Shalom Bayis (Peaceful Marriage)
  Opportunity For Torah - and Marriage - Development




[A sixteen part, multi-faceted treatise on the spiritually-focused marriage and on kollel standards and potentials]



Since some of my marriage counseling work addresses troubles in some kollel marriages, I want to write about shalom bayis as it pertains to kollel couples; the standards that the Torah wants from kollel people; and the value, purpose and opportunity of kollel. Note that I am not implying here anything about, or referring to, the kollel population at large. People who devote some or all of their lives to learning and living Hashem's Torah are the heroes of our people and are on a very high level in the Jewish value system.

In all cases, kollel should be seen as a precious, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime, opportunity for spiritual development and contribution. Kollel should start a couple's life in a Torah direction, so that their marriage, home and children are characterized by and devoted to service of Hashem. Key to achieving this is embodying, internalizing and applying Torah IN REAL LIFE.

Every Jew must set aside regular learning times every day and evening. If one does not know how to learn or is too troubled to learn, he shall support others so that they can learn Torah and he is considered to have learned. He can make a condition with another that he will support that other, who will learn, and they will share the reward for learning Torah [Yorah Daya 246:1].

Before and after learning, one must say a prayer [Orach Chayim 110:8]. He must ask Hashem for knowledge and understanding, that he not make any mistake or cause any one else to make any error, that all of his learning be G-d's truth and that G-d open his eyes to the depths and wonders of His Torah. These prayers are obligatory whether one learns in a yeshiva with others or alone by himself [Mishna Brura, notes 34-37].  Check a thorough Siddur or ask a rov for the actual nusach [text] and halachos [precise laws] if necessary, in order to say these prayers properly at the beginning and end of learning.

The basis for these prayers is in the gemora [Brachos 28b]. Rabbi Nechunya Ben Hakana said a prayer when entering and leaving a bais hamedrash [house of study]. When entering he said, "May it be your will G-d that no stumbling be caused through my learning, that I not err in any matter of halacha [Torah law]. May my colleagues be happy with me [if I make a mistake and they look down on me for my error, it would be a sin and I do not want them to be punished because of me]. May I not say that what is forbidden is allowed and what is allowed is forbidden. May my colleagues not stumble in a matter of halacha and may I be happy with them." When he left the house of study, he would say, "I thankfully acknowledge you, my G-d, that you placed my lot in life with those who dwell in the house of study and not with those who dwell on the street corners. I rise early and they rise early. I rise to words of Torah and they rise to words of emptiness. I toil and they toil. I toil and receive eternal reward and they toil and receive no eternal reward. I run and they run. I run to eternal life and they run to a pit of destruction."

Torah law tells us that everything we do must be for the sake of Heaven and be a means of knowing G-d. Every Jew must learn Torah as much of the time as he is able, particularly since learning leads to action. If he does not learn regularly every day, he will diminish wisdom and goodness, come to theft, do stupid things, cause damage and create countless sins. One must always judge in advance what will come out of his actions so that the only outcome is service of his Creator. One who conducts himself this way is constantly serving G-d. Should a person work and earn a self-sufficient livelihood from a clean and completely honest profession or should he spend every day learning Torah and developing disciples, accepting support from others? If his work is in any way dishonest, he is not considered to be supporting himself and his family. He is considered as having benefitted by the toil of those who he robs, overcharges or cheats [so he has neither the merit for being financially responsible nor for learning Torah]. One who would commit any sin in business should not be in business. It is better to be humiliated in this world and receive gifts many times than to be a thief in the eyes of the Torah even one time. But those who receive pay for Torah, should benefit the public; such as by being dayanim [Torah judges], poskining shaalos [making rabbinical law determinations] or sharing chochma [Torah wisdom] in exchange for being supported by gifts. One can take support to learn Torah full time. At the very least, however, one should learn in order to know how to refrain from stupid, damaging or crooked behavior; to act according to halacha; and to deserve - through his learning - the support and gifts that others give him. [Orech Chayim 231:1, with Bayur Halacha].

With one's rov, each individual must honestly and objectively evaluate, according to da'as Torah, what is best for him to do with his life, how can he best serve Hashem and what percentage of the time he should devote to Torah learning.

Kollel is NOT a place for any mediocrity or "just passing through." It is obvious that learning G-d's Torah carries with it tremendous responsibility and adherence to enormously high and holy standards. This applies all the moreso when one is being supported by one or more other people in order to learn. When supported or helped by others, he owes them enormous hakaras hatov [appreciation] and is obligated to make their "investment" in his learning "pay off" for them.

One of the signs that a person is a Jew is the ability to feel shame [Yevamos 79a]. One of the causes for shame is taking support without earning it ["nahama dikisufa/bread of shame"]. If one does not earn the support he receives for learning Torah, he should feel shame and promptly consult with his rabbi for guidance on how to meaningfully improve his conduct, hashkofos [views] and midos [character traits]. The gemora [Yerushalmi, Orla 1:3] says, "One who eats from the food of another is ashamed to look at the benefactor's face." On this, Yismach Moshe [Parshas Toldos] says that a Jew does not want Olam Habo [eternal life] for free. If one did not work and gets pay, he is ashamed to look at his employer for receiving money. He knows that he does not deserve the money. If one earns money, he is not ashamed to look at his employer. He knows he earned it. In this manner, a person's essential work in this world is to earn the merit to have eternal life, with it NOT being "nahama dikisufa." A person with moral values is ashamed at receiving anything for free and, if he receives something for free, he is uncomfortable with the one from whom he received it, be this G-d or man. Tana Debay Eliyahu Zuta 19 says that the essential goal of Jewish life is to obtain Olam Habo. Noam Elimelech [Parshas Ha'Azinu] writes that righteous people EARN reward from Hashem. If they obtain anything by rachamim [compassion], they did not earn it. This free gift is "lifnim mishuras hadin [beyond the strict law]." Therefore, they should have shame before Hashem for receiving "nahama dikisufa." Righteous people want their reward to come from "din [justice]." They can know that they have earned it when they receive any reward from G-d. Ner Mitzva writes that the reason for bechira [free will choice] is to credit us with mitzvos so our "s'char [reward]" won't be "nahama dikisufa." A person is born into this world to toil [adam li'amal yulod; Job 5:7], in order to obtain - and deserve - eternal reward from G-d.

If a wife is working to contribute all or even a portion of the financial support, the husband owes her profound gratitude. The root of Adam's sin was failure to appreciate his wife [Rashi, Genesis 3:12]. Great rabbis, from Rebbe Akiva [Kesubos 63a] to Akiva Aiger [letters] and Rabbi Yechezkel Landau [Noda BiYehuda, Introduction], said that it was the sacrifice of their wives that made their Torah achievements possible. She is also taking care of a home and children. A kollel man must treat his wife like a queen and with appreciation. After reading the Torah, we say a "Yehee ratzon" prayer, asking Hashem to keep alive the Torah scholars AND THEIR WIVES in all Jewish communities. The siddur, and the sages who produced it, recognized the value of Jewish wives and put in a specific prayer for them. We say this prayer while the sefer Torah is still out, to show that they have merit in the Torah and that the wives deserve the blessings associated with the Torah.

It is crucial to the kollel experience to constantly work on faults and shortcomings. To not work on self-improvement (i.e. midos, hasmoda [learning diligence] and behavior) while in kollel is hypocrisy. Some people say that mussar [Torah self-perfection] is for super-spiritual people, is out of date, or is not accepted by their community. This is all false, foolish and against Torah. Rabbi Elimelech of Lezinsk said, "A person is born only for the purpose of perfecting his nature." The midrash says, "There is no real joy except joy of wisdom...if there is wisdom in a person, this person studies mussar. If the person has no wisdom in him, he is not able to learn mussar [Yalkut Mishlay 909]." The siddur says, "Blessed is our G-d Who created us for His honor, and separated us from those who err, and gave us the Torah of truth and gave us the chance to earn eternal life. May He open our heart in His Torah, and place in us love and fear of Him, that we do His will and serve Him with a complete heart, in order that we not come to emptiness or to dismay" [Uva litzion].

King David tells us, "The Torah of Hashem is perfect, returning the soul...the laws of G-d are straight, making happy the heart; the commandments of G-d are pure, bringing light to the eyes" [Psalm 19:8-9]. One can be truly happy only if he has Torah that is straight; with no compromising or warping. One can only be truly knowledgeable if one has Torah that is pure. Only the Torah of Hashem is perfect. One can only increase his perfection as a person, and as a soul, if his Torah is perfect [Rashi to 19:8]. Being in kollel is an opportunity to achieve spiritual perfection, true service of Hashem and optimized olam habo [eternal life]. Perverting or weakening Torah, and its application to practical life, is a tragic waste. Chazal call a person who has a lot of Torah knowledge but who does not internalize, embody or apply Torah "a donkey carrying a box of books." A Jew is the "image of G-d," and, to make this meaningful, the Jew is obligated to emulate G-d's deeds and traits in daily life and practical relating with other people. Achieving these noble goals, in real and consistent terms, is to fulfill the commandments "Be holy" [Leviticus 19:2], "And you shall speak them [Torah words;" Deuteronomy 6:7], "Go after G-d" [Deuteronomy 13:5] and "Walk in His ways" [Deuteronomy 28:9].

If a kollel man is weak in conduct, learning or midos, staff should try to bring him closer, encourage and help to bring him up to Torah's standards.

A young man in B'nei Brak, Israel, was in kollel learning full time. His wife was working to support the family and was also raising the family. The family was growing and needed more time and attention than his wife could now furnish. The wife needed the husband to take a half hour a day from his learning to provide help with the children. The young man came to the Steipler Gaon (who was one of the leading Torah authorities in that generation). He asked the Steipler which half hour in his chock-full learning schedule should he give up in order to give a half hour to his wife. The Steipler sat and patiently went through this man's schedule with him, including what he was doing in kollel and what was happening at home in the family's schedule. The Steipler went through every segment of the day and chose a half hour time that would be the greatest help to the man's wife and children.



The Torah says, "What does G-d ask from you but that you fear G-d and go in all of His ways..."[Deuteronomy 10:12]. The foundation of all service of G-d is fear of Him, because it is only through fear of G-d that one can use free will choice to choose between good and bad. The Mesilas Yesharim says that every moment in life is a test given by G-d for us to pass that test, so that we move on to the next moment in life with its test, moving on through life from moment to moment, test to test, so we can earn eternal reward for each moment (and its correct choice) in life. The only way to achieve this is through fear of G-d, which assures that each use of free will choice is used properly TO SERVE G-D AT EACH MOMENT. One is judged by G-d on how (s)he used every moment of life. Fear of G-d is the foundation. Every person has his milchomas hayaitzer [internal wars between good and bad] in choosing to make good decisions, in choosing between service of ego and service of G-d. It takes work and toil in the Torah, and direction from wise scholars, to internalize Torah and learn to make proper life decisions. One must learn Torah and cultivate fear of Hashem so that he can internalize Torah so that Torah becomes automatic in the person's operating in "real life."

The Mishna says (Pirkei Avos, chapter three), "He whose fear of sin precedes his wisdom [and] whose deeds are more than his wisdom, his wisdom will endure." One cannot be committed to G-d unless he fears violating His Torah and failing to fulfill His will. The gemora says [Brachos 33b], "Everything is in the hand of Heaven except fear of Heaven." Everything is determined by G-d: wealth, health, strength, intellect, mazal ["luck" and life circumstances], one's talent and abilities, etc. The only thing one ultimately truly has is his ability to choose to fear - and thereby obey - G-d. This is the only thing he is rewarded for. This is the only base for living a life of enduring wisdom, meaning and purpose.

As great as fear of G-d is, there is one thing that is greater. The gemora [Brachos 8a] says, "Greater is the benefit from toil of one's work than fear of Heaven." Further, another gemora [Kesubos 5a] says, "Greater are the deeds of the tzadikim [righteous] than the creation of Heaven and earth." Why do both gemoras use this terminology of "greater"? How can anything be greater than fear of Hashem? How can anything emanating from flesh and blood be greater than G-d's creation?

With all of the intricacy and miracle in creation, Hashem had no "internal war," no effort, no toil, no conflict; to create. If He said "let there be light," there was light. He would just speak and things - vast, complex and wondrous - were created. A human being has to toil to choose what is right. More than that, he must struggle with inner perfection. He has to toil to make himself into a person who is capable of discerning right, to develop objectivity and wisdom to know what is meant by true right, to make himself a truly righteous person. Only then, when he learns what true right is, can he muster the will to choose it and behave properly. It takes years of work on oneself and exposure to wise and learned people to guide one through challenges of life and the cultivation of the ability to think issues through and see them from a valid, objective, learned and developed Torah perspective.

Rambam tells us that people are very vulnerable to bad influence and that we must surround ourselves with wise and learned people to give us good influence. If a person is dedicated to learning, to developing himself as a Torah person, to exposing himself to ongoing Torah guidance, to learning how to choose to use every moment for service of G-d and making choices that pass the test of every moment of life; this is a person truly suited for kollel.

Whereas Hashem's massive creation - as great as it is - was effortless. The man who toils in developing fear of G-d, who is devoted to ongoing toil in the Torah, IS CREATING HIMSELF. He is toiling to make himself greater every moment, using his free will to raise himself constantly to higher and higher levels every moment throughout his lifetime. He can become a tzadik. THIS IS GREATER CREATION THAN G-D'S CREATION of the amazing, intricate, huge universe.

Learning Torah to increase fear of G-d, and thereby successfully living the Torah in practical every day life, is the way to make all of this come "min hokoach el hopoel" [from potential to actualization]. Kollel presents an ideal opportunity to achieve this in very real and active terms; when the kollel experience is undertaken voluntarily and mutually by a couple; and when this is done with sincerity, devotion and all necessary effort and sacrifice.



Pirkei Avos says not to attribute greatness to yourself if you have learned much Torah because that is what you were made for. Learning Torah is an ongoing and central obligation. One's Heavenly judgement depends upon having regular times for learning Torah (or a wife enabling her husband to do so). But Torah is not a mental "exercise."

The Torah says [Deuteronomy 4:39], "And you will know today and return it to your heart...". Reb Yisroel Salanter says that this verse teaches that the distance between knowing something and not knowing it is the same distance between knowing it intellectually and truly assimilating into one's personality and behavior. Torah is for assimilation into one's heart and being. When we have a practical Torah question, we ask a rov for "daas" Torah, not "chochma" or "beena." Daas (unlike chochma and beena) is the level of knowledge at which one knows what to do, where knowledge is internalized and available for spontaneous and automatic application EVEN IN SITUATIONS OF CHALLENGE, DISCOMFORT, PRESSURE OR TEST. Torah is for practical living; not merely intellectualizing, idealizing or abstraction. For any blessing to take effect, one must be a kailee [container] for the blessing. The first step to meriting to be a kailee for blessing is to truly fulfill the Torah. If one needs water, one must have a kailee [e.g. bucket] to contain it, or it is not accessible. If one needs blessing and is not a kailee for it, it will likewise be wasted or not accessible. In the second paragraph of the reading of Shma Yisroel, blessing is promised only when one obeys Torah, serving G-d with ALL of one's heart and soul [Deuteronomy 11:13]. This applies to every Jew.

In kollel, the young man has the opportunity to develop himself, to seek good and learned Torah scholars to guide, influence and direct him in a system of personal growth and in his dealing with practical life. He can make himself become a true "mentsh." This all is especially vital when the young man is starting a marriage, which needs mature direction, encouragement and support; so that the new marriage goes in a good direction and builds healthily.

The gemora [Bava Basra 10b] tells us that this is an "upside-down world," in which rich, arrogant, powerful people are considered important. But in Heaven, the "clear world," the people who are considered important are those who devote themselves to Torah and spirituality, who are humble and modest, who are poor and sincere. It doesn't matter what any flesh and blood mortal thinks or values - it only matters what Heaven "thinks" and values. At the top of Heaven's list of those who are important people, the gemora tells us, are "baalay Torah;" people who truly possess Torah, who master and fulfill Torah.

The genuine "ben Torah," whether in kollel or not, never accepts mediocrity, never side-steps truth, never lets down from the highest spiritual standards. He learns Torah regularly and applies what he learns. He and his wife are totally devoted to G-d, Torah, mitzvos and the Jewish people. They are constantly working to exemplify halacha, derech eretz and good midos in everything they do and to help each other to reach olam habo (eternal reward).

Kollel offers the opportunity to create a solid and holy foundation for life, if it is viewed and appreciated as a golden opportunity and if the opportunity is taken seriously and USED WISELY TO GOOD ADVANTAGE. When kollel is properly utilized, the young man will achieve Torah knowledge, personal development, good deeds, pure and true service and love of G-d, spreading of Torah and mitzvos. He will become an embodiment of Torah and an ambassador of Hashem, increasing merit and blessing for the entire Jewish people.

The Torah is a complete package that stands on a foundation of good midos [character traits], good-heartedness and high behavior standards, especially for interpersonal behavior. One genuinely dedicated to Torah and serving Hashem scrupulously observes all of the Torah.

Kollels are often very unclear on standards for admitting or keeping men. One diligent rosh kollel told me that his two main criteria for allowing men to enter and stay are hasmada (constant and serious learning) and midos (good character traits). Other usable criteria might include: does the person do chesed (practical, helpful, meaningful kindnesses), at what rate does the person spiritually grow, how much does he care about the impact of his behavior on others, does he have derech eretz (civil, polite, thoughtful behavior), how does he handle "real life" nesyonos (tests, trials) that bring pressure or that require doing things he does not care to do or require not doing wrong things that he might care to do, how is he of Torah-sanctioned "service" to other people or his community, does he have a temper or is he gentle when provoked, is he flexible, does he accept correction or is he too "holy" or sarcastic or defensive or "know it all" to listen, how does he show responsibility and generosity and maturity, do people generally see him in an admirable light, what potential [e.g. personal growth, scholarship accomplishment or contribution] does the fellow show?



The Vilna Gaon wrote that the essential purpose of life is to work constantly on midos [character traits], and, any moment one is not working on midos, he is wasting his life. Rabbi Chayim Veetal wrote that good midos are a foundation for Torah the way a foundation is necessary for a house to stand up. The essence and foundation of being in kollel is perfection of midos.

There are some phoneys and leeches who go into kollel for an ego trip, social approval or because they are too dysfunctional, inadequate, scared or weak to live as adults on their own. They degrade themselves and bring gehenom to their souls and their marriages. Torah is their escape, not their life.

If a couple is in kollel, they must never forget that they are on a life path which requires "double sacrifice." I don't just mean material sacrifice, which is typical and basic in kollel life. Every marriage requires sacrifice: giving, pleasing, derech eretz, compromising, responsibility, stability, communicating, humility, apologizing, tshuva for mistakes, behaving like a "mentsh," peace, respect, etc. A kollel couple should stand for dedication to Hashem, Torah, good midos, spirituality, proper behavior, straight hashkofa (views) and personal growth. I am amazed how much some kollel spouses (usually, but not always, the man) are NOT EQUIPPED FOR THE BASIC SACRIFICES THAT APPLY TO ANY MARRIAGE. They are hurtful, rigid, egotistic, irresponsible, sloppy and nasty. There are some men who view kollel as the "thing to do to get a good shidduch." They are not in kollel for pure motives. They do not have genuine devotion to learning or behaving according to Torah. There is a sarcastic joke that they are "in for a sentence," as if being in kollel is jail. They have the midos of animals in some of their interpersonal relations, harboring such prohibited traits as hatred, cruelty, anger, animosity, selfishness, disrespect and grudge-bearing. They are big babies who marry for its social significance, or because they are the expected age and they do not want to be a social outcast ("What must be his/her problem?"); rather than to get married for the sake of choosing and living with the mate and truly serving Hashem together. It is sometimes almost mechanical or impersonal. There is no real relationship or care for the other.

When such a couple has differences, as they will have undoubtedly, one or both take stubborn positions, treat the issue as a fight or "power play," don't communicate (or they miscommunicate, or talk "at" each other rather than "with" each other) or want to do what their friends do, regardless of whether it is right in their case or with their spouse. They will scream, walk out, be defensive, have personality battles. There is no longer an "issue to be resolved." It is a "battle to be won." They miss the point of kollel.

Often, the person who is a problem "has all of the answers." It is very difficult to work with a "know-it-all." The other one is "over sensitive," is crazy, does terrible things that cause the complained-about behavior; or, he bases his position on some rebbe or Chazal (generally quoted out of context). The issue is often in this person's midos or psychological development, not his sources. People often get fixated on sources that suit their psychological agenda or self-interests, so their quotes have no or little relation to true da'as Torah. You would think that every Jew, especially someone in kollel! - has a rov. These people, with astounding and striking frequency, do not, which is often one of the big problems. HIS BEING IN KOLLEL IS A MEASURE OF HOW WEAK HIS TORAH IS - NOT HOW STRONG HIS TORAH IS! But, since in his mind he is the greatest scholar since Rebbe Akiva, no one short of a bas kol [Voice from Heaven] can talk to him. Obviously, this leaves the other spouse in a tough and painful place, especially when the other is a good, sweet, sincere person.

One thing that might help is to ask the Rosh Kollel, or a rov who the offending partner will accept and respect - someone who unmistakably knows how to learn - speak to him softly, with relevant sources at hand and "building the offender up" emotionally so as to not want to behave below the standards as genuinely set forth in the sources. Sometimes, the effect of this does not last. The other spouse should become "armed" with some knowledge of relevant halachos to be able to dispute false statements, say true ones or ask shaalos. Sometimes this helps to get the message through, slowly and gradually.

The other should have a rov, even if the offender refuses to. That rov should be contacted as often as necessary, especially if trouble escalates or if the marriages grows shakier. If he remains obnoxious, adamant or offensive; or, before taking more drastic measures, a professional counselor and rov, who have yiras Shomayim [fear of Hashem] and know relevant halacha, must be consulted. Physical abuse (hitting, confinement) is never an allowable option. Being harmful is prohibited and one is always responsible for any harm caused to another. Further, "Torah disciples increase peace in the world [Brachos 64a]." A true "ben Torah" lives peacefully with other people.



The gemora (Chulin 91a) explores the question of how the angel of Esav appeared when he wrestled with Yaakov [Genesis 32:25]. One answer is that he appeared as a gentile and the second answer is that he appeared as a Talmudic sage. Why might the Torah care how the angel of Esav appeared to Yaakov?

The wrestling match occurred at night. Night represents 1. golus and 2. the inability to see truth clearly (it is "spiritually dark"). Esav represents 1. evil, 2. the domineering force of the golus (2,000 year exile) we are now in and 3. an outer appearance of holiness with a truly "traif" inner essence. The Torah is warning that, in this golus, one of the major tests we will constantly have to "wrestle" with is people who dress up like a talmid chocham, appearing on the outside to be holy, while inside they are actually filled with the tuma and evil of the gentiles who characterize this golus.

Kollel (post-marriage yeshiva) is a vital institution for the Jewish people. It is from the kollels that many of the coming generation's Torah leaders, roshai yeshiva, poskim, dayanim and teachers will come from. Support for kollels should be a part of one's maaser (charity allocations). I have personally seen young kollel men on their way to becoming tzadikim and gedolai Torah, and their wives are truly "aishess chayils [women of valor]" for their financial sacrifice and love of Torah and family.

Kollels should be for those young men who either show promise in learning, who can make serious Torah contributions upon being developed as a scholar, or those who want their marriages to get started on a genuine spiritual foundation so they can determine a Torah-loyal and strong spiritual course for a lifetime. It should be clear to observers that these men in kollel are steadily and significantly growing in Torah knowledge, learning ability and midos (character traits). Such men being in kollel, and their wives supporting them and accepting their lot, is meritorious and these couples deserve to be recognized as true heroes of the Jewish people.

When Rabbi Aharon Kotler z'l inaugurated the kollel system of America in Lakewood, about 60 years ago, he allowed in everyone who wanted entry. Some men may have been more suited for kollel than others, but everyone had some benefit by starting their adult lives in an atmosphere of Torah.

With the considerable decline of the generations since World War Two, there are some actual cases where kollel can prove to be destructive. The axiom that everyone automatically can belong in kollel is obsolete and no longer works as a matter of spiritual, practical and sociological reality. The generation is no longer the same as the one which Reb Aharon established kollel policy with. Because there are more and more husbands, wives, couples and/or families for whom kollel can prove to be destructive and anti-Torah, our attitude about automatically allowing anyone who gets married in to kollel needs to be re-examined. This re-examination must specifically and exclusively be done by our gedolim [Torah leaders], not by just anybody. I am putting forth, in the coming several articles, many of the reasons why the kollel system may not be being used any longer in the optimum way by some people. I will include many Torah sources and true-life observations so that the case will, hopefully, be balanced and substantive and, hopefully, serving the Torah of Hashem and the Jewish people of my generation.

Entry into kollel should not be arbitrary. Kollel is not for everybody. Unfortunately, many are allowed to enter without proper qualification in midos (character traits) and hasmada (seriousness and constantness of Torah learning). There are inadequate qualifying criteria in many kollels, and many young men are allowed to enter who are not worthy of being supported, engaged in learning or being a representative of Torah. I see young kollel people who have serious troubles and shortcomings in their midos, "mentchlachkeit," manners, interpersonal behavior (e.g. in marriage, with neighbors, financial improprieties, etc.) and basic living (e.g. driving recklessly, being slobs, coughing or sneezing in shul next to people without covering the filth, etc.).

Just because a boy plans to sit in kollel, that alone does not guarantee he is a gem of a shidduch. That might just tell where he will sit, not how good he is. In some circles, there is a joke among kollel fellows. The terms of their marriage require that they be in kollel for a specified amount of time, which they refer to as their "sentence," as if they were in jail ("How long is your sentence?" "I'm in for [number] years"). In some circles, the boys demand from potential fathers-in-law commitment to high levels and long durations of financial support. Even if the girl's father agrees, in order to get a "good learner," he may lie or get in "over his head" and fail to keep the commitment. Values can be materialistic. This, in conjunction with other factors (e.g. bad midos, lack of derech eretz, selfishness, immaturity, being spoiled, unrealistic expectations or psychological shortcomings), contributes to marriage troubles and problems in personal life.



We cited above (in an earlier installment of this kollel theme) that the wrestling match between Yaakov and the angel of Esav represents the struggle in our present exile between Jewish and outside values. In the hagada of Pesach, we read that in every generation, the nations strive to kill us but G-d always saves us from their hands. If each generation has a nation that is striving to kill us, why does the hagada need to use the plural "save us from their hands?" It would be enough to say the harsh nation's "hand" (singular).

In that story, during the night when Yaakov wrestled the angel of Esav, Yaakov's prayed to G-d, "Please save me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esav." Why does the Torah quote both? Yaakov only had one brother. When he said "Esav," he meant his brother. When he said "my brother," he meant Esav. In his commentary on the Torah, Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch explains that Yaakov is prophesying that in our golus, the gentiles will try to kill us in two different opposite ways: 1. like a brother (with their values and hashkafas, assimilation, intermarriage, friendliness, government programs that can destroy character by making people takers, etc.) and 2. like Esav (warrior, criminal, etc.). BOTH KILL US. Rabbi Hirsch tells us that we need to be saved from both. Brotherhood kills our neshama and murder kills our body.

So, when the hagada uses the plural, it is indicating that we need Hashem to save us in every generation from both friendly killing of our souls as well as violent physical killing of our bodies and nation. Since we are in a generation, thank G-d, in which we are essentially safe from gentile pogroms and slaughter, we need salvation from spiritual destruction that the values and material benefits around us endanger our souls with.

Even though being a kollel boy (or being married to one) may feel nice and holy, kollel is not automatically for everyone. To be truly suited for kollel, one must be committed to the rigors of advanced and serious learning, honest work on his spirituality, moral and spiritual growth and financial sacrifice undertaken for the sake of Heaven, with straight hashkofos [views] and with a good attitude. One kollel man, who is supported by his wife, told me that he spends his day learning Shulchan Aruch [Code of Law]. Sounds nice, eh? He told me that he is satisfied to learn the approximate meaning of a law. He does not strive to obtain clear meaning! Halacha [Torah law] has to be truthful and precise! But, if this fellow cannot get the correct meaning, he just goes with the approximate meaning! This is not learning - this is making his Torah - and his life and his wife - into TOYS.

A growing number of marriages in recent years, to an alarming extent, are finished within a month to a year, or can be characterized by intense or vicious fights. If they don't divorce, it is often due to embarrassment, not their marriage bond. Any spouse who is spoiled or egocentric will make unreasonable and unrealistic demands upon the other. We can't even think about helping many of these couples because they are too immature, selfish and rigid to see or work on anything which is not their way. Their stormy and/or short-lived marriages are not the quality of marriage required of Torah people.

If an unsuitable person is taken into kollel, the kollel staff could violate the Torah commandment of not being a michshol (one who causes another to stumble, whether in a practical matter or in a Torah violation). Just from my marriage counseling work and observation of people who cross paths with me in daily life, I see kollel people who can hold intellectual conversations about a difficult Tosfos while, in their personal lives, violate basic Torah commandments such as machlokess (being in a personal fight with someone), ono'as devarim (hurting another's feelings), netira (grudgebearing), midvar shekker tirchak (lying), talking in shul, gnaivas daas (deceiving - whether other people or themselves!), viahavta lirayacha kimocha (failing to behave kindly), derech eretz (failure to behave politely), gezaila (theft, e.g. parking in front of a driveway steals access), ka'as (anger), etc. The Torah asks "What does Hashem ask of you but that you fear Hashem?" This means that we must use free choice to only do what is good in G-d's eyes. If just anybody can go into kollel, this "mass production" attitude can cause sins, the main thing kollel should get people away from! Only when kollel is used correctly, and by the right people, it is good and is a merit for our entire nation.

Someone who picks and chooses his mitzvos is serving idolatry, not G-d or His Torah; he makes himself an idol, as if he is a god who can "make a Torah."

"Blessed is the man who does not go in the counsel of the wicked and who does not stand in the place where sinners remain and who does not sit in the proximity of scoffers. His only desire is the Torah of G-d and he will devote himself to His Torah day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by streams of water that will give its fruit in its season and its leaf will never deteriorate and all that he shall do will be successful" [Psalm 1:1-3].



The second chapter of Pirkei Avos tells us: the more Torah, the more life; acquisition of Torah is acquisition of eternal life; and that one was created to learn much Torah, but not to misuse it for personal purposes.

Today's fellows are under strong social pressure to go into kollel and the girls are under strong social pressure to only marry a guy who will go into kollel. For both, it is turning Yiddishkeit into a toy, it is a fashion show, not service of G-d. They do not act in their "real lives" as bnai Torah. They mooch from parents or government programs, they can be nasty, arrogant or unprincipled in interpersonal relationships. This all is damaging to one's midos (character traits) and hashkofos (views, values, attitudes) and can make one or both spiritually worse, not better. Pirkei Avos says that learning is not the essential thing but, rather, deeds are; for Torah to remain with a person, his fear of sin must come before his learning; his deeds must exceed his learning; he should not rely on his own understanding and he must make sure that he has a qualified rov to direct him in learning and life questions.

It seems in some circles that getting married automatically means that the man goes into kollel and the wife and/or the parents and/or the government are expected to furnish financial support. On the surface it would seem that any frum Jew with genuine Torah hashkofa should advocate such a noble course. However, Soton, who has been at work for a long time and knows his work well, often puts payos onto the yaitzer hora (evil inclination) and makes his poison with sublime external appearances.

Chazal say it is better to be disapproved of for one's entire lifetime by all people in the world than to be disapproved of by Hashem for one moment [Eduyos 5:6]. We are taught by Pirkei Avos "Do not look at a person's outer 'container' [appearance]," "Do not judge another person until you have come to his place," "Do not judge another person alone [by yourself] because only G-d can judge alone;" and [Kiddushin 70a], "Anyone who delegitimatizes another actually delegitimatizes with that which is his own blemish." It is easier to disparage another person than face a fault in oneself. People who criticize or disapprove of others, without due recognition of good, really only show what is low about themselves. Without da'as Torah and a thorough and balanced knowledge of an entire situation and person, it is impossible for a subjective human being to judge another person legitimately. Giving or withholding approval of other people is nonsense, and is generally rooted in bad midos or mental illness more than anything else. To worry about approval is foolish, a waste of time and can lead to serious and tragic misusing one's life. Chazal [Sanhedrin] says that the main thing G-d wants is the heart. TaNaCH says, "For man will see the outer appearance and G-d sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7)." Each must evaluate his/her own personal potentials, talents and abilities; and pursue them, independent of social pressure or what other people think.

Rabbi Yisroel Salanter said that another person's goshmeeyuss (material needs) is your ruchneeyus (spirituality) and the other person's ruchneeyus is your goshmeeyus. If one is concerned about others' spirituality that is his goshmeeyus (e.g. criticizing another's religious observance to embarrass another or to make oneself feel superior). A major test as to whether one is spiritually developing is their behavior and attention towards other people in practical life. If they steadily act with kindness, consideration, concern, patience, adaptability, humility and derech eretz; and do so as sincere service of G-d; the person is spiritually amounting to something meaningful.

The famous chasid Reb Zisha was once crying because he wasn't reaching his spiritual potential. When asked if he was crying because he wasn't as great as Moshe Rabainu, he answered, "No, I'm crying because I'm not as great as Zisha." His famous brother, Reb Elimelech, said that a person is ONLY BORN TO CHANGE HIS NATURE. Each must honestly evaluate - and achieve - his own true inner potential. That is his purpose in life, his spiritual job in this world.

When either the boy or girl, or both, are not really up to the spiritual and moral standards of "kollel material;" lack of good midos (character shortcomings) or manners, immaturity, financial squabbles and difficulties, unreasonable and unrealistic expectations, self-centeredness, irresponsibility and/or psychological problems cause serious shalom bayis (marital) troubles. Pirkei Avos tells us that conditional love cannot endure. These days, the marriage relationship is often between his shtender and her father's wallet. There is often little or no real relationship between the man and woman.

It is a mitzva to support one's wife and family through responsible, honest work (Shulchan Aruch, Evven HaEzzer, chapters 69-74). Each person has to evaluate his/her own TRUE avoda (divine service), tafkid (assignment) and shleechus (mission) in life. One must not do this alone. This must only be done with da'as Torah; with one's rov, rosh kollel or rebbe. When appropriate, one can be holy and a fine Torah Jew without all-day kollel.



The gemora (Taanis 7a) discusses what differentiates a suitable Torah student from the unsuitable. I'll bring several things [with Rashi, Tosfos and/or Maharsha] from that sugya (topic). If a talmid chocham (Torah scholar) is of good character, the Torah is beneficial and promotes life; if not, the Torah is violent and destructive to him. If a person engages in Torah for its sake, it becomes a potion of life; but if a person engages in Torah not for its sake, such as when learning for destructive reasons such as to beat others at arguments, it becomes for him a potion of death. If one who studies Torah is suitable, learn from him, support him and view him gently; and if he is not suitable, we should cut him down, turn away from him and abandon him forcefully. Torah scholars should study with another so that they make each other wiser and inspire each other to more greatness. One who studies relying on his own mind will become foolish and a sinner; he will pervert halachos, will teach incorrectly, will lead others astray and he deserves to be treated punitively. If a Torah student is worthy, the rabbi should accept him; but if the student is not worthy, the rabbi should reject him. If a student is worthy, the rabbi should share his knowledge with him; but if the student is not worthy, the rabbi should keep his Torah to himself. Torah only remains with one whose mind is humble. Torah only remains with one who makes himself into a vessel of meekness. If one can learn not for the Torah's own sake, let him work to come to learn for the Torah's sake. One can learn from someone unsuitable how to NOT behave.

The Vilna Gaon writes that working on midos at all times is the essential purpose for which one is given life and that any moment one is not perfecting his midos, he is wasting his life. Every thing must be an exercise in midos. If on a long line at the post office, work on savlonus (patience) and hasmoda (using the time to learn Torah or say Tehillim). If you are tempted to park in front of another's driveway, work on unselfishness and consideration towards the owner of the house, even though it will take longer to find parking. If you are tempted to drive wildly or dangerously, work on gevura (self-control), shmira (guarding life) and dina dimalchusa (obeying local law). If someone provokes you, instead of getting angry, work on yiras Hashem (fear of G-d) and nachas (gentleness). Such midos-oriented thinking promotes personal refinement and seeing everything in terms of what is good and right in the eyes of Hashem. And, if someone cannot do this, usually if not always; then, his being in kollel, or her being married to a man in kollel, is a contradiction.

The Vilna Gaon also says that learning does not automatically make one a better person. Only learning for the purpose of making oneself better can make one better. One must concentrate on making his heart pure, increasing fear of Hashem and elevating himself through his learning - for his entire lifetime.

The midrash [Vayikra Raba 1:15] says that a Torah scholar without civil, thoughtful behavior that is sensitive to others is lower than a dead animal. A burglar without tools and weapons poses a slight threat to society but a burglar with tools and weapons is a dangerous threat to society. Rabbi Yisroel Salanter says that a person with bad midos and a little Torah is comparable to a thief without tools or weapons. He poses only a moderate threat to society. But, a person with bad midos who knows a lot of Torah is like a burglar with a lot of tools and weapons. Such a person can be a dangerous threat to others.

The Torah says [Deuteronomy 4:39, and said everyday in the "Alainu" prayer], "And you will know today and return it to your heart...". Reb Yisroel says that this verse teaches that the distance between knowing something and not knowing it is the same distance between knowing it intellectually and truly assimilating into one's personality and behavior.

Intellectualizing is not the goal of Torah learning. All of Torah is for integration into your heart, your being and your behavior. Only when "returned to your heart" is it truly known. Lasting practice of what you learn is the mark of its assimilation into your system. When something you "learned" is intellectual, it is not part of you. What you learn must elevate and improve you. When what you learn spontaneously and consistently prompts "learned" response, it is learned. You are changed. You are only then truly wiser.

Further, when the Torah uses the term, "return," (in Deuteronomy 4:39, instead of "place" or "put" the thing into your heart), we learn that the Jewish soul is born knowing Torah and when any Jew places any thing of Torah into his heart, it was there before. He may have forgotten it when he left the womb and got bombarded by the lures and distractions of the world. But Torah was there. It just has to be "returned." It's natural home is the Jewish heart. It's like finding a lost article and putting it back where it belongs. It's like putting a fish that jumped out back into water.



When two of Aharon's sons brought sacrifices, on their own, that G-d did not command, they died. G-d said that the punishment for bringing unauthorized sacrifices is death. The Maharal, explaining a midrash [Toras Kohanim] on the Torah portion Acharay Mos, says that a doctor can tell a patient "don't eat this and don't do that because you can die;" or a doctor can tell a patient "don't eat this and don't do that because you will die like so-and-so died." The first terminology [could die, might die] is milder and "wishy-washy." It could make a person think, "I will take a chance. I won't die." The person will find it very natural to think that he can permit to himself what is forbidden and that he will survive (smokers do this all the time!). Therefore, the midrash says we need to be warned of destructive or forbidden things with strong language [if one does such-and-such, one will definitely die like so-and-so died]. The Torah is telling us that even when we have what seems to be a very natural and logical thought, our human thought processes can turn out to be totally wrong, even deadly. Following one's own thoughts can be suicide. We have to look to da'as Torah, to what our sages tell us and act accordingly.

The kollel man's private life should be Torah-loyal and stable, pretty much all around. He should be a kiddush Hashem in his daily conduct. It should be evident in him that he is growing in learning and midos, that he is confronting the yaitzer hora and passing nisyonos (spiritual tests) and is becoming more and more a person who has what to spiritually give to his community and generation. If he feels entitled to financial support from family or government programs without being genuinely spiritually productive and suitable, he is committing spiritual suicide. He is the person referred to by the Maharal above who can think his thought process is sound while his logic is leading him to spiritual self-destruction. If a man isn't tocho kibaro (honestly inside the same as the outside), he can be a phony and also a thief for taking the support given him. Just because a person can read Hebrew, it doesn't mean he is a da'as Torah. Just because someone knows which end of a gemora is up, it doesn't mean he is a ben Torah.

Learning has to be for the sake of Heaven. The gemora says that one should learn Torah and do mitzvos even when it is not for the sake of Heaven because through starting not for the sake of Heaven, one will come to learn and do mitzvos for the sake of Heaven [Pesachim 50b], but one only comes to learning and doing mitzvos for the sake of Heaven when the goal is to achieve this. Those who learn purely for the sake of Heaven can work on just developing in learning and spiritual growth. He may not need a more specific goal at the start [this should be decided with his rov, rosh kollel or rebbe].

Even if he starts with imperfect motivation, his goal should be to come to be working more and more for the sake of Heaven and to spiritually elevate himself. He might also need a more specific goal to keep him directed towards steady improvement and concrete achievement. Is he working towards becoming a rov, mohel, shochet, sofer, writer of sefarim, dayan, koshruss administrator, teacher, expert in Choshen Mishpat who can become an honorable businessman, an expert in shalom bayis and chesed for lifetime application, superb in midos?

Learning has to be "al menas la'asos" [for the sake of doing what one learns]. At the Chofetz Chayim's funeral, Rabbi Elchanon Wasserman said, in his eulogy for his great teacher, that the Chofetz Chayim learned everything for the sake of doing what he learned and that this was central to his having become the extraordinary tzadik that he was. The Chazon Ish said that the first test of whether one is truly a Torah Jew is whether he fulfills ALL of halacha. Again, the emphasis is on what one does, whether what (s)he does is the will of Hashem and whether (s)he satisfies the entire Shulchan Aruch (without picking, choosing or omitting). Further, if one is able to teach or poskin [decide laws] and holds himself back, he is considered to be blocking Torah and causing sins among the Jewish people [Yorah Daya 242:14], especially if what he can offer is needed by his generation [Choshen Mishpot 10:3].

Teaching also has to be for the sake of Heaven. Meshech Chochma says that for Torah teaching to be successful, it must be purely for the sake of Heaven. Teaching includes all applications, for example, a rov who decides a shaalo, a dayan who judges a case or a good lecturer. Raban Gamliel and Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel were among the ten harugay malchuss (sages who were brutally murdered by the Romans). Raban Gamliel was killed because he got personal pleasure from teaching Torah [Tana Debay Eliyahu]. When people came to ask a shaalo or for a din Torah, Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel made people wait by finishing the beverage in his cup, finishing to tie his shoelace or finishing to put on his tallis. He was among the ten sages killed because he violated the Torah prohibition not to pain a person who is weak or needy [Yalkut Gershoni].



The Torah says "viholachta bidrachov" (go in G-d's ways) and "acharai Hashem Elokaichem tailachu" (go after G-d). These tell us to emulate G-d's behaviors and midos. The verse in Job/Eeyov tells us "im tzadakta ma titain lo" (if you are generous to G-d, what do you give Him). G-d is infinite and all-sufficient. He needs and takes nothing. He is only a giver. King Solomon tells us "soneh matanos yichiyeh (the one who hates gifts will be alive)." We see that a Jew must be a giver - emulating G-d thereby - and must hate being a taker. Each gives according to his abilities and blessings. A wealthy person gives charity, a sensitive person gives help and kindness, a talented talmid chochom becomes a rov, educator or dayan. When each gives according to his material and spiritual resources, he is a credit to G-d, Torah and the Jewish people. One who loves taking has no connection to G-d. Being in kollel without it be a way of giving to G-d, Torah and the Jewish people is a CONTRADICTION.

Ralbag (to Proverbs 3:8) says that only Torah can cure one from bad midos and concepts, but only if the person regards the Torah as nourishment for the soul, the way food is nourishment for the body. One must learn Torah entirely with the attitude that he is nourishing his neshama, which must become evident consistently in practical action and in elevation of midos and hashkafos.

In every walk of life, whether a person is working or learning, each Jew must be scrupulous and an "ambassador for Hashem" in his Torah practice and in all of his daily behavior. When the person's midos or conduct are not up to those of a ben Torah; and he does not seriously work on his midos, behavior and personal shortcomings; he is not deserving of being in kollel (of course, a decision about who stays or goes depends on the rabonim involved). I know of too many ma'asim of supposed kollel men behaving in ways that are nothing but hypocrisy. They are living a lie. To claim to be a Torah Jew and violate Torah is a crime. These phonies are running away from life and they have no business taking support from others or from government programs. Those who teach Torah are obligated to get rid of talmidim whose character is unsuitable and keep them out unless the unsuitable talmid does complete tshuva [Yorah Daya 246:7].

The midrash says that Heaven informed the Tanna, Rabbi Yehoshua, that his partner in Gan Aiden [Eternal bliss] would be a certain butcher. Rabbi Yehoshua spent his entire life in Torah, mitzvos and holiness. He wanted to understand why his partner in eternity would be a plain workingman. He traveled to the town in which the butcher lived and met him, asking, "Tell me what you do and what is your work." He replied, "I am a butcher and I honor my parents by feeding, clothing and washing them." Notice that Rabbi Yehoshua had not yet asked him about what spiritual merits the butcher might have. Yet, the butcher said, in answer to what he does, that what is primary in his life is honoring his parents.

When Jonah went on the boat, the sailors asked him who he was and what his work was. He answered, "I am a Jew and I fear G-d in Heaven" [Jonah 1:9]. Jonah's essence was not his occupation - it was that he is a Jew who serves G-d. What a Jew does with his day is subordinate to the fact that a Jew's main job, his essence, his identity, is to serve and fear G-d, to spend his life doing mitzvos...the will of Hashem. All throughout every day, in everything he does, his focus is his relationship with G-d and His service. When one views his life, no matter what his daily occupation might be, as being DEFINED by serving G-d, he fulfills the verse, "In all of your ways, know Him" [Proverbs 3:6] and he can merit the same place in Heaven as a holy sage of Israel.

Chapter 51 in Psalms is called "Perek Tshuva [Chapter Of Repentance]." Upon recognizing a sin or fault, one should be contrite and work on it, the way King David did (as described in the Psalm and its commentaries). A verse from this chapter is used as the beginning of every Shmoneh Esray that every Jew prays three times every day, "Hashem open my lips that my mouth tell your praises." Associating Perek Tshuva with prayer tells us that prayer is an act of introspection: "Am I worthy of what I need and ask for?" If one has been in error, let him repair it. King David is telling us that a significant part of effective tshuva is to re-double our efforts to tell others about Torah. If you have taken away from Torah, the repair can come from adding Torah to the world, spreading and improving Torah knowledge and observance in the world. Never give up. Every one has their tests. The Mesilas Yesharim tells us that every moment of life is a test, given for the purpose of our passing it and moving on to the next moment with its test, given by Heaven for us to pass, and so forth, throughout life, so that we each can earn eternal bliss.

Kollel life should, all the moreso, be characterized by devotion to G-d, mitzvos, Torah and holiness. The kollel man must internalize and sanctify his being through immersion in Torah. He must carry this into every thing he does: his deeds, marriage, every aspect and moment of daily life.



Pirkei Avos tells us "Asay licho rov [make yourself have a rabbi]." It is not a rabbi's job to find congregants or disciples. It is the obligation of each individual Jew to cause some Torah authority to be his rov. One of the most serious problems when any couple has trouble - in kollel or not - is that they do not have a rov to take questions to for definitive and conclusive handling of practical questions and difficulties. It is common for one or both members of the couple to say, "This rabbi knows less than me," "This one is too stringent/lenient/stupid/corrupt/unfair." Besides being a sin to speak like this, the rationalizations ultimately leave the couple without Torah guidance. The one who avoids having a rov typically tries to control outcomes to suit himself, and the other two partners in the marriage - the spouse and G-d - are not factors in his or her mind. So, the trouble remains. If a kollel man and his wife have a difference, they must settle it through daas Torah; never by arguing, selfishness, disappointing, anger, cruelty or avoidance. If the couple cannot remedy the situation by themselves, they must have a rov.

One fellow demanded that his wife get them welfare and food stamps. Her parents were supporting them adequately but, because everyone else in the kollel had welfare and food stamps, he demanded she had to get them signed up (he did not know English well enough to take care of applying!). She had self-respect and moral scruples and refused to sign up. He ongoingly made her miserable and acted like an angry baby. Like the gemora about the angel of evil and traif Esav indicates, he models his values after those in the outside society who are on welfare and food stamps, rather than on Torah. Since this mentality comes from a source outside, this entitlement/government program mentality violates the Torah commandment (Vayikra 18:3) "Uvichukosayhem lo saylaychu [Do not go in the ways of the non-Jews who live around you]." If one tries to speak to someone who is mentally and emotionally stuck on taking government programs unjustifiably, you see a live enactment of the Torah's verse [Exodus 23:8], "And you will never take a bribe because the bribe will blind the eyes of the wise and will pervert the words of the righteous."

A kollel fellow was learning Talmud. He was studying the law that prohibits one from leaving something in a place where it can cause others to fall, thereby causing damage. He was sitting and had pulled his "shtender" (learning stand) onto his chest. His learning position was on the aisle. He was sitting with his legs out in the aisle. Just as he was learning the law that one may not cause another to trip and be damaged, his feet, in the aisle, tripped someone walking by and caused the other to get hurt. This kollel man was learning not to trip and damage the next person. He was learning intellectually. In "real life," what did it mean? What did it accomplish?

A young kollel guy strongly objected to a non-harmful thing a neighbor said (because he interpreted it in a way that made him see himself as inadequate) and stopped talking to this neighbor ever since (now about three years). He built a whole false, intense and emotional case about the neighbor and has been guilty of multiple sins ongoingly including purposeless and rigid hatred, machlokess [being in a state of fight], anger, grudgebearing, disrespect, refusal to pursue peace, raising children to be alienated from the neighbor and many other sins. It is easier and more comfortable to hate and delegitimatize another person than to honestly face oneself inside. For someone in kollel, this is a crime. Hating another Jew is a yaitzer hora [evil inclination]. The gemora [Bava Metzia 32b] says that if you hate another Jew, it is a mitzva [commandment] to DO CHESED [ACTIVE KINDNESS] FOR THE JEW YOU HATE BECAUSE THIS BREAKS THE YAITZER HORA! Not making a point to be kind and helpful, for the purpose of building peace and friendship, is a sin and makes this kollel fellow a phony who thinks himself too holy to be bothered with "trivialities" like pursuit of peace with someone below his dignity to know. Also, he and his wife have serious and hysterical fights, with frequent shrill screaming. This fellow and his wife have no connection to being real bnai Torah. It is an act cloaked in ritual and externals. The inner person in each is far from G-d and both have considerable psychological corruption too.

A man was bringing a large and heavy tape recorder home from a repair shop. He found parking a full block away from his apartment. He had to carry the machine a considerable distance. The machine went up to his face level. The man had to lift his head and could barely see over the top of the machine as he went along the sidewalk. As he approached his building, a neighbor who was in kollel, was walking about 20 feet in front of him. Since there were two doors into the apartment building, the man felt happy that his neighbor was there to save him from the burden of struggling to fumble for keys and open two doors while carrying the large, heavy and bulky machine. The kollel man did not wait for the neighbor and slammed the door behind him, leaving the neighbor (carrying the machine) to struggle with the doors.



When a man gets married, he gives his wife a kesuba. This document commits him in halacha to supporting his wife. The gemora (Pesachim 113a) says that a man should flay carcasses in the market place (hard, foul-smelling work) and earn honest wages rather than say, "I am an honored and great man and this work is beneath my dignity." No one is degraded by honest work. It is a mitzva to work to support a wife and children (Shulchan Aruch, Evven HaEzzer, chapters 69-74) in an honest, self-sufficient manner. Exceptions do exist e.g. the husband is a Torah scholar who deserves to be supported while he studies, or the wife came into the marriage independently wealthy, or he has been debilitated by illness or injury - take practical questions to an experienced orthodox rabbi. However, when a man does not support his wife, this is the exception, not the normal condition, and the exception can only be justified in a manner allowed by halacha. If a man is in kollel and he is not worthy, he might not be exempted from his kesuba obligation and he may be violating those halachos and mitzvos which relate to his obligation to provide support. If this is a problem for him, he may not have been ready for marriage in the first place. Of course, those scholars who are worthy, and can maintain shalom bayis within their life-arrangement, indeed deserve to be supported.

Chazal say that one who does not need charity is forbidden to accept it. One should distance himself from needing tzadaka, even if he has to make his shabos no better than his weekdays in order to not need to depend on others [Shabos 118a], and even if he has to support himself in an unpleasant profession [Pesachim 113a]. If one can live without taking charity, even though he suffers, so as not to impose upon others, his reward for living with sacrifice and pain will be great. Chazal promise that he will in the end be so well off that he will give charity to support others.

One kollel man told his wife one morning to make steak for dinner. She felt they couldn't afford steak so, on her own, she made chop meat. When he saw the supper, he yelled at her nastily for making chop meat. She complained that he sleeps late, goes to kollel late and is lazy, and then demanded that he go to work to support his own rich taste. When she demanded that he provide parnossa [livelihood], he abandoned her. He had no connection to Torah.

If some men are set on being in kollel but can not learn properly a whole day, or are not up to Kollel standards, perhaps they can work part of the day and learn part of the day. By speaking to a qualified rov, each individual can work out a program that is optimal for him. Considerations should include his TRUE personality strengths and limitations, personal potentials, "zitzflaish" [ability to sit still and learn productively], temperament, shalom bayis, financial needs, and how much time or attention the family needs from the man. With the rov he will form a customized a plan, balancing learning and working.

Of course, the best thing would be that everybody be fit for kollel and that every Jew live in the Darkay Hashem (ways of G-d) and that every Jewish man be steeped in Torah day and night. But this is not realistic today. There are too many out there who do not function on a level worthy of, or suitable for, kollel. We have to better differentiate those who are kollel material and those who aren't. Those who sit in kollel as if it's a "jail sentence," only because it is the socially acceptable means of being approved of as a shidduch, are fooling themselves. These phony kollel types are on a par with those who become yeshiva rebbes (who parents keep complaining about) only because they are too inept or scared to get a real job in the work world.

If people who are not suitable for kollel could be in business, earning money honestly and being a kiddush Hashem in the work world, they could help support those who truly merit being in kollel. Some people are not capable of learning, whether because of the pressures of life, the lack of know-how in serious learning or the lack of "zitz-flaish" [the ability to sit still and have a calm mind]. The halacha for them [Yora Daya 246:1] is that they should support suitable scholars [and set aside regular times for some personal learning day and night] or make a Yissochor-Zevulun deal [support a scholar who shares the Heavenly reward for learning with the supporter]. Money used for any tzadaka or mitzva must be earned honestly and in accordance with halacha. Money obtained by cheating, stealing, misleading or any other sin is considered by G-d to'aiva (disgusting) and does not ever constitute any mitzva or charity. If a man is in kollel who is not worthy in his learning, midos or Torah practice and is supported by relatives or government programs, he has a real issue that will plague him after 120 years. In this life, he is training himself to be a taker and shnorrer/mooche. This is hypocrisy for a Torah Jew.

Every Jew is born to give. If each would honestly serve Hashem doing what each is truly suited for, without being driven by ego or social approval, each would be individually as productive as possible and the Jewish people would be the most productive, as a people, in the service of Hashem.



Only when one's fear of sin comes before his wisdom, and only when steadily practiced, is what one learned termed "wisdom;" as the Mishna says (Pirkei Avos, chapter three), "He whose fear of sin precedes his wisdom [and] whose deeds are more than his wisdom, his wisdom will endure." Later in the third chapter, Pirkei Avos tells us that a person whose deeds are more than his wisdom is like "A person whose branches are few but his roots are many. Even if all the winds of the world come and blow on it, it doesn't move from its place...He will never cease to bear fruit." Such a person will stand up to adversity and trouble. He is solid, stable, strong, reliable and firm.

A Biblical verse employs the word "return" in an interesting context. King David wrote (Psalms 19:8), "The Torah of G-d is perfect, it returns the soul; the law of G-d is trustworthy, it makes wise the unknowing." The Torah itself is the mechanism for achieving return of the Jewish soul to Torah. The Torah is wisdom and knowledge.

Rashi describes "The Torah of G-d is perfect" as referring to the sun, by linking this verse and other Biblical verses (from Psalms, Malachi and Proverbs) together. He writes that Torah enables one to "see" (like the sun enables one to physically see), and that everything wrong that one does is judged (likening the sun to judgement because the sun can burn). But, when does the Torah of G-d return the soul? When it is PERFECT. When Torah is pure, it returns your soul to the ROAD OF LIFE, and shields those who learn Torah from being burned, as Malachi the Prophet (3:20) says (in the name of G-d), "To you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings."

Chapter six of Pirkei Avos is called, "kinyan (acquisition of) Torah." This perek (chapter) says that Torah brings one closer to causes the benefit of intellect, wisdom, understanding and self-control...your [the Torah-person's] table is greater than the table of kings and your crown is greater than the crown of kings and your employer [G-d] is faithful to pay reward for your work...great is Torah for it gives life in this world and in eternity to those who do matter how tempting, a Jew should live no place but in a place of Torah. This perek [#6] says that there are 48 things necessary for the acquisition of Torah. One who is truly devoted to Torah must make an ongoing project of working at these 48 things. Without these, one's pursuit of Torah is NOT serious. Only through deep study of, and immersion in, these 48 things will Torah enter the person. Thereby, one can achieve genuine acquisition of Torah, which is the greatest attribute that life has to offer.

The Torah is a whole; it is not for picking and choosing. Every part relates to every other part. No part can be isolated from the whole nor from other parts. The Talmud and major Meforshim like Tosfos and Maharsha cross-references one subject to another. In marriage, you can compare sanctification of marriage to the laws of "hekdesh," which comes from the laws of bringing sacrifices at the Holy Temple. We wouldn't fully know or understand the nature of marriage without the principle of "hekdesh" (sanctifying property by ritually designating it for the Holy Temple as analogy to sanctifying a wife). One more example is constructive and diligent development in practical kindness and charity in your community - which has the beneficial "side effects" of 1. taking a couple's minds and energies from silly, trivial quarrels, 2. giving more stability and commonality to a basically stable marriage, and 3. the couple developing more and more ability to give to each other and to treat each other with kindness and sensitivity, by practicing goodness with many needy people and admirable projects, day in and day out.

This applies across every subject of life. Every aspect of G-d-given Torah enhances every other aspect. Therefore, the building, sweetening, strengthening of marriage is directly tied to a full and absolute integration of "approach to marriage" into approach to full Torah observance; from Sabbath and holiday observance to honesty in business, to keeping kosher, to prayer, to mikva, to personal inner growth, to learning Torah regularly, to letting go of grudges, guarding your speech, kovod habrios, etc. - to more and more observance of Torah, a little at a time, every day, as long as one lives.

Torah must be pure, honest and internalized; the person must be the same inside and out. A father once asked the Steipler Gaon what to look for in a boy for his daughter. The Steipler replied, "A boy who constantly learns, has good midos and has straight hashkofos [views]." The father asked, "If he is learning, won't he have good midos and hashkofos?" The Steipler answered that a gemora never says to take the garbage out or needs to be taken care of when sick. Just because he learns, there is no guarantee he will not hit, mistreat or neglect her. He told the father to make sure a boy has good midos and hashkofos.

A well known story is told of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter in which he tells how he came upon one of his fundamental principles of mussar (Torah self-elevation). He took his shoes to a shoemaker for repair. The sun was going down. It was getting darker and the shoemaker only had a little bit of candle left. Rabbi Yisrael offered to come back the next day. The sky was getting dark and if the little bit of candle would finish, there would be no light. The shoemaker wasn't finished with the repair of the previous customer's shoes. The shoemaker assured the rabbi that he needn't bother to come back tomorrow. "Don't worry. As long as the candle burns, I can repair." These words hit Rabbi Salanter hard. He realized that these words were a secret to human growth. As long as the candle long as I am still alive - I can repair...myself as a human being. Even someone older, more set in one's ways, one can always work on oneself, as long as one still has the gift of life. One's primary purpose in life is to grow and earn merit at all times.



Chazal tell us that a proper "life balance" is to learn steadily a portion of the day, work in an honest occupation that enables the person to be self-sufficient, and to give some time to service of the Jewish community, this being for the sake of Heaven. Pirkei Avos says, "Excellent is the study of Torah with a worldly occupation because the two of them together bring barrier to sin. All Torah which is without a worldly occupation will ultimately disintegrate and bring to sin. Let all who occupy themselves with the needs of the Jewish public do so exclusively for the sake of Heaven. The merit of their forefathers will bring them Heaven's help and their righteousness will remain forever. I [G-d] credit you [such a person] with great reward as if you accomplished all [by yourself, all which your efforts and devotion inspired or caused to happen, even if you did not do everything yourself]." The Mishna is saying that living a life with a balance between Torah study, gainful work and community service done for the sake of Heaven is meritorious and G-d generously rewards the person who conducts himself this way. Each man must, of course, decide what his appropriate program for learning is, make his plans and arrangements, and make adjustments as needed from time to time, throughout the course of life, WITH THE HELP AND DIRECTION OF DA'AS TORAH.

If someone goes into kollel with the expectation of learning for a few years and then "going out into the world," it would seem logical, if not imperative, that the time in kollel be spent preparing devotedly for "real life" as a Torah Jew. Kollel is not a place to waste time talking about matters unrelated to learning like politics or your new hat or lashon hora. Pirkei Avos tells us that earthly life is a "prozdor [entry hall]" to the "main palace;" prepare yourself in the entry hall [earthly life] so you may go into the main palace [eternal life].

There are many areas of halacha, midos and hashkofa that time in kollel should be used to learn. Pirkei Avos tells us that learning is not the essential thing, rather actions are. Rabbi Yisroel Salanter tells us that Torah has to be internalized into the heart, to become a part of a person. Kollel should be used for learning and internalizing areas of Torah that prepare one to live as a Torah Jew in actual ACTIONS and APPLICATION throughout life in "the real world." Reb Nachum of Kelm said that one proves if he is truly frum when he leaves the yeshiva and goes out into the world and he keep's G-d's laws.

In order to use the time in kollel for meaningful accomplishment, use it to learn, "halacha lemaaseh [for practical law]," such things that people encounter in the course of life. In general, there should be serious attention to learning seder Nezikin in the study of Shas, Choshen Mishpot in the study of practical halacha and getting instruction from talmiday chachomim on midos [building character strengths and fineness], hashkofa [straight worldviews] and how to behave as a "mentsh."

People who will be going into business must learn about such subjects as paying creditors and employees in full and on time, keeping their word about every aspect of their work and representations, not deceiving about merchandise [including telling half-truths about quality or putting attractive product on top of a batch and rotten product at the bottom of a batch], contracts or other forms of "deals" or commitments, acquisition and transfer of ownership, things that can cause damage or loss or annoyance to others, lashon hora or motzee shaim ra [evil speech in general and about competitors], overcharging [in all respects: selling, renting, contractual work, exchange of currencies and UNFAIRLY PAYING TOO LITTLE when buying], charging interest, honest weights and measures, being pleasant and friendly to deal with; and many other matters of halacha, midos and withstanding nisyonos [life tests] as a Torah Jew. There are laws for employees too. For example, you may not interrupt work for unauthorized personal talk or activities, or take office supplies for yourself, because these constitute stealing.

Chazal tell us that one who cheats in business will become deprived by Heaven of his needs, and either he will leave his ill-gotten money (by dying young) or his ill-gotten money will leave him (e.g. doctor bills, poor investments, robbery, loss of his business, etc.). The gemora tells us that when Rabbi Huna failed to pay a worker who he suspected of stealing, the price of his merchandise on the market dropped to near-worthless. The sages told him that even if he suspected that the worker stole, failure to pay his salary was not allowed and his business had been punished by Heaven. When Rabbi Huna paid the worker, his business made a fortune.

When one leaves this world and comes to final judgement, one of the questions that determines his eternity is, "Did you do business honorably?" Pirkei Avos tells us, "Be humble mi'od mi'od [super exceedingly] because a person's only hope is to be eaten by worms." Nowhere else in the Torah is the word mi'od [very much] used twice. The double language here warns us to always be cognizant of the ultimate fate of a person - and that the only hope for directing one's fate in a hopeful direction is through excessive humility. Rambam writes that for midos [traits] there is a "golden mean." However for humility, he writes that there is no such thing as too much.

There is no shame in earning an honest living to responsibly support a family, while learning regularly for half a day or during morning and evening chavrusos or shiurim; using money for mitzvos, charity and for living as an honorable and self-sufficient adult. One of the meanings of "Olam chesed Yiboneh [The world is built by kindness;" Tehillim 89:3] is that G-d puts into everybody the inclination and ability to be different professions. There could be no world without shoemakers, doctors, grocery stores. G-d sees to it the right number of people occupy the various professions so that people have all their needs met. Each must be honest about where his place in life and Jewish society really should be. There should be no influence from social pressure. The Mishna [Eduyos 5:6] says that it is better to be viewed as an idiot by every other person for a lifetime than to be viewed as evil for one moment by Hashem.



Aside from preparing a man for business as a Torah Jew, kollel should prepare one for all aspects of life. THE CHAZON ISH SAID THAT THE FIRST TEST OF WHETHER ONE IS TRULY A TORAH JEW IS WHETHER HE FULFILLS ALL OF HALACHA. There are numerous laws for shalom bayis [marriage peace], chinuch [raising children], living with neighbors, honoring property boundaries and other people's property rights, properly doing chesed, having a cheerful countenance to everybody, lashon hora [slander], hurting feelings with words, keeping peace with people, maintaining a friendly and gentle disposition at all times, guarding against causing harm or damage directly or indirectly through yourself or your property, the kinds of recipients to give to in order to fulfill the laws of tzadaka [charity], priorities in chesed and tzadaka, not bearing a grudge, returning or announcing lost property, borrowing and lending money or property, inheritance, handling differences or disputes, kavod habrios and countless other serious, constant and often neglected Torah obligations.

Just to give some examples, if you do not escort a guest at least four amos (eight feet) upon his leaving, you have not fulfilled the mitzva of hospitality. If you do not pray and seek to do whatever you can, you have not fulfilled the mitzva of visiting the sick. There are serious laws about guarding health and protecting life, for yourself and others, sometimes overriding other areas of halacha. There are complex halachos for how and when to add personal prayers for needs and troubles (for yourself or others) to Shmoneh Esray, including what answers to say or not say (e.g. Kaddish, Borchu, Kedusha, amen, etc.), when doing so at various points in the tefillah, when with a minyan. There are laws about conduct in shul and prohibiting talking (even Torah subjects) during davening. You must say Shmoneh Esray forming words with your lips but with no voice, not even a soft voice. If you park in front of another's driveway, it is gezaila [stealing] of the access in or out of one's driveway. If this delays a person, it is stealing his time, which can never be repaid. It is an additional avaira if this upsets the person or blocks him from something important or in an emergency. The "one minute excuse" is worthless, since it is forbidden to do a sin even for a minute. Is it OK to eat chazir [pork] or to violate shabos for one minute? If one carries an umbrella or leaves sticks coming out of a garbage can in a way that can poke someone, or drops something on the floor so a person might slip and fall, this is the sin of being a mazik [cause of damage].

During the Ten Days Of Repentance, some people refrain from eating nuts because the gematria [numerical value] of egoz [nut] is the same as chait [sin]. The Kotzker Rebbe astutely observed that some people refrain from eating nuts but not from doing sins, so he said, "Remember, the gematria of chait is also the same as chait!"

Those who show potential to learn significantly lishma, or to become Torah contributors (e.g. as a rov, dayan, Rosh Yeshiva, writer of seforim, mohel, sofer or teacher) should stay in learning and be supported by Torah society. Every Jew, in kollel or not, male or female, should have a rov for guidance - to achieve each one's maximum individual potential and optimally contribute his/her unique spiritual potentials for G-d, Torah and the Jewish people. By each man and woman in Jewry achieving his true potential and assuming his true role, is a part of the greatest alliance of all - the Jewish people serving Hashem.

Torah and Jews are spiritually powerful. A Torah husband and wife can bring each other olam haba [eternal life]. A person with Torah has the power to transform him/herself to a being which is above and beyond the physical world. But each must always remember that every moment of life is a test [Mesilas Yesharim] and one must pass every moment's test throughout one's lifetime. The yaitzer hora [evil inclination] never goes on vacation. The Torah's power is a "two edged sword." One can become a virtual angel or one can become a veritable beast - with Torah. The gemora says that the greater one's spiritual level, the greater his yaitzer hora [Suka 52b]. As one grows, he does not eliminate his yaitzer hora. It gets bigger with him, so that his milchomas hayaitzer [war against the evil inclination] is always between two even forces [good vs. bad]. One who is spiritually growing must become stronger and more clever, as the yaitzer does likewise. Rabbi Yisroel Salanter says that one who caves in to his yaitzer hora when he knows little Torah is like an unarmed thief. One who caves in who knows a lot of Torah is like an armed thief - which is much more serious, insidious and dangerous. Therefore, the kollel person has the enormous responsibility to act, halacha lemaaseh [in practical life] at every moment and in every circumstance, as a paragon of the yaitzer hatov [good inclination] and as a living representation of G-d's holy Torah. People in kollel have an obligation to live up to all aspects of the Torah in all aspects of life and to bring out spiritual potentials through Torah. The husband is required to learn diligently and the wife helps financially. They are "allies for Torah." The husband who succeeds is a true ben Torah and the wife who succeeds is a true Aishess Chayil [wife of valor].



A kollel wife should be devoted to spirituality. Before marrying, the woman should honestly evaluate what her spiritual goals and abilities are. Just as a man must do an honest "cheshbon hanefesh [introspection]" about who he truly is and what he can truly handle, so must a woman before undertaking kollel life. Some women find that they are not genuinely prepared for the struggles and sacrifices necessary to undertake kollel life. She will typically have to work, possibly two jobs; while tending to as many children as Hashem sees fit to send, to the home and to her husband.

If a woman is truly spiritual, whether a kollel wife or not, she will pray two times a day, go to at least one or more shiurim [Torah classes] a week and seek to do mitzvos, according to her abilities and her level of family responsibilities. All Jewish women are obligated to keep many areas of Torah; for example shabos, kashruss, nida, tzneeyuss, lashon hora, shalom bayis, honesty with money, blessings, training daughters, yom tov, chalah, nairos, etc. etc. Since women have very many Torah obligations, all Jewish women should be in steady learning for those subject areas which pertain to them; especially matters of halacha, chesed, derech eretz, chinuch [training children] and midos. When a woman can be married to a kollel man and undertake and handle all of this, she is a true "aishes chayil [wife of valor]."

Like a man, she should have a trustworthy advisor who can help her to objectively evaluate her abilities and personality, what kind of life she is authentically suited for, and how to best contribute of herself for G-d, Torah and the Jewish people.

Neither man nor woman should marry or determine his/her course of life because of social or cultural pressure. Each young man and woman must individually evaluate what kind of marriage partner is appropriate; and each should evaluate and decide on their individual course in life, or for even just the years following marriage; with the help of da'as Torah. No one should marry someone based on their recitation of the "party line." Any one can say "I want to be a talmid chocham," or "I only want to marry a learning boy." Who is the person really? For what is he or she truly cut out? Marriage can be a disaster when one marries a "resumee" instead of a "real person." I know a 21 year old whose father had rigidly defined and specified what kind of boy she would marry. He made a shidduch for her with "the perfect boy." They were divorced within three months. It's a pity. She is a truly lovely girl. At this writing, the divorce rate in the frum Jewish community has risen to about twenty percent. For every five chasunas that one goes to, we can expect the marriage will be over soon after the wedding. For every class in a frum school, one in five children comes from a home in which the parents have divorced. This pretty much cuts across the entire spectrum consistently; whether Yeshivish, Chassidish, Sefardic or Modern communities. You don't get married for "public relations." You get married for "individual relationships." You don't get married with the idea "if it doesn't work out we can always get a divorce." You get married with the idea, "this has been honestly evaluated with da'as Torah, this is reasonably thought out and can reasonably be expected to be for keeps."

Many young men who enter kollel upon getting married do so in order to get their married life started on a spiritual foundation and in a spiritual direction. They will study for a certain number of years to get themselves "spiritually solidified" and then move out into the work world. Out in the world, they will face challenges of "real life" which are completely governed by halacha. On many occasions, I have seen people who have been in kollel going out into the world and violating numerous areas of halacha and basic midos tovos. What were they doing with their time in kollel? Where did their learning go, if not into them?

If women married to kollel men become overwhelmed by the struggle and sacrifices of kollel life and large families, and cannot take what they got themselves into, what kind of direction and guidance did they get when they were forming their plan for adult life? How can anyone reconcile giving "mass production brainwashing" that could damage their nerves, if not their lives?

Most young people probably can undertake kollel for a year, or until children come and responsibilities add up. But, this should never be "automatic" or mechanical. This has to be undertaken in a careful and caring, individually and objectively determined manner; responsibly designed and planned out with da'as Torah instruction for each and every individual; done entirely for the sake of Heaven and designed to cultivate each young person's individual potentials.

Kollel is a precious opportunity to bring one's entire life to its potential. Every individual has talents and abilities that can enable him to make unique and precious contributions to Torah, Jewry and service of G-d. With honest cheshbon hanefesh [introspection] and close ongoing consultation with one's rov, each young man can chart his path and spiritually develop himself so that he brings his potentials to actualization. This way, he can live earthly life as a ben Torah, with the help and support of his aishess chayil [valorous wife], so that they together can enter the "palace" of olam habo and delight in the ziv haShechina [divine presence] for eternity.