Monday, December 21, 2020

Torah for the working man

There was a wonderful symposium put together on the topic of Torah study for those who have to go to work and do not have the privilege of being in the beis medrash full time.  The speakers included R' Ben Tzion Algazi, R' Dov Fendel, and R' Melamed, three Roshei Yeshiva from the hesder world:

This topic is something that I think about often because I don't really have clarity on the issue.  If you have five hours a day to learn b'iyun, then you can delve into a sugya with Rishonim and Achronim galore, but if your time is more limited, learning that way means covering 3 blatt a year and getting nowhere.  So how do you manage?  

People think the great challenges of working in the secular world as opposed to klei kodesh are dealing with issues like whether or not to attend the office holiday party (one good thing that came out of Covid is that they were all cancelled) or whether or not one is allowed to shake hands with a female interviewer.  These are details -- important questions, but still, just details.  I think the biggest challenge for any ben yeshiva who goes out to work is to maintain the outlook on life of a ben yeshiva.  An example of what I mean: R' Ben Tzion Algazi read a quote from someone who learned in a chaburah he ran for 2 1/2 years for baalei batim to learn halacha in which the person described how making time for the project transformed the entire environment of his home -- Torah was now the central point in how this person defined himself and his family.  

Maybe I am just not aware of it, but I don't see enough conversations like this taking place in our communities.  I went to YU years ago and maybe things have changed since then and maybe it was not on my radar when I was there because I didn't intend to be in the field I am now, but I don't recall discussions of this type taking place there then.  You would think that with the majority of students intending to pursue secular fields, this topic would be important to address.  I shouldn't single YU out because realistically speaking, the vast majority of people learning in yeshiva and kollel today will not remain there forever.  What happens in many cases is that the person goes m'igra rama l'beira amikta -- leaving yeshiva is like falling off a cliff.  There is a sharp disconnect between the life as a ben Torah that existed before work and the life afterwards when one has money to spend, a family to raise, life to live.  Torah study becomes doing the daf with Artscroll, or a superficial shiur.  To some degree, time constraints play a role in this shift.  In many cases, however, it is a shift in values which occurs, and that is a real danger.


  1. "learning [b'iyun]...means covering 3 blatt a year and getting nowhere"

    or getting to the picture.

    "the working man" digs into blatt 1, but his latest depositions tangle with the Rishonim. he calls that page Eisek.

    he digs into blatt 2, where the Achronim constantly contend with his caseload and work concerns; 'Seetnah'.

    on the third blatt, well on in the year, our material man, living in a material world, keeps all commentators clearly in mind, and calls the name of that daf, Rechovos...

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  3. I would be more charitable with your assessment of post-yeshiva learning: HaLevai every yeshiva grad should be learning (the daf) with artscroll or listen to a consistent shiur (albeit "superficial" as you say; although I do not know if the maggid shiur would call it that :).
    Why not say that yeshiva is a time for iyun and post-yeshiva working years is a time to gain bekiyus (in non-yeshiva mesechtos especially) or some combination of the two. I would look at things more with an Ayin Tov.