Frum Publications Obsessed With Analysis of Kollel Life

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learningBy Kollel Guy
Have you ever picked up a Yated or Mishpacha lately?It seems that these and other frum publications are obsessed with our vital kollel system and its impact on people’s lives, such as parnossah, shalom bayis, in-laws relationships, and anything else.

In the Yated, the Readers Write is full of letters that are both for and against kollel support, a topic which can never have enough said about it.

Mishpacha tends to write about in their exaggerated serial novels, which are a frum woman’s kosher version of secular novels. In the past year alone, there have been 4 different serials about kollel life. One novel was about a kollel couple who was overly supported by one side of parents, and the husband gets caught up with online gambling and loses all of his chasunah money and almost gets divorced. The novel became so popular (and controversial) that it was turned into a book. Ridiculous.

Then there was one about one guy in the family of fine kollel men who went to work, was always made to feel inferior, and had to “prove” his worthiness in order to be considered “one of them.”

Even now, Mishpacha is running a serial about a kollel yungerman (the best one in the kollel!) who starts losing interest in his learning and Yiddishkeit, which is causing his life and wife to fall apart.

What does all this obsession tell us? One thing is for certain – that kollel is on the forefront of issues we are facing as a community. It is clear that kollel is here to stay, but it also clear that it is tearing some people up, both with the financial stress on the parents and wives, and the societal pressures facing young couples that is so prevelant today, especially in the special town of Lakewood.

What will be the outcome? We can’t predict the future. One thing though, is certain. Stay tuned for yet another kollel novel or letter out of the Yated and Mishpacha.

{Kollel Guy, Newscenter}


  1. The outcome is very simple, a kollel person forcing his wife to work and family to pay for him must meet a few requirements.

    1] Be a mentsch
    2] Treat the people supporting you with respect, not like an ATM.
    3] You are paid to learn 9 hours a day, do it.

    In the REAL world if you treat your boss with disrespect or aren’t productive, you’re fired. The same is true about the kollel job.

  2. unfortunately,there are too many bochurim/yungerman who choose kollel since it is the “in thing” to do. Kollel (not including the first or two of marriage – which will help the young couple set up a proper foundation) is not for everyone. Too many times, the wife is working out of the home for too many hours and cannot be there for the children, while the husband, goes home after davening (if he even gets up on time), to chop a nap; during seder can be found in the various coffee shops, schmoozing instead of learning, etc. If you aren’t committed to the concept of kollel (doing with less/being moser nefesh for the learning) then it is time to go out and work and support your family!!! Mom and Dad should not be your sole means of support, and being on the dole (accepting all the government programs) shouldn’t allow one to buy many custom/expensive sheitlach, top/designer clothing for yourself and your children. For the people who are working, many times they are struggling much harder to make ends meet and do without, since the gov’t and mom and pop are not there w/the handouts. Bottom line is a JOB and should be viewed as such. That is what I taught my children, if you are going to live that life – make it a priority and do it with all your heart – don’t “Fumfe” around!!

  3. Part of the problem is the recent phenomenom of every Rich yid in NY “buying ” himself the “best ” son in law . That in itself is not so bad . The problem strats when he wants to spoil the young couple and gives them 60,000 a year to strat off and the nicest house and car . This automatically creates a new reality in that there are ,many Kollel couple living on a high standard of living ,which automatically raises the standard ,even for the poorer ones . i a perfect world ,somebody elses lifestyle shoudnt matter ,but we dont live in a perfect world . Every father in law should have enough sechel to know that as long as your kids are in Kollel ,they should be taught to live somewhat “Bedachkus ” at least whatever “dachkus ” is acceptable to our generation . No New cars ,very basic furniture ,basic clothes etc .. etc ..

  4. Lets just take stock of these facts .

    In the entire North America ,there are probably less than 7,000 Kollel yungeleit . There are 4,000 in Lakewood . In NY there are a few Kollelim with a few hundred here and there. The out of town Kollelim have 10 or 15 each . There are a fe Chasidishe longer term Kollelim with another Thousand or so .

    I am not counting the Chasidishe Kollelim where a Yungerman learns for 2 years after his chasunah from 19 or 20 till 21 or 22 . Those are basically just extensions of Mesivta .
    So in reality in a society of 5 Million Jews in North America we have a grand total of 7 or 8,000 Kollel yungeleit dedicated to Torah Study , Its an extremely small percentage . POrobably less than the number of mathematicians and scientists studying in think tanks and universities

  5. We should be benched with the understanding and clarity of what each-of-us-as individuals should be doing with kollel/parnassah.

    Lucky are those that are able to stay in kollel.

    Hashem should bench all those going to work with the ability to support those in learning so they can also reap the benefits.

  6. add in all post highschool boys & girls learning in Yeshivas and seminaries here and in israel and you will find that NEVER in the history of klal yisrael have so many engaged in in depth limud hatorah

    then compare that number to the total pre war yeshiva students in europe (yes .. litvish, chasidish, modern) and you will find that the european number is but a small percentage of those engaged in learning now

    the crux of the matter is that our percentages are way out of whack ,, top heavy with full time lerners and not enough aspiring to become educated erlich balabatim being mefarnes the tzibbur

  7. We are not debating the issue of Yeshiva learning Vs going to college at 18 . This article focuses on Kollel and I dont think you brought any evidence that my numbers are not correct . The average person thinks we have a hundred thousand kollerl yungeleit and all I am showing is that the numbers are well under ten thousand .for a Community of 5 million Jews in North America .

    Lets debate the facts at hand ,not start a whole new issue .

  8. Chicago (comment #1), I agree wholeheartedly except for your choice of words “A kollel person forcing his wife to work…” In many situations there is mutual agreement on all sides, and it’s just as common a scenario that the wife pressures her husband to stay in kollel when he would just as soon go to work.

  9. Chicago sounds like one of those who just doesn’t appreciate the kollel lifestyle lived by so many here in Lakewood and around the world. The minority give the majority a bad rap. The majority of kollel yungeleit in Lakewood are extremely mentchlech, express their hakaros hatov to those who support them at any given opportunity and put in serious time in the bais medrash. In addition, the majority of women in Lakewood aren’t forced to work but do so to support the lifestyle that they chose. As an aside most women in the world today work whether their husbands learn in kollel or work.
    As for the comments of a member of the real world, while there seems to be a significant number of young men who choose the kollel lifestyle because it is the in thing to do in the vast majority of cases that is simply not the case. Come to Lakewood and see for yourself the kol torah of thousands that reverberates in all the batei medrashim throughout the year.
    The intent of the letter writer was simply to bring up a point that for whatever reason the publications are fixed on presenting stories of kollel couples who face problems that can happen to anyone. Why are they written about kollel families?

  10. The out of town kollelim may not be big, but there are out of town communities with several kollelim.

    And while Lakewood has the most, so much of what is going on now (like New Age gap solutions) is being dictated based on the Lakewood reality.

    Comment 12 is the saddest. As inspiring a model as Rochel, the wife of Rabbi Akiva is, there has to be hadracha and a clear exit strategy so that when young men leave kollel they won’t feel devestated but good about assuming the burdens that this stage of life demands.

    And while reality is dictating the almost need for two incomes, what if that’s not possible? What if the women need the pressure relieved so they can address themselves better to their most important tachlis of creating the bayis neeman their kids need? Of course there is no bayis neeman that isn’t centered on Torah, but once one gets married the focus has to be on strengthening and maintaining that bayis neeman.

  11. I haven taken into consideration more than 1 kollel in some out of town places . The numbers still dont change . there are well under 1000 yungeleit in all out of town kolleliim besides the Ny lakewood area

  12. Comment to Chaim.

    Accepting your numbers for Kollel as true,you still have a problem with the denominator.

    The relevant number is not the five million or so Jews in America but the six hundred thousand or so Orthodox Jews. Even this is incorrect.

    The real relevant number is the number of so called Haredi households. Since you, for good reason, exclude the Chassidic world, the denominator is even lower.

    The Kollel problem, if there is one, is part of a larger problem of a society where the costs can not be sustained by the people incurring them, thus forcing them to rely upon their parents, grandparents, and the government (I am talking about legal programs).

    There are serious questions of whether this systemcan be sustained in the long run, al pi derech hateva, and whether psychological and other costs are being ignored in the pursuit of limud Torah.

  13. Kollel is great, but it’s not for everyone. The problem is the herd mentality we adopted, & the narrow midness of people. Everyone put himself (1st) in the picture, & if it’s good for him, than it must be good for everyone, & vice versa. The main issue here is resonsobility. Kollel is no excuse to slack on resposibilty, regardless if one has support or not it is the husband’s resposibility (it always was) to put food on the table. Of course a good wife should help out, but the attitude of the husband should’nt be, “I run a factory I have 5 people working for me, my wife, father, mother, shver, & shviger.”

  14. I am a kollel guy, in lakewood, and I feel that most people don’t realize a major aspect of the issue.

    99% of my friends in Lakewood want to go to work. A whopping 99%!!!!!

    Their problems are that they are not allowed to leave the Kollel. Each one has a different reason. Many times the wives won’t let. I have many friends who hate the seminary edication their wives received because their wives are brainwashed that their husbands need to stay in Kollel. The husbands meanwhile are collapsing from their inability to lead normal productive lives, and to feed their families.

    Then there is the “shver” issue. How many yungerleit can’t go to work because their father-in-law won’t let. Do you know? PLENTY!!!

    I know one friend of mine whose father in law stopped talking to him when he found out his son in law went to work.

    And of course there is the “stigma”. Yes, most people try to conform to their surroundings, and are affected by what people think of them. Most people won’t go to work simply because the we’ve set up our society that a working guy is second class. so we’ll all just to continue to deteriorate in kollel.

    By the way, if any of you are kollel wives reading this , please take this post to heart, perhaps speak to your husband, or pass this on to other kollel wives.

    Us Kollel husbands are desperate!!!

  15. Whatever happened to Torah IM Derech Eretz, v’kol Torah sh’ain ima melacha sofa betayla v’nishkachos avon?

  16. To Clue
    I do not exclude the Chasidic World nor do I exclude any other Jew . My point was that if we believe that Torah study is what upholds Judaism ,then 7,000 young men out of of all North American Jews ,is not that much . I am not getting into a debate as to whether or not the system is financially sustainable or not . I am just bringing out that if the Jewish nation as a whole needs the merit of full time Torah Study to exist ,then 7,000 out of the entire North American population is a very small and reasonable number ,and The Jewish nation as a whole should make provisions for supporting them .

  17. I am a young rov I took a shteller because I needed a parnasa and I am altogether thanjful to Hashem for my health my family and my parnasa.

    I am though shocked to hear of the shve’s and wives who “won’t let” 100% of my chaverim would like to meet those shvers and offer them the opportunity for yissachar zevulun since they are learning shtarck and being marbitz torah and need money. Many of klei kodesh haven’t been paid in months!!! why not send those to work and support those who are doing what they are intended to do?!!!

  18. #19 –

    This is a very interesting comment. If it is even partially true it puts a very different light on the whole question.

    If a large number of kollel members are only there because of pressure – wives, shver, stigma, whatever – this will have very negative consequences in the long run, for families, for limud HaTorah and for chinuch. (If the father is only in kollel because of pressure, you can bet the kid will pick up on it, and the conclusions he draws may not be the ones we want him to have.)

    Another side effect is that for the minority who do really want to learn full-time and have the ability and desire to become talmidei chachamim and poskim, they are being deprived of the resources they should have.

    Maybe the guys who really want to work and be kovea ittim should start a movement – underground, if necessary – to bring some balance into the social situation. It’s sad to think that it can be such a pressure cooker for our young families. Educated baalei batim were the foundations of Torah society in Europe. Perhaps we should work on recreating the Europe that actually was, not the Europe that exists in some people’s nostalgic fantasies.

  19. Obviously you hang around with a crowd that is not cut out for Full time Kollel learning . But 99% of YOUR friends are not 99% of the true learners ,and there are plenty of them

  20. 19, I have no idea if your 99 percent reflects reality. But it does point to another aspect of reality that needs to be faced: when setting up a “five year plan” there also needs to be discussion of what comes after. Because a lot of these guys will want to take some schooling to support their families and will need support throughout the schooling, and the years at entry level salaries (which for us was less than my husband was bringing in with kollel and odd jobs he couldn’t do once working full time).

    Facing that transition time is probably what is making the stomachs of your chaveirim churn.

    Obviously nothing can or should be set in stone, but honest discussion should be ongoing.

  21. Chaim, not only the real numbers of the Kollel men all over America are smaller but, unfortunately, yes, the “denominator” is and will be 4(not 5)million North American “Jews”, absolute majority of whom, despite having every opportunity that exist now to become Torah-observant,don’t want to use it, hate the Torah, Torah Jews of all stripes(I observed “simchas hachaim” of my so-called “relatives” when few Yiddn were detained for short time about a month ago).
    With this “denominator” and ETERNAL problems of the Kollel lifes…

  22. First, if Mishpacha thought kollel support was a problem they would put it in Rabbi Grylak’s column and not in Amitz’s stories. Second, it’s a Western ivut to look at things in personal terms: can I afford it, is he second-class, can she get a shidduch. We’re Hashem’s servants. So if you’re a young man who gets married, you learn in kollel. If you’re a shver, you support him. If she’s in the parsha, she demands a boy who learns. Hashem is at stake, not your retirement account.


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