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Monday, December 27, 2004

Don't talk to me about LIFE....

I seem to be spending alot of time driving back and forth from the West to the East sides lately. Aside from the flute, piano, and guitar lessons, and mishmar for my eighth grader, I'm also driving my HS son back and forth from the Yeshiva an average of twice a week. I'm beginning to understand what a Soccer Dad feels like.

This last trip my son actually spoke to me for a while. He asked me about Beis Medresh. Specifically, if he should go to Beis Medresh. This is a program for boys after they finish HS. They spend all day learning, and doing some teaching and community work. Then I guess they go on to some other Yeshiva or possibly College.

The concept is somewhat foreign to me. You wouldn't know it to look at me, but for a while there I was actually...goal-oriented. I knew by 9th grade that I wanted to be a doctor, and by 11th that I wanted to major in engineering too. I had the next 10 years planned out. Skip senior year of HS and go early admissions to College. Then dual-major capped with two more years at Columbia for Engineering, followed by 4 years in Medical School. Then internship, residency, fellowship....

The notion of dreying around for a few years in Beis Medresh and then seeing what happens is something I have trouble relating to. Not that my plan was so hot. It went along for a while until it was partially derailed by two things: Rock 'n Roll, and girls. But I did make it most of the way through (after sitting in Mechanical Engineering classes and thinking "what am I doing here," I ditched the second major). I do understand the value in keeping an open mind. Far too many people end up on paths taking them in the wrong direction. But at least they're going somewhere.

So on our long drive I planted a few seeds in his head. What does he want to do with his life? Where does he see himself in 10 years? Wife? Kids? How does he want to support himself? That last point was very important. I want him to understand that he has to make his own living.

Maybe he's cut out to be a Rabbi, or a Yeshiva Rebbe. That's really the focus of the school. If that's his destiny, and if he's good at it, I'm all for it. But he will have to provide support for himself and his family. No handouts from me, and no shnorring. If he can figure out a way to make it work, gezunter heit. If not, he needs Plan B.

I don't expect a 15 year old to have answers for any of this. But he has to understand that he eventually will need those answers. As for Beis Medresh...I told him it's up to him. If that's what he wants, and he sees it as a step on a greater path, I'm fine with that. But I made it clear that he has options.


Bronco Buddha said...

I know people who learn full time and I have lots of friends who say they would never want their kids to do that. I certainly understand your desire (and/or need)to have your son be able to support himself.

My question is this: If your child told you he wanted to get a doctorate in Far Eastern Meditation and Philosophy (or some other such major not known for leading to high paying careers in law, medicine or Wall Street) and when he finished, he decided to get another degree in an equally useful discipline, how would you react?

I have friends who would appreciate their kids doing research and postdoctorate secular educational advancement, and would probably be willing to give those kids a few bucks to help out when necessary. They would probably take great pride in telling their friends and colleagues about the different awards and degrees their overachieving kids have earned. But those same people would hide under a table if their kids were instead learning in kollel. That strikes me as not only hypocritical, but as putting secular education ahead of Judaic education.

Just my 2 cents...

PsychoToddler said...

If he told me he wanted to get some bizarre nonpractical degree, or go into the arts, or retreat to a cave and chant for a few years, I wouldn't be thrilled, but I'd tell him it's his choice.

Just so he understands that it's on his dime, not mine. I don't think Kollel is a bad way to go; I learn in our Kollel and am friendly with all the Kollel rebbes. But I don't think it's for everyone, and my problem with the current state of Yeshiva education is the "one size fits all" mentality, that everyone should go to Beis Medresh and then get married and join a Kollel. And have Mom and Dad pay the bills.

If he's particularly gifted at learning (he may actually be) or teaching and decides that smicha is the way to go, that's fine. I have two brothers-in-law who went the same route, and are stars in the Chofetz Chaim world. But if you don't fit that mold, they don't provide much direction, other than "yes, some of our students do go to college." So I need to fill that gap a little.