May 7, 2010

"She is in the tent"

I heard a recent shiur from Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein (of Ohr Naava) which he gave to young men at Ohr Yitzchok.  Among other things, he spoke about the angels asking Avrohom where Sarah is and Avrohom responded, "She is in the tent," i.e. she is modest.

R' Wallerstein took the opportunity to say a most unpopular view, acknowledging that he could not say this in a talk to girls or he'd lose 80% of them.  He said that what he has to say is the truth though people don't want to acknowledge it and a rabbi saying it will be seen as hopelessly out-of-touch with today's reality.  What he said is:

Women belong in the tent, in the home, taking care of their home and children.  Men are supposed to go out and provide for their families.  Men should get up early and learn before they daven and then go to work and learn again in the evening. 

Sarah was in the tent.  She didn't serve the guests because it wasn't modest for her to serve men.  Sarah did not have a career.  She wasn't a PT, OT, or speech therapist.

Too many of today's children are being put on the bus and taken off the bus by foreign help.  Having this help around the house when the husband is there leads to serious problems.

To many of today's kids are on Prozac, seeing therapists, sleeping till 4:00 in the afternoon.

Women today are embarrassed to say they are a housewife.

Boys in shidduchim who say they want to be supported for years and expect their wives to do it, who don't change their plans when their wives are pregnant, not feeling well, what is their learning worth?

All the foregoing are R' Wallerstein's remarks.  I give him lots of credit for saying the unpopular truth.  Is anybody listening?


  1. To me this is a complicated issue. I know a young woman who I ran into a few months ago after not seeing her for several years. She was expecting and had several children and was about to graduate from nursing school. She explained that since it was she who had some secular education from her day school years, rather than her husband who had none, it would be she who got the job training and it would be her supporting the family. Their rent in NY for the 3 bedrooms needed to house their family was in the range of $2000 a month. Her husband's paltry salary at whatever he tried to do, just wasn't enough. There was no one in the family who could help.
    Now I agree that it should be the husband, rather than the pregnant wife supporting the family but unfortunately our men are ill prepared for the real world and how to make money in it. Not only that, but our focus on materialism has made words like "economizing" and "frugality" extinct from our language. Our youth are used to comforts and feel entitled to whatever they want. Our communities expect a lot from our people in terms of hachnassis orchim, simchas, chinuch, tzedukah, expensive yomtovim, etc. Those things that others do in society to make ends meet are not popular in frum circles.
    Yes the kids sleep until 4pm because they are either up all night on facebook or they are busy finding themselves in those runaway centers for frum teens from bad homes.
    As far as what is the learning worth of a man who does not want to pull his weight financially when there are children on the way; our midos are under severe scrutiny now because frum behavior is now in the news. Maybe it is time to put the focus on what is really important.

  2. What would you respond to those who say that times have changed, and economic realities require two incomes?

  3. He (or I) might say, there is nothing that stands in the way of one's will. If parents are committed to the mother caring for their babies and young children, they will do it.

  4. The recent copy of Jewish Action Magazine from the OU (available online) had an article about the fact that while the rest of the country (the US) has cut back on purchases to accommodate the new economic reality, the frum world spends as if nothing has changed. In EY, poor people can stop using credit cards without risking their credit rating and live as poor people among other poor people. In America however, it is the "haves" vs the "have nots" and being frum and poor is more obvious and more painful. Most of us in America today have no way to distinguish between needs and wants. If chicken is a weekday meal, then what is special about Shabbos? In America, kosher chicken, which is very expensive, is served all week, even in large quantities. Many families would not try to stretch it or try to portion it out. In EY, the poor eat it in very small quantities on Shabbos only and eat more cheaply the rest of the week. Frum Jews in the US don't regard chicken as a luxury item but a large family on a single income, just might have to.

  5. The question is whether for a frum couple with children to have one modest income, the father's, is a matter of simply living more frugally or living under constant financial stress. If it's the latter, then although I agree that "there is nothing that stands in the way of one's will," this is simply a madreigah that "ein rov ha'tzibur yachol la'amod bah," and many women will go out to work of perceived necessity.