Let young couples who get married take care of themselves. Forget about support, apartments in far away cities, or any other source of stress. Mesirus Nefesh for Torah shouldn’t mean that someone else suffers a heart attack for your learning. Let your Torah come at a price that you – and only you – should be required to pay. Not only does it make more sense this way, the Torah learned by a person who is paying a heavy price for his learning is a higher caliber learning than someone who was “taken care of”. Pas Bamelech Tochal was said over 2,000 years ago, but it applies also to the present situation, even though kollel has become standard practice. By Kollelguy.

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28 COMMENTS

  1. Glad to be first commentator!
    For generations wealthy and not so wealthy people supported their eideme’s. They did this in creative and not so creative ways. The major difference in today’s generation is that yesteryear only the best and the brightest were sought after. There was a Bechina that the bochur and shver had to deal with. The great gaon and illui had to prove himself in to order to be supported.
    Today, everyone goes on to Kollel. We recognize the fact that living a kollel life is an idyllic situation. We probably all agree that at least one year in kollel is a great way to start your new life, of course, with hadracha.
    We certainly need our gedolim to reevaluate what has become taken for norm: kollel lifers without any sort of direction. We can go on and on. The maalos and chesronos of the current system needs to clearly and succintly understood, with statistics etc in order to be presented to our gedolim.
    Who is better than our own BMG CEO to commission this?

  2. Great. Just what we need!

    Another open forum for every dimwit (including myself) to voice his 0.02 on important matters.

    This, people, is the reason why the internet is treif!!!

  3. Now let us translate this to what it means for Americans and specifically to Lakewood. Really, everything said here could be applied to us too. The absolutely crazy demands being put on parents now are causing terrible stress, illness and family problems. It has NOTHING to do with Limud or mesiras nefesh for Torah anymore. Why is it that every 21 year old boy needs to be supported like the next gadol hador? And what exactly does a new townhouse, 2010 lease and an open credit card have to do with mesiras nefesh for Torah? Parents in Lakewood B”H have large families. There is so much difficulty making ends meet before the children are married off. SOMETHING needs to change.

  4. Noone is forced by anyone to marrie of their daughters to benei Torah. There are plenty of nice frum working/ college boys out there. Of course you can’t expect to get a tzadik Talmud chacom for free, bottom line if you can’t afford it you can find a simple bal habyis for your daughters without complaing.

  5. to comment #4 very often the ones who are getting the new townhouse and 2010 lease would be receiving it even if they were working….I think the Israel problem is different in many ways from the American…..

  6. Did the Gedolim really discuss excessive torah support? Thats an outright lie! The Gedolim discussed one who is forcing his Shver to support him when his Shver can’t afford it. There is NO SUCH THING as excessive Torah support, the problem is when someone forces upon someone something that in all reality the person being forced can’t do.

  7. There is something extremely wrong with the system these days of support. If you are old enough to get married, you are old enough to be responsible for your own means of money. The system is so crazy that one day it will just pop.
    21 yr old guys in BMG need the latest Maxima, the fanciest shoes, etc…
    If you can afford to live a wealthy life style bc Hashem blessed you with wealth, kol hakovod to you, enjoy life. But a lot of guys sitting in BMG cant afford it but are just learning bc thats what their friends are doing and its in style. These are the guys that one day, when they have a nice house and 4 kids, and their father in law’s business goes under and these big shot guys are not only left with no money, but left worse off than everyone else bc they have the most expensive lease to pay and all their other big bills….

  8. The economics really dont work out in america. But this touches on a different problem. Lets say the boys are sent out to work….. what are they going to do. They have no education and no skills. MAny can barely write english. iF they go out… they have few options other than starting their own business or working for less then they need to live. …. its a real problem that needs addressing

  9. Why is the writer complaining about supporting ones son in law, he can always marry off his daughter to a working guy? Oh, I forgot he realizes the value of Torah untill it has to do with him. Riiiiiiiite uh huh. The problem isn’t the kolel guys fault its the inlaws that promiss what they don’t have!

  10. I completely agree with you about the situation in lakewood. I was recently reading a local lakewood publication and saw an ad in the real estate section for “Affordable townhouses” Starting at ONLY $479,000! Crazy no? but its ok, because each townhouse has 6 bedroom, 4 bathrooms, pure granite countertops (after all what will the neighbors say if you have formica countertops?) – Not enough for you to justify spending half a million dollars on an affordable town house? Dont worry, because this townhouse has “high 10 foot ceilings”, just in case you were concerned about bumping your head on the 9 food ceilings most normal houses have.

    This is the situation in lakewood. What once started out as a town for leaning and honoring hashem has turned into a snobby competitive race for the biggest and best. Just the other day, my married sister called our mother crying because the other women in her development asked her why she was using a costco stroller and not the “popular” european $400 stroller that is the “in thing”

  11. There is so much to write on this topic, I don’t know where to start.

    I will just say the following: Being supported is the worst thing for a man’s self worth. Most guys in Yeshiva will think this is nuts, but it’s so true. Yet, the system won’t allow for a man to earn his own living. We are hooked on shver support.

    I believe that many Kollel Yungerleit want to work, deep down. They are too embarrassed, though.

    One way to help would be to impress upon the shvers and the seminary girls how demeaning it is for a man to be supported by others. That itself would send 80% of the men out to work within a month. The other 20% who want to be moser nefesh for Torah….. well….. that would be real Mesiras Nefesh!!!!

    One of the Rishonim explain that “Avodas Perech” in Mitzrayim was, that the men did women jobs and the women did men jobs. Sounds eerily similar to our generation!!! Tell that over to an idealistic Seminary girl, it will save her husband’s self worth and their shalom bayis. (hopefully….. unless she is too brainwashed already!!)

  12. I appreciate that many of the comments here addressed and actually agreed with what I wrote in comment #4. While it is true that Lakewood is really different than Eretz Yisroel (and thank you for bringing that up…), I believe that the problem here is compounded because we are bringing up an entire generation of teenage young men (yes, thousands of them bli ayin harah) who are reading and writing at a fourth grade level when they finish Mesivta. Yes, idealistically it sounds wonderful to claim that Lakewood bochurim are just steeped in Torah. But realistically, we are in alot of trouble. We do it because every Mesivta thinks that they have to be to the right of all the others. Everyone is looking over their shoulder. What percentage of boys are actually doing productive learning for the 16 hrs. a day in High School? Why aren’t we giving them a proper education to prepare them for a parnassah sometime in their lives? Why are we teaching that it’s better to waste half a day? Why was a proper English department good for Rav Elya Svei zt”l & Rav Shmuel Shlit”a? Rav Ruderman zt”l? Rav Moshe zt”l? Rav Pam zt”l? And the list goes on. Why do we know better? So, don’t teach evolution. Don’t teach about other religions. But, what are we thinking when we have hundreds of yungerleit in terrible debt today with 4 to 6 children (or more b”h) , wives who are collapsing from trying to support the family and somehow run a family too, and the yungerman has ZERO skills to make hishtadlus in the outside world to earn an honorable AND HONEST parnassah???!!! The days of flipping hoses and properties are gone for now. The days of day trading stocks and getting rich overnight are behind us for now. The best doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, Insurance sales, actuaries, bankers etc. were always yidden. Why not from Lakewood? Why only from N.Y.? The demands on a shver will only lighten up when we realize that we have to give our young men a fighting chance to make it. So, they too can give their children some support and help. As opposed to telling the kids to now ask Zeidy & Bubby!

  13. I’ve been working for 2 and a half years and make, b”H, a decent salary. I still can’t afford a house or a new car, and my parents can’t help either. Imy”H I’ll be able to save up, but I can’t for the life of me understand how so many of my friends in Kollel get these things paid for them (and I’m talking about guys from regular families- the kids of wealthy people I understand how they could afford a new house)

  14. I agree that honest hard work and not relying on a shver is best, however if your shver promises and doesn’t deliver is someone going to give his wife a get. I feel that if the shver is an honest straightshooter and has a heart your stay in kolel will be long and productive,

  15. We can go on and on about this, but very little will change unless and until the Roshei Yeshiva hammer into their talmidim that the only way to sit and learn after marriage is to live modestly, and that includes boys from wealthy homes or who marry wealthy. Couples should be totally discouraged from buying homes before they can manage them ON THEIR OWN, and not on the Shver’s pleytzes.

    I am all for learning, and happy to support my couples in Kollel and am very proud of them. However, I did not foresee this rush in Lakewood to buy homes. Once there are 2 kids, they can no longer live in a basement apartment, so they buy a townhouse. All of a sudden this young couple is saddled with high mortgages, because they give the minimum sh’b’minimum downpayment (I support, but I cannot help out with downpayments on houses). So now the pressure is on….the young lady has to work herself to the bone to make sure the payments are made, the 5 bedroom house with a huge living-dining, kitchen, den, playroom, etc., needs to be furnished, with each one looking at how all the others in the complex did it, the many windows need “window treatments”, the kids need at least as much as the neighbors kids, etc., etc., etc. So now, in addition to the support which I gladly undertook, and B”H can afford by living modestly myself, I also need to constantly hand out extras because I see how they are struggling to make it to the end of the month. “Oh, you came for Shabbos, so here is $250 towards the gas and tolls, plus food for the week and the meat and whatever else is stocked in the freezer”. All this really adds up. I can’t imagine how other people are managing.
    And now, with some of them starting to work, the support continues, because it will take a while to earn the kind of money needed to pay for this high lifestyle that they have gotten themselves into.
    Another facet to this problem is that many bochurim (or parents of bochurim) look only for really rich shidduchim, because they don’t want anyone to struggle to support them – they want someone who can easily afford it. So where does that leave the girls who are not from rich homes? The girls are very idealistic and are willing to be moser nefesh so their husbands can sit in Kollel, but the boys and their parents don’t want that type of life. It is a major reason that so many excellent girls from fine, but not wealthy, homes are having such a hard time getting shidduchim. It is a vicious cycle and I believe it is imperative for some of the gedolim to have the courage to take a stand and make a major overhaul in the way Kollel people live.

  16. You all raise good points. There are many boys who get the houses and the new cars. But the fact is that these boys don’t hang around too long. They go to work pretty quickly. If you would walk into the Batei Midrashim where the thousands of older yungerleit learn, the ones with 4-6 kids, you will find that the very large majority of them are living simple and modest lifestyles. I would even venture to say that the majority of them are receiving VERY minimal support.

  17. Today working and college boys demand even more than learning boys (they need to support their bessere lifestyles).
    also, seriously, tightening belts is not the eitzah. the cost of living neccesitates that anyone learning needs considerable support to survive minimally. many yungaleit live like paupers and still can’t make ends meet.

  18. Dovy #19…I hope you are not serious. Despite what you might think , most college students live quite simply. There is none of this fancy bessere mentch stuff until they have a degree ofvtfheir OWN!

  19. Listen to me, you have to trust our Gedolim. I have yet to hear even one of them say one should work and not ask from the father in law for money.
    The reason is not for me to guess, but until the “Einei Haeidai” say our mihalech is wrong, or that we need more eduacation, then I have to say you are all wrong. How about learning chovas halevavos?
    I find it hard to believe that some people still feel that taking money from your shverr is somewhat wrong.
    I do, and I give my father in law the opportunity to support me, and he is moser nefesh for that. At least he will be happy knowing his money is well spent in supporting Torah.

  20. In the alte heim learning full time was a privilege and not an entitlement. As a former BMG talmid, now a bankruptcy attorney, I see first hand families earning well over 6 figures who discharge mountains of personal debt while at the same time supporting married “children” in learning. Vasisa es hayosher ves hatov is out the window. The system is broken and can’t survive much longer.

    It has to become mainstream for boys to enentually go to work to support their families and not be stigmatized. I personally know guys that wake up at 40 wondering what to do with their lives and they are literally dying because of a broken system.

  21. To 12

    The $400 strollers have already gone out of style. Now you need to get the $700 ones. Although I am able to afford it, and no longer learn in yeshiva, the fc t that someone feels thay need to purchase a $700 stroller to fit in, is alarming.

  22. I don’t know what you are talking about getting a job. First of all, I have one, that’s called learning, the only problem is that nowadays Kollel’s do not pay $70,000, so my shver pays me. At least I have a job, what do you do?
    Remember, chazal tells us, Torah is the best sechora.

  23. Sam if your “job” was learning you wouldn’t be arguing with some ballebos on TLS at 12:30 AM. Just wait until you have to pay tuition for 9 kids and then dish out thousands of dollars a month that you don’t have to support some guy who plays around on the Internet late at night. As a yungerman why do you even have access to the web? If you were in Europe you would’ve been working for years already! GROW UP.

  24. It cuts the other way, too. Too many shvers limit their support for kollel while there is plenty in their own lifestyles that they can give up. In our home, we know that anything we spend is out of our daughters’ dowries (I admit: including the computer being used here). This makes us very frugal.

  25. Until our culture faces the real issue – that our young men don`t have the education, expereince, and hashkafos required to independently earn a living – it will be impossible for them to support themselves. At 23, the average yungerman cannot read, write, use a computer, or do simple arithmetic. They haven`t worked any job – even part-time or summer. What is their eitza? How can they work even if they wanted to? It is the education system and unrealtistic haskafa that creates these critical long-term problems. Change cannot begin at 23, but must take place throughout high school and bais medrash. Until we face the real problem, there will be no solution.

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