Why is it that the Orthodox yeshivah system does not seem to place a high priority on secular education, especially for boys? Without a college degree or a solid secular education, how are these young men going to be able to support a family?
Rabbi Chaim Mintz responds:
Without a doubt the emphasis of our yeshivah system is on studying Torah, the lifeblood of the Jewish nation. Torah is both the purpose of the world, and the energy that keeps the world going. Without Torah being learned in the world — for even one moment — the world would cease to exist. That is why Torah study is our focus.
But this does not mean that we totally shun secular education, or disregard the responsibility of supporting a family. All elementary yeshivah schools, and even many yeshivah high schools, offer a full secular education in addition to Jewish education, and anyone who seeks a high school diploma can get one.
Many boys, however, have plans to become Torah scholars, such as rabbis or teachers in Jewish schools, and don’t see the need to pursue secular studies. They opt to use their time and energy learning Torah, allowing them to become better disseminators of Torah in the future. Many young men, recognizing the singular greatness of Torah study, choose to continue learning full-time even after their marriage, in kollelim, groups of married men who devote their entire day to Torah study.
To achieve this lofty goal, they choose to marry someone who shares these ideals and seeks a husband immersed in Torah study. Such a young woman of valor chooses to live a more spiritual life, starting off her marriage by supporting her husband’s mission of becoming a Torah scholar. These women are willing to give up on many of the amenities and conveniences that men employed in the workforce provide for their families.
G-d gives a special blessing to these families, helping them with their material needs. With the wife working, together with a stipend from the kollel, and at times financial help from the parents, they are able to make ends meet. We certainly don’t look down on these young men who are receiving financial support from outside sources. On the contrary, it should be considered a great honor and privilege to support them, and have a share in their Torah study.
After a number of years in kollel, and as their families grow, the husbands find positions as rabbis or teachers of Torah to support their families. And even those who are not cut out for the rabbinate or a teaching career can find other options of work that will not necessitate a college degree, such as business management, real estate, or computers. There are many courses available today, where after six months or a year one can become proficient in a certain area, and find a job in that field.
Even if one chooses to obtain a degree, there are many ways for one to do so online, without having to ever step foot into a college. Besides the loss of precious time from Torah study involved in going to college, today’s college campuses are not conducive to a Jew with Torah values, to say the least.
This question and answer session is taken from Oorah’s Ask the Rabbi book by Rabbi Chaim Mintz, published by ArtScroll.