| Family First Feature |

Soft Landings

Help your daughter find her footing after a year-long seminary high

My daughter came back from seminary a new person. I love that she has grown and is enthusiastic about her Yiddishkeit, but I also feel there’s an element of judgmentalism of us and the values we raised her with in her new persona. In addition, she’s really in the clouds, but has to live in the real world. How can I help her live in reality without quashing her beautiful idealism?



or 25 years, in my capacity as menaheles and morah, I’ve been preparing seminary girls for their homecoming. I’ve tried to support their growth, encouraging them to make appropriate plans for the transition. I’ve emphasized that less said is more, that mothers love and want what’s best for their girls, but don’t want to feel rejected in the process.

Your home is the cocoon of your daughter’s development; it will always be her home. She’s missed everything about it, has counted down the days to her homecoming. This year, however, your daughter discovered her other home and heart: Jerusalem. Your daughter’s love of the Holy City is also real. There’s no competition! Let’s quiet the disquiet in our hearts that murmurs: “She wishes she were back in seminary; she’s not deliriously happy to be home.” (Good practice for when she enjoys Yom Tov at her in-laws’.) Let’s revel in this newfound attachment, celebrate, and share her “homesickness”: “It’s so hard to leave Jerusalem.”

Here’s another point: your daughter has no mother but you, and she never will. But if her eyes sparkle when she tells of a beloved mechaneches who touched, supported, or understood her, you’re blessed. It takes a whole team to raise children today, and if HaKadosh Baruch Hu sent messengers to partner with us and light up the way for our daughter, how fortunate are we.

Children are wired from birth to interpret their approval ratings in their parents’ eyes. She can read our face, our seismographic daughter, and she’ll read our disapproval and discomfort or our approval and pride. Even a mildly disparaging reaction on our part may force her retreat, and what a shame. She may really be worried that we’ll be the resistance.

In the Nurtured Heart approach to parenting, we super-energize experiences of success by naming and describing what we see and the way it demonstrates greatness. Let’s do it! “I noticed how patient and willing you were with Bubby tonight; I really see your maturity” or “I noticed how you took responsibility for the shopping. Oh, the places you will go!”

(Cautionary note: If you’re concerned about truly unhealthy patterns, seek appropriate guidance for yourself and your daughter.)

It’s really important for me to say this: Even a girl whose seminary experience was less than optimal, or who may have wasted or not maximized the opportunity, still gained in ways she may not count unless encouraged to review and reflect. She may need your help. Let’s have a dialogue without judgment, bringing just our open curiosity to understand her experience, so she can process the disappointment and identify the takeaways. Let’s create the forum. We may not be the one with whom she’ll choose to have these conversations, and that’s fine, but let’s open the door.

Because it’s been a year of little responsibility and much freedom for your daughter, she’s no longer in the habit of asking permission or declaring her whereabouts every time she leaves the house, nor considering your needs when making her plans. She doesn’t mean to be inconsiderate (though she may be). Coming back into family life effectively curbs her freedom. Let’s try to share our needs and expectations in a way that acknowledges her new status as an adult. (Girls, if you’re reading this, try to act like one!) We would do well to navigate this transition with a little humor!

Reaching maturity isn’t always a smooth process; sometimes it’s one step forward and two back. (We were no better!) Our daughters need us to make space for this work. We can’t be scorekeeping: “Yesterday you were a paragon of kibbud eim; today you’re simply an impossible adolescent! Yesterday you were up at the crack of dawn for vasikin; today you scraped by chatzos.”

She knows! She doesn’t need us to keep a scorecard. She feels badly enough without our help and without our “faces.” Let’s offer our unspoken motherly confidence that the transition to adulthood and to accomplishment winds through setbacks and mistakes. That consistent effort is the only measure of progress. That perfectionism is the assassin of greatness (how backward that sounds, but how true it is!) That we are, all of us, precious and desirable in our failures as in our triumphs, because we are banim ahuvim shel Makom, beloved children of HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Our desire to be close to Him is the greatest measure of our worth.

— Mrs. Tamar Sokol

Mrs. Tamar Sokol, menaheles of Ateres Seminary for 25 years, has been nurtured in the unique derech hachinuch of her esteemed father, master mechanech, Rabbi Hillel Belsky. Mrs. Sokol is the founding menaheles of the new Neimas Bais Yaakov Seminary in Yerushalayim for 5784.


The more parents position themselves as “the voice of reality versus idealism,” the more they will push their daughter away from talking openly with them.

— Anonymous

Two years ago, I came home from seminary on a cloud of idealism and excitement. I felt like I knew exactly what I wanted from my life and could envision how it would turn out. My parents (who had done this three times before) felt strongly that I shouldn’t start dating immediately.

I waited until Pesach to begin, and in that time I worked on my degree, got a job, and slowly grounded myself back into the reality of living in chutz l’Aretz. When it came time to start dating, my ideals and desires hadn’t changed drastically from when I came home ten months before, but I had a more realistic view of what it meant to marry someone learning long-term.

In hindsight, I feel like the growth I gained in the year after seminary was in many ways more important than the growth I gained in seminary — it was a more mature view of life, built on the strong foundations I had gained in seminary. Nobody sat me down and told me that I was “in the clouds,” nobody “popped my bubble” — with a year of living real life in America, without being totally consumed by dating, I was able to slowly ease back into living in “the real world” without the feeling of giving up on the values I felt strongly about when I came home from seminary.

— Anonymous


I think a more honest perspective is for the mother to say that her daughter is idealizing a lifestyle that she’s not comfortable with and/or that she feels might not be best suited for her daughter.

—T.F. Jerusalem


I remember Rebbetzin Esther Bakst, shetichyeh, of Bais Yaakov of Detroit, guiding the mothers of seminary returnees and exhorting them to give their daughters a two-week reprieve before bombarding them with questions about their future. There will be time enough, she said, to start with the plans. Let them just be for the first two weeks.

The wisdom behind this guidance stays with me still. It sends a message of unconditional love and acceptance. I’m happy to see you because I love you. You have value regardless of what you decide to do. And on a very practical level, please don’t make any life decisions in your sleep-deprived, cognitively impaired state.

This break is your daughter’s Isru Chag. Rebbetzin David a”h taught us about the significance of Isru Chag and elucidated for us the value of transition. Isru Chag is a space in which time is suspended “bein kodesh l’chol.” We take the kedushah that has seeped into our bones over Yom Tov and transfer it into the chol so that our chol becomes transformed and informed by the preceding Yom Tov.

This is a gift you can give to your daughter. Allow her to bask in the kedushah she has experienced and let it spill forth. Let it color the chol. Let it inform her decisions in the next few weeks. Hold it with sacred respect and don’t mock it. She will see that you value kedushah. And she will see that you love her for her being, not for her doing.

Give her the gift of a soft landing. Soon enough she’ll have to start landing a job, landing a husband, and so on. But for now, cushion the landing by providing a soft place to land. Recognize that “real life” is a relative term, that perhaps the idealism she’s bringing home IS real life, and the narishkeit we focus on is illusion. Receive her growth with enthusiasm, show excitement for her ideals, and then guide her into making choices from this elevated place.

It’s not your job to pop the bubble; life provides enough opportunities for that without your help. You be the one who celebrates her growth and revels in her newfound dveikus. And may that glow light up the rest of your home!

— Sara Eisemann


There are two different types of problems I envision occurring:

The first one relates to her family. If she demands that you throw out all the magazines in the house and that every female must begin davening three times a day, you can gently tell her that you support her desire to grow, but she needs to let you run the house according to your daas Torah. You can say something like, “I’m proud you decided to stop reading the serial stories, but it’s a kosher outlet for other members of the family and we’ll keep on subscribing.”

The second relates to her future. You don’t need to burst her bubble. She needs all the idealism she can get to help her deal with real life. So yes, she must find a job or go to school. She needs to spend her days productively. But you can also practice a little bitachon. Hashem has many ways of helping, and a degree, for example, isn’t a guarantee she’ll have steady parnassah.

You can advise her as to why you think certain paths may be more conducive to fulfilling her future dreams, but let life teach her its lessons. You may actually be pleasantly surprised. Earning money is important, but it isn’t the main determinant of whether or not her life is a success. And Hashem has many surprising ways of providing.

— Anonymous


I have, b’ezras Hashem, married off most of my kids, but I was once that idealistic sem grad, and my dreams did come true. My husband is still sitting and learning in kollel (we’re up to our 112th zeman), and all our children have followed this derech.

Yes, there were lots of hard years. As I’ve told my children, if you would’ve told me as a kallah that I would end up in a third-floor, two-bedroom apartment with six kids under the age of ten, I would’ve answered with stars in my eyes that I wouldn’t mind as long as my husband was learning Torah. But when I was living it, it was very difficult.

And then Hashem miraculously arranged a beautiful house for us.

As my oldest daughter approached shidduch age, an aunt left us a yerushah that would cover support for our sons-in-law.

I can tell you many such stories. But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t some very hard times and things that we couldn’t afford to do. Our motto was always to first figure out if the thing we wanted was necessary, and then figure out how Hashem would enable us to pay for it.

My daughter told me that her friend (a mother of two very young children) said that she was taught that mesirus nefesh for Torah means having very little money. She didn’t know that it means giving up your much needed nap so your husband can go out to learn.

But it’s her idealism that is carrying her through.

Encourage your daughter to aim for the stars. And if the real world teaches her to modify her plans, that’s also okay. She’ll use the emunah that she learned from you and from seminary to serve Hashem along another path.

— Rivky P.


IF you sent your daughter to a strong seminary, then you’ll see, to your surprise, how grounded she truly is. I remember eating a Shabbos seudah at the home of one of my seminary teachers, and the highlight was her husband’s derashah about just how hard kollel life is.

The sems aren’t trying to paint a picture of gourmet meals, hotels, and a husband learning in kollel, but rather of making do with the minimum. You can remind your daughter that life won’t always be easy, but she’ll also see it for herself when the time comes.

Encourage her to keep up with her mentors and spend time with older friends; it will either remind her that life isn’t all fun and games, but a lot of hard work, or she will see that there is a way different from what her sem teachers described, depending on which lifestyles her friends have chosen for themselves.

— A Proud Kollel Wife


What world is your daughter in? She’s in the world of Eretz Yisrael, where there is a much more tangible connection to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. She’s seen, met, and stayed with families who live rich spiritual lives untainted by the world of materialism. She’s been taught by and learned from teachers and “simple” folk alike who live in a different reality from that of anyone she’s met before. She’s been exposed to a country where Yiddishkeit is alive and kept passionately, where the currency is Torah and mitzvos, and where the people lead lives in which Olam Haba is at the forefront of their consciousness.

Please don’t take her out of that place. Let her remain there for as long as she can.

The feeling of having to bring her back to the “real” world may come from your own sense of insecurity. Or is it maybe jealousy? Or neither. But in the meantime, the longer she can stay connected to that world, the better.

None of this is to disparage the importance of your daughter learning to navigate life in America. This is an important necessity, albeit an unfortunate one. If your daughter is struggling to strike that balance, then the first thing you should do is — be proud of her! She loves Eretz Yisrael! She loves ruchniyus! She’s everything you’ve ever davened for.

The second step would be to help guide her toward an older mentor who has experienced the same struggle and somehow managed to find a viable path forward. There are ways of trying to cling to the real while operating within the fake. Many of us do that daily, I’m sure someone can help your daughter do the same.

Finally, I’d like to conclude with a brachah. May your daughter, wherever life takes her, be it in America or otherwise, continue to “live” in the real world, Eretz Yisrael.

— Rabbi Avrohom Weinrib


You would think that’s the result you were looking for after paying $30,000 to get her there.

Seminary idealism stems from the growth-oriented peer pressure of the students and teachers. The special mechanchos who infuse their students with ahavas Hashem and ahavas haTorah are living in Israel. They’re not in America. They live with fewer things and more kedushah. We American Jews don’t.

When our seminary girls call America “shmutz l’aretz,” they’re putting down themselves and their families. Instead of recognizing the tremendous accomplishment of raising Torah-true children amid outside influences, they condemn their parents for all they’ve been exposed to.

It’s true. America isn’t Eretz Yisrael.

Eretz Yisrael exists on different level of kedushah from chutz l’Aretz. That’s the reality of galus.

To touch, to feel, to live that kedushah for a year is wonderful. Now she has the rest of her years to figure out how to bring a bit of that kedushah into real life.

Your daughter spent a year imbuing ideals that are lofty and special — as well as unrealistic for a Yiddishe family in America. Now give her time to adjust.

Remind her that she has a family. Remind her that chesed begins at home. Life is not all about friends.

Give her time to reconcile the kedushah of Eretz Hakodesh with the reality of chutz l’Aretz.

Please! Don’t attempt to marry her off until she adjusts to work and family life. Wait until she is so comfortable with her ruchniyus levels that she sees no need to correct her “ignorant” siblings or old friends who stayed behind.

And please, set an excellent example for her. Let her see what her future can look like — even in America.

— M. Sofer


Icame home from seminary with a big dream: A husband who’d learn full-time and work in klei kodesh — and live in Eretz Yisrael. Everyone discouraged me. I didn’t care, and I didn’t get set up with any boys for a full year. Then I dated three boys close together, and then a fourth, who became my husband.

The learning lifestyle wasn’t easy. There was so, so much I had no idea about. I don’t blame my seminary teachers, but I do wish they’d painted a more realistic picture (although I’m not sure it would have helped). I wanted to be a kollel wife, but it was hard. Working long hours was really hard. Not seeing my husband for so many hours during the day (another thing they don’t tell you about) was also hard, though I know if he has a job, it’s the same situation.

After a few years, it became clear that learning full-time, long-term, wasn’t for my husband, although that’s what he’d always imagined himself doing. It was hard for him to get out of bed in the morning, to sit and focus the entire day.

So my husband got a job, worked his way up, and is now doing quite well, thank G-d. So this story might scare you, make you feel like, “Oh, now I really need to bring my daughter down to earth.” But I think the answer is still no, you don’t. I can tell you stories the other way, of girls who were dating working boys, and then married learning boys and are so, so happy.

— Anonymous


I can’t deny that your daughter’s perception of reality has been heightened by her year in Eretz Yisrael. At risk of sounding like a seminary teacher, I believe that it’s a good development.

How can you help her? First, bear in mind that this year in a lifetime is similar to Yom Kippur in the yearly cycle. On Yom Kippur we, too, reach the heightened awareness of our ability to live in a higher sphere. Unfortunately, for many, it’s over ten minutes after Havdalah. For others, it carries them until after the Yamim Tovim. Still, more tuned-in people may sense Yom Kippur for a few months, and those who realize that the pinnacle is a place we can’t stand all year, because we cannot fast for 365 days, will use the many Shabosim and Yamim Tovim to reconnect and strengthen that heightened connection to keep something alive all year.

Encourage her to keep her year alive in any way she can through connections with friends. If she found a mentor, then through continued communication with said mentor. Through continuing to learn, and to keep up things she found to be important.

I hope that your daughter’s seminary taught her that not only did she see a greater reality, but that she has the ability to own it and make it real, slowly but surely, one step at a time, with her will, your support, and the siyata d’Shmaya that we all need for everything in our lives.

— Rabbi Zecharya Greenwald, principal of Meohr Seminary


Sometimes we think that a person is either inspired and in the clouds OR she’s grounded and realistic. It’s not either or. One can be both inspired and grounded. I can have my feet on the ground AND my head in the air.

Torah is the art of combining the material and spiritual worlds, synthesizing the ruchniyus and the gashmiyus. It’s how we take these two seemingly opposing forces and blend them together, it’s all about integrating the lofty ideas into our everyday life.

So the first thing I would say to a mother whose daughter has just returned from seminary is to model that in her life. To model being inspired AND living in the world. To model having realistic expectations, understanding that sometimes things don’t go the way you want them to, people don’t act the way they should, etc. And when that happens, how do I respond to that?

Second, I would advise getting involved in your daughter’s learning. I remember when one of my daughters came back from seminary, we were driving across the country due to a family move, and we listened to many audios from her favorite teachers. I remember listening to these incredible shiurim with her, and loving it. I joined her learning, and I felt like I went to seminary — it was great!

And then I helped her get set up practically, figuring out a schedule, work, schooling, etc. And I think that naturally prepared her for life. I’m not even going to call it real life, because they’re both real, spirituality and inspiration and seminary and that Israel bubble is real, and so is the nitty gritty. They’re both real, and we’re aiming for the combination of the two.

Over time she’ll learn to navigate that balance. It’s an organic process. It’s not going to happen in a day. I’d say to a mother — have patience, it will happen organically over time.

We will learn from each other. We’ll learn from our daughters how to be inspired and they’ll learn from us how to be practical and how to be grounded. The key here is constant open communication and realistic expectations, talking about the expectations that you each have of each other (and of the shidduch process) and to be BOTH realistic and idealistic at the same time!

— Rochel Goldbaum

Kallah Teacher, Relationship Mentor, Founder, Directed Dating Approach


What idealism would you need to quash for her to live in the real world? I’m assuming you find her long-term plan does not meet your criteria for financial stability. And you may be right, but you may also be wrong.

After three decades in the seminary world, I’ve seen it both ways.

Sometimes a girl wants a pure, Torah home, but has no idea what that may entail financially. It never occurred to her that there will be things that she’ll want and can’t afford.

Other times a girl understands what she’s looking to get herself into, but her parents don’t appreciate it. She’s ready and willing to live on a lower standard than she grew up on. She’s spent a year with families who live that life and she knows she can do it. There’s no contradiction with her aspirations and reality, her parents just haven’t made peace with it.

But here’s the catch.

Whichever choice she makes is hers to make. She’s an adult now. Many parents simply don’t understand that. Even for the ones that do, it’s a very hard pill to swallow.

From the day she was born, she’s been absorbing your values. Now it’s time to step back and watch her fly. Believe me, she knows your values!

Hopefully you gave her some sort of budget for her time in seminary, and she saw that money is limited and she has to spend it wisely.

But what if her head is in the clouds, and she thinks she can live the kollel life while running a gan in her apartment and still order takeout and have a cleaning lady, or she thinks she will be perfectly happy living in a one-room apartment and eating only bread and hummus all week even though right now she refuses to eat Shabbos leftovers as of Motzaei Shabbos? What can you do?

For starters, DON’T set her up in shidduchim! If your daughter doesn’t have enough life experience to be remotely realistic — give her time. Getting married while she’s in la-la land will likely lead to disaster.

Whether she’s in school or working, make sure there are things she has to buy with her own money.

The time has long passed to order her around and tell her what she’s doing, but you can try to open her eyes a bit. Not with orders and instructions — but with open questions, where you really hear her answers.

Time is the best teacher. If you really think the idealism she’s bringing into your home is beautiful, see where you can incorporate it in your own life. But don’t protect her from the consequences of her own actions.

—Penina Steinbruch


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 849)

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