Friday, November 19, 2021

What About the Women?

Charedi women in the workplace (TOI)
My views about the Charedi way of life are well known to regular readers here. But for the sake of those that are not regular readers, let me briefly describe them.

I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand there is no question about the high value of Torah study. The Mishna in Peah (1:1) tells us: Talmud Torah K’neged Kulom – the Mitzvah of Torah study is comparable to all other Mitzvos. So that the idea of full time Torah study is not some pie in the sky  right wing aberration. It is pretty much based on the words of that Mishna along with some modern day embellishments.

On the other hand, I firmly believe that full time Torah study is not the ideal way for every single Jew to practice their Judaism. Even if they are capable of doing so. In my view the intent of this Mishna is that Torah study should be considered the primary activity in one’s life even if it is not the major part of their day. As I recently said, full time Torah study should be the daily activity of a special breed of Torah scholar with impeccable character - the Yechidei Segulah. The rest of us, should serve God with our unique individual talents. As long as we reserve a part of every day for Torah study, we have fulfilled  the mission implied by that Mishna.

As I also recently said, the Charedi world does not see it that way. Spending the bulk of one’s day in any other way than Torah study is seen as B’Dieved. Meaning that if one has no choice but to work to support themselves, they may do so but should see themselves as secondary to those who do study Torah full time. The idea of using one’s individual talents as a the best way to serve God is not part of their worldview. Their paradigm is to study Torah full time for as long as possible without any other distractions. This is the way the Charedi world works. 

People  that learn Torah full time are therefore aggrandized in furtherance of this ideal. Compared to them, people that work should see themselves as second class citizens that (Nebech) had to abandon the glorious walls of the Beis HaMedrash. 

That many – maybe even most Charedim might find themselves in the workplace does not grant them anything more than second class citizenship even if they set aside time daily for Torah study. 

Ladies and gentlemen - I give you Lakewood... the ‘City of Torah’ (as it is fondly referred to by the Charedi world). It is the prime example of the above-mentioned lifestyle.

This approach has produced young men that strive to stay in Kollel  - and are praised for doing so. Women are indoctrinated to seek these young men as marriage material. Which they consider the ultimate way of serving God. 

The results are that Charedi world has evolved into a system where women carry almost the entire burden of family life.  Which includes raising the children, doing all the household chores, like housekeeping, cooking, cleaning, and shopping... and adding many other chores traditionally reserved for men. (Like paying the bills). All while maintaining a full time job. They are indoctrinated to believe that God wants of women is to do whatever is necessary to support their husbands full time Torah study.

Facebook has a group that deals called Frum/OTD Dialogue. Therein is an insightful article that asks the rhetorically implies following question. Despite their indoctrination are the Charedi women that do this really all that happy about their lot in life?  Although it is a bit exaggerated, it nonetheless resonates with me. Consider this:

One of the most common topics of discussion in shalom bayis schmoozim and whatnot is how to impart the women with a chashivus hatorah - how do we get them inspired to respect and embrace their husband's mission and maintain good cheer in their supportive role. This discontent is especially pronounced when women end up taking the massive brunt of the workload while the husband enjoys a relatively stress-free and calm life. 

If this is indeed a common topic of discussion, it suggests that the answer to the question for many of these women is a resounding No! And how can anyone blame them? 

One might counter that they have never heard complaints from their wives or anyone else about this. But that doesn’t mean that all is well.  Because if it were, it would not be a common topic of discussion in these circles. 

To be clear, I do not believe that all women feel overwhelmed with the relatively new responsibilities thrust upon them by the Charedi world in the current era. I’m sure there are many – perhaps even most women that feel very fulfilled in their supportive roles. Believing that they are considered equals to their husbands in the eyes of God for it.  

But clearly this is not true for everyone. 

I don’t know if this will all blow up in their faces. I don’t know how many divorces living this way has caused. But I’ll bet a lot of are troubled and that this is a contributing factor. I wonder how many marriages would be saved if we got back to normal. Meaning that most men work and set aside time daily for Torah study. Those that are truly worthy would be the ones that engage in full time Torah study. This change in the Charedi paradigm would alleviate if not entirely end the heavy burden their wives now carry. As would sharing all the other things the Kollel life left for their wives to do.