Wednesday, February 25, 2015


I have seen some talk lately putting down the lifestyle of baalei batim as a second-best choice to full-time Torah learners. Usually this talk comes from a more right-wing people, the ones who have someone else (or expect someone else) to cover their expenses while the husband sits down and learns full time. These people feel very uncomfortable when later on life they are forced to leave the cocoon of the kollel and face the realities of the world. Their wives feel that the sacrifices they make to assure full-time Torah learning makes them partners in Torah, and they are assured Olam Haba based on how many hours their husband spends in learning. They feel fake and lost once this learning ends.

During my high school years, I have discussed this issue, and firmly resolved not to get married to a full-time learner. I believed in being married to someone who has a work ethic, and who views himself as a family provider, while still making time for learning and maintaining a frum lifestyle. Good thing I met my wonderful husband before hitting the shidduch circuit.

This past weekend we drove to another city for my husband's medical conference. He needs continuous medical education credits, and being homeschoolers with a pretty open schedule, we can all come along. The only caveat is, usually doctors fly to these conferences in ritzy places, stay in quite decent hotels, and have a mini-vacation while rubbing shoulders with other doctors and watching some Powerpoints. In our case, the conference was over Friday-Saturday, so that posed some issues from the beginning. My husband found out that the hotel where the conference was taking place was within a walking distance from a local Jewish community. He came up with a plan: stay with a local family for Shabbos, and he would walk to his lectures on Saturday. (He made similar arrangements before). Learning from our last year's experience, I know that not everyone is able to put up a family of six, so I was a bit skeptical. He called up the shul, talked to the rabbi, and even made a deal that whichever money would go towards hotel, he would either give to the family or donate to the shul. There are a few kosher establishments in the area, and a few tourist attractions, so I was sold.

When we got to our destination, there was a layer of ice and snow on the ground, something that we did not experience this year. It was also bitterly cold. The kids were eager to go out and play, until they realized how cold it is, and how slippery the ice is. I got worried: how is my husband going to walk in all this? We did pack warm clothes, but they are not proper northern gear, as we usually have no need for such things.

On Friday, I dropped him off in the morning. We agreed to meet in the Jewish student life center for lunch, down the block from his conference, where there was a supervised vegetarian cafe. He came in between his lectures, and wrestled our baby so I could get some food in. Then, he went back. There was more winter advisory weather predicted, and the city was going into lock down. I was worried about him getting back before Shabbos, but he took a bus back, and basically turned right around, took our two older boys, and went to shul for Friday night. It was snowing, and he was already out walking in this nasty weather, but this was a chance to daven with a minyan (and I needed a bit of break after wrestling with all the kids in an unfamiliar place all day). At the table, he made an effort to engage kids in parsha-related discussions, even though he was the only adult doing so.
The following morning we woke up to a freezing rain. I mournfully looked out the window: you will have to be walking for half an hour in this?! He just got up and davened, then he made kiddush so we would have at least a bit of a normal Shabbos family time, and then he offered to walk me over to shul (our hosts made it quite clear that the mom likes to have a quiet house on Shabbos morning while the kids are in shul, and that's where lunch was going to take place). I kept glancing at this freezing rain, at my poor kids who have to walk in it, and at my husband who will have a much longer walk than we do. I was glad that he walked us over, as the slushy ice made it hard to navigate with an umbrella stroller. Then my hubby turned around and marched to his conference, in the freezing rain.

The plan was for him to walk back over during lunch break, have lunch with us (if he got the timing right) and then go back to the conference. He had to submit his paperwork by the end of it to get credit for attendance, so he had to be there by 4 pm. He filled it all out beforehand and left it with a concierge (the hotel was outside the eruv, and the conference people are a bit picky about how they accept things). As this shul luncheon progressed quickly, I kept glancing out the door, hoping that my husband makes it back. I made a plate for him to take back, but without the hot options. As the hosts started to leave, I had no choice but to bundle up my kids and follow them. Just as we started trudging back, my husband returned, wet and cold. Without complaint, he helped navigate the same slush back to the house.

I offered him a meager shul lunch plate (bagels, cream cheese, tuna and egg salad). There was no lechem mishna, so he just washed on sliced bagel halves. He told me how the hotel people looked funny at him, coming in soaking wet, how passing buses splashed him with water, and how the conference secretary wondered aloud about provisions for such cases, like calling a taxi. Big0shot doctors are not supposed to be ding this! But he just shrugged his shoulders, finished his lunch, said mincha, and trudged back to the hotel. We agreed that I will try to pick him up when Shabbos is over. I joked ruefully how when we are home and he's on call, he has his cell on him, so I can call after Shabbos and reach him, but now that he was not on call, I cannot even get in touch. He smiled and said, don't worry.

As Shabbos ended,  he did call me from the front desk to be picked up. I was feeling how this was such a weird Shabbos, and so uncomfortable, both physically and spiritually. Yet, after we got kids into bed, I caught my husband sitting down to finish his shnei mikra.

Maybe he did not learn the whole day, maybe this was not a traditional shabbos, but whichever Torah he learned this Shabbos, despite the crazy circumstances, I will gladly accept as my ticket to Olam haba. I am proud to be married to someone who will no sacrifice either part of his identity for convenience's sake. And I am proud that this is the role model for my children.

1 comment:

  1. Димка умница, он всегда был такой. Удачи вам обоим.