hazal will often point to a case of two people who appear to be similar and experience identical situations, yet their outcomes are very different
Chazal analyze and identify the pivotal element that creates that difference.
Today, we see two types of balabatim: the balabos who is fully engaged in making a living yet he remains a ben Torah, and the balabos who enters the workplace and completely leaves yeshivah behind.
What’s the difference?
People don’t just suddenly split into two camps the instant they enter the workforce. The differences must have been present before, even if they weren’t always apparent or evident. In the case of these two working men, both learned in yeshivah and kollel, but one was always deeply connected to the Torah with nothing else competing for his mind and heart. When this person leaves kollel because reality dictates that he feed his family — he signed a kesubah and undertook to support his wife, after all — he remains the same person. He is essentially connected to the Torah just as he always was, and the Torah itself is guiding him in this decision.
The second one, however, learned well, but he was always drawn in by the world beyond the beis medrash. He leaves kollel for the same reason, but he runs headfirst into the world that has been beckoning for so long.
The moment that the doors to the outside world open is the moment you see what was really going on all along.
It’s very sad to see people who really learned well — they toed the line, they appeared to shteig in yeshivah and kollel — suddenly become unrecognizable. Three months after they’ve gone to work, they look different. It’s very unsettling. What happened?
The factor that creates a Torahdig balabos lies in a single word: shei’fos. Spiritual goals. Dreams of growth. That’s it.
A person, a couple, with dreams of growth, are Torahdig. If they are aware of what they’re accomplishing and they live with spiritual reckoning, they will remain connected to Torah.
I recently heard something that moved me. A gentleman in Lakewood, a balabos, wanted to have a connection with Rav Shlomo Feivel Schustal. When Rav Shlomo Feivel moved to Lakewood, this man asked for a seder with the Rosh Yeshivah, who had a very full schedule. Where did they find the time to learn? He offered to drive Rav Shlomo Feivel to yeshivah each day. Once a day, during this five-minute drive, they learn mussar. They’ve almost completed the entire Shaarei Teshuvah. Because this man realized that Olam Hazeh is a tough place — it pulls you down and tries to break you — he found himself something to keep him inspired.
Baruch Hashem, we have choshuve, serious, talented rabbanim in most communities — people who can keep your vision intact, your hopes intact, and who can keep imbuing you with shei’fos. You can be the one to start the chaburah or shiur; you can incorporate the time into your weekly schedule. Asei lecha rav, v’histalek min hasafek. Make yourself a rav, and remove yourself from doubt. (Avos 1:16). Letting a rav into your life makes everything clearer.
Go over on a Motzaei Shabbos to talk with him, drive him places, go walking with him. Make it a priority. Go with your wife. Include her in the process. Learn a sefer with her as well.
Becoming a Zevulun is an avodah, not a vacation from avodah, and it takes work just like everything else in life.
And always, always keep the balance. Don’t go to sudden extremes. Be a wholesome person, a good husband, and a good father. Invest time and real attention to creating satisfying relationships with every member of your family, which will be a starting point for whatever goals you have in life.
Then, if you have true ahavas Torah, if your wife and children see how much it means to you, they will want to make it possible for you to learn. No one can leave kollel and evolve into a true Torahdig balabos if he’s not in partnership with his family.
Finally, let the Torah shine its light into every area of your life. There is no decision in life, no area, which isn’t rich in Torah; whatever questions you’re facing, expose your family — and yourself — to the depth of chochmas haTorah on that topic. If you want to institute a minhag or practice, learn through it with them, let them feel it the way you do. Show them that Torah isn’t just something we learn, but the way we live. Don’t live superficial lives, but lives in which Torah shows color and meaning to every detail.
If you’re committed to living within the parameters of His Will, you will find out how vast the Torah is — and how great you can become — whatever you are doing from nine to five. —
Rav Elya Brudny is a rosh yeshivah in Mir-Brooklyn and a member of the Moetzes Gedolei Torah of Agudath Israel of America. The above is based on the Rosh Yeshivah’s words at the most recent Agudah Convention.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Issue 750)
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