Wednesday, January 8, 2020

How I went from anti-kollel to being "a kollel wife"

This is a bit embarrassing. But I need to be honest. When I first heard of the concept of kollel (ie: that a man learns all day and the wife works a full time job to support), I was appalled and disgusted.
I was probably 15 or 16 at the time, and at the time, in my mind, an ideal wife/mother was one who stays at home with her children and not one who sends them all out or has a nanny with them all day. And an ideal father was a man who brings a respectable income and dedicates some time to learn, like an hour a day. Afterall, why not? He can be a perfectly good Jew who keeps the whole Shulchan Aruch and halacha and learns just an hour a day. Right? Only the truly geniuses who will be big Rabbis one day should be in kollel, and come on, how many of those geniuses exist?

As time passed, I became even more resentful towards kollel. I looked down at such couples. I just did not understand how women can leave their small babies and see them only at 5 pm, while the husband is enjoying his whole day learning.
Now, mind you all, this was extremely biased and critical of me.I did not even know of any kollel couples, except maybe a few couples from Shul - but I did not even know them! I did not know if the wife was working or how long she was working for. Here and there I saw some yeshivish people and just assumed they're all living a life of poverty life while the poor wife is just slaving away having baby after baby while doing all the cooking, cleaning, carpooling, and the husband is hanging out all day learning Torah and eating and drinking without bringing a dollar of income.
And anyway, doesn't Jewish law require the husband to support his wife and family? Isn't that Adam's curse?
And isn't that how all Jewish communities functioned for years??
And didn't David hamelech and Moshe Rabbenu and Rashi and Rambam work?
(Little did I know that Rambam was actually supported by his brother for years and went to work after his brother tragically passed away).

Gosh, it is embarrassing to admit how judgmental and bigoted I was. And this is all while dressing tzanua and attending Torah lectures for years.

Fast forward to age 18. I went off to a seminary with charedi teachers. On the first week of school, a teacher requested that we each write a letter to ourselves - of what we do and don't want to change about ourselves. So, I wrote this letter, handed it in, and received it back 10 months later - on the last day of seminary. Among my goals of what not to change were:
1. I will never marry a man who wants to learn in kollel.
2. I will never stop wearing denim skirts.

Now, nearly 12 years later, I realize that it was silly to include those things as part of my goals. But back then, it was very important to me to get married to someone who is working so that I can be home with my children, as I saw that as ideal.

In seminary, for the first time, I met dozens of kollel couples and saw their marriages and homes. I was stunned at the beauty. How gentle many of the husbands were, how helpful, how harmonious many of these marriages seemed.
I soon discovered that many of these couples were being supported by their parents. I had mixed feelings about that - on one hand, that's nice. The wife gets to be home most of the day to take care of the kids. But on the other hand, if this cycle continues to the next generation, and if their children will also be kollel couples, then how will the kollel parents support the kollel children?
I asked one young teacher about this, and she said that actually, many of these couples go back to the America after a few years and then the husband does start working.
"Hmmm" I thought to myself. "That does sound like a nice option. Short time kollel, so that the husband learns a lot of Torah, and then he goes out to the real world and brings in a nice income."

So I make a new rule to myself: my husband will learn for 1 year, while I work full time and support, but once we have a baby, I will stop working to be with baby and he will go work.

This plan might sound nice in theory, but seriously, so many things were lacking in that plan - what, the second I give birth, he will find a profession? And um, doesn't he need some kind of education before going into a profession? And if he currently has a profession while we're dating, he'll just quit and go to yeshiva?
It was pretty naive.

And as I turned 19 and entered the golden world of shidduchim and I would mention to shadchanim how I want a guy who keeps halacha 100% but also has a college degree and works... I felt almost stupid adding in "or someone who is in kollel just for one year"
well, getting set up wasn't an issue. But I started suspecting that maybe, just maybe this guy does not exist.
As one Rebbetzin told me "there aren't so many guys who work full time who are as dedicated to halacha as you want them to be."
And I did not get it. What? Why can't there be a guy who is a lawyer, doctor, dentist, psychologist, nurse, speech therapist, etc. while being fully shomer negia, fully keeping shemirat enayim, not watching any movies, not having any female friends, not having unfiltered internet, and go to minyan 3 times a day and learn at least 1-2 hours of Torah a day? And have a Rav...
(Now, I'm sure these kind of guys do exist. But I did not find them too many of them).
 Also, I wanted someone who had a college degree and valued secular education and wanted to move to Eretz Yisrael and did not want me to wear a wig...
plus he had to be attractive in my eyes and not be too much older than me and does not smoke or do drugs or get drunk...
A black hat on Shabbat would be nice. But not mandatory.
And he should know halacha and how to learn Gemara well...
as I once said to a group of friends who afterwards laughed at me:
"if I make a mistake in the kitchen, I want to ask my husband and he will know the halacha!"
Haha. Funny? I didn't laugh. I was serious.

This sounds like a long list. But all of this was important to me.
It was either this whole list or nothing. I did not want to compromise about one thing.

I remember one guy saying he has a TV. He does not want a TV but for now he has a TV. What? You have a TV?
I went crazy. I told the Rebbetzin how can you set me up with someone who has a TV?
She was appalled by my reaction and said something along the lines of "you want someone who keeps halacha but works. He says he does not want a TV after being married, but for now, what do you expect?"

It seemed that everyone was confused by me.

As I reached almost 21 and dated 20+ bachurim, I started realizing that what I'm looking is a kollel guy. But I was in denial. No, I can't support. I won't support! It's against the ketuba! It's against my values.

But I did daven a lot. And HaShem knows I was sincere. HaShem knew I wanted a holy home. HaShem knew I loved Torah and wanted a home with the Shechina in our home. I wanted to do the right thing, and this is what I thought the right thing was. I just had this kollel thing in my way.

So HaShem sent me someone who was able to turn me around.
At the time, my husband was in a baal teshuva yeshiva. But it was a modern yeshiva. He was not "black and white" but his hashkafah was very similar to mine. Torah was also everything to him.
But he planned to work after we got married.
And when I said - well, how about learning for another year? He was thrilled. Of course just one year!

Well, as the year was near passing, I started nudging, ok... how about work...
but my dear husband was really enjoying learning, and he was majorly growing, and I was majorly growing...
so we went to a Rav, who told us, if you want a home of Torah, you need to suffer a bit.
He told me about his daughter, who is a kollel wife for many years, and they struggle to put food on the table. But she is like Rachel, Rabbi Akiva's wife.
I could not accept this.
I cried.
But I kept davening that HaShem should help us have a parnassah so that my husband can keep learning.
And HaShem helped my husband not give up even one of his kollel sedarim while opening a business and while I worked part time from home, not negotiating on my value of leaving my baby alone with a nanny.

How I came to value kollel was a gradual process. It was only as time passed that I saw how much goodness the learning was bringing into our home, into our marriage, into our middot.
And that goodness was worth more than any salary.

I watched the siyum hashas haolami that took place in NY last week and really appreciated how they dedicated a section to the wives. When one of the men said something along the lines that "it gives me so much joy that when my daughter asks - mommy, where is daddy going? My wife responds 'daddy is going to learn." - that made me cry. With joy. With gratitude. That when my kids ask "where is Abba?" I say "Abba lomed." (Daddy is learning)
That is a zchut. There is no greater answer I wish to respond to them.

Kollel has brought much goodness that when my husband was offered a job that pays A LOT but would mean him learning just a few hours a day - I said no way.
If I was told this 11 years ago, I would never believe it.
I never dreamed that it would be possible to be at home and have my husband learning.

This has taught me the importance of giving HaShem my heart and relying on His never ending love, patience, and guidance to direct me. Anything is possible for Him. The question is only when are you willing to give him your heart?

G-d wants your heart

There's a line from the Gemara (Sanhedrin 106b) that often is on my mind - "Rachamana liba ba'i" - which translates to: G-d wants your heart.

Be sincere in your avodat HaShem. Show G-d your heart. Spill out your heart in tefillot, and even if you're confused, as long as you are sincere and ask G-d for help from the depth of your heart, G-d will direct you to right path.

I feel that this is very much my life story so far.

I starting becoming frum at the age of 13. I really had no idea what it REALLY means to be frum. I just knew Torah is emet and I want to keep the emet.

But I had so, so many confusions along the way. Being in a reform day school, a conservative high school for 9th grade, a modern orthodox high school, all while attending a sefardi Beit Knesset and shiurim by yeshivish Rabbis and then later on attending 2 different charedi seminaries can do that to a person.

I can say only one thing was consistent about me the whole way: I genuinely wanted to know what the right path is.
It took a lot of mistakes and confusion and frustation but BH I feel that I have arrived at the destination. I have a lot to work on, but I at least know what my ideal is. What I should be striving towards.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


Everyone has certain powers. And I mean real superhero powers.

But each individual has a choice: will I use my power for good or for bad?

That's why midda literally means "measure." In what measure will you use your qualities? Will you use your personality to enlighten this world or to darken this world?

Everyone has a different neshama. We're all different, yet, our neshamot are yearning for the same thing: emet. What is emet? HaShem. Torah. Olam Haba.
And only after a person is connected to the emet, to HaShem, to Torah... will he achieve true happiness.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Why did I do teshuva?

I had a meeting with an interior designer in an office in Israel. A relative of mine was present, and this relative did not look so frum.
The manager came into the meeting at some point and smiled at me and asked "when did you lachzor b'teshuva?"
I was a bit taken aback by the question. How does he know I am a baalat teshuva?
Here I was, in 90+ degree weather with long sleeves, a long skirt, socks, and a head scarf. Am I such a flaming baal teshuva just because I am sitting next to someone who is not dressed charedi?
In any case, I politely answered "almost 15 years ago."

He continued smiling and asked "and WHY did you lachzor b'teshuva?"

I thought about it for a minute. There is my teshuva story, but that's actually not the answer. The answer is really very simple: because Torah is emet.

So I answered "because the Torah is Emet."

Then the man went on a long rant how some people are fanatic, some people dress charedi yet do bad things, and you can be in this world and in the world of Torah and work all day and just learn for an hour, so why not? and bla bla bla.
I did not understand what on earth his rant had to do with my answer.

But it made me realize - some things really are simple. We choose to make them more complex than they are.

Monday, July 2, 2018


A day after the fast of tammuz.

7 years ago, this was the day I met my husband.

Except, at the time, I did not know he was my husband-to-be. He was bachur #26 that I dated. I was not sure if I'll need to see bachur #27, bachur #28, or bachur #100 (though I sure hoped not). I felt like I was living a secret life that nobody, even the closest friends, knew about.

Prior to meeting him, it was a year of so many nisyonot. On the outside, I was a typical looking modern-yeshivish-sefardi (if that's even a proper label) BT learning at Touro College. Everything looked nice and peachy. But nobody except HaShem knew how difficult my life really was:
-My parents were divorced and not exactly fond of each other.
-My mother was ill. Nothing life threatening, thank G-d, but she did have some severe health issues.
-I was living at home alone with my mother. A not religious home. Home at the time was not a kosher place - I could not use the oven, the pots, the microwave, etc. though I did have my own pots and some of my own dishes. But of course it was not the most convenient situation.
For years I ate cereal or sandwiches as meals. Thank G-d, my parents were generous with giving me money (I did not work at the time) to buy food, so I ate take out food often.
Shabbat was at home, but there was TV in the background. Which of course, minimized the Shabbat feeling. If at home with my mother, I was the one making the kiddush and hamotzi. I would often stay in my room and learn Sefarim and with much emuna in my heart, hope that I will be out of this home soon and build my own holy home with my own frum husband and children. Many times that is how I would put myself to sleep - I would close my eyes and picture a faceless man in a suit holding a kiddush cup. A crib with a baby, girls with dresses and shells underneath, boys with suits and tzizit and small peyot.
Seuda shlishit, if not at shul, was done alone in my room...the only room where the light was untouched throughout Shabbat, and therefore, permissible for me to benefit from the light.
-Thank G-d my father was shomer Shabbat but lived 19 flights up the stairs, which was not always an easy or safe mission to do (for example, a man once saw me walking up the desolated stairs and tried to follow me. I ran for my life). I usually would go for at least one meal by him, but I also would feel guilty that if I was not home with my mother,she would not hear kiddush which is a mitzvah d'orita.
-On top of all the above issues of trying to balance a life of shalom and respecting my parents while still being a dedicated Baalat Teshuva and Eved HaShem and growing spiritually, I had a tense relationship with a few of my siblings - one of which is an active reform Jew and feminist and was disrespectful of my lifestyle. This sibling got married the month of my finals.
-This sibling's wedding was not pashut. The chuppa was done by a reform female rabbi, and my father was not invited to this wedding, and this of course caused him a lot of pain. The food was not kosher. I had to ask a Rabbi if I am even allowed to attend.
On top of that, I was completing my 2nd to last semester of college and had final exams and final papers waiting me that week, as well as two close friends weddings.

And of course, I was active in shidduchim. Seeing shadchanim, receiving offers, accepting offers, rejecting offers, etc.

I had an active social life - often going to shiurim and events and had many close friends. But there were things I just could not bring myself to share due to embarrassment or fear of pity. I never, ever wanted to be pitied.

I was drowning.

If it wasn't for the gift of emuna and tefillot and shiurim, I would not have survived those years, and that year in particular. G-d really helped me.

I completed finals in the end of may 2011. My sister's wedding was over.
I needed to flee.

Not to anywhere. But to Eretz Hakodesh. The Kotel - the only place I felt truly calm. I went nearly every day for 2 months and just enjoyed feeling close to Shechina. I poured out my heart. I did not want to go back to the US. I did not want to deal with my family. I did not want to be single anymore.

It was at that point that I met my husband.

Meeting your zivug is not the main thing. Because we met. And yes, he was nice. But we met. That's all. A relationship needed to be developed.
And once the relationship was in its growing stage...well, it was time to open up. It was time to be vulnerable and reveal the skeletons in my closet that nobody really knew about.

I still find it amazing how understanding he was. He was (and is) my savior, sent to me personally by Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

Now, 14 years into my "teshuva" and nearly 7 years into marriage, I realize what a bracha all those years of nisyonot were. How strong those nisyonot have made me, and how much spiritual energy they have given me.

I look at my 3 children around the Shabbat table - so similar to the fantasy I used to put myself to sleep on those lonely, difficult Shabbats...baruch HaShem! The baby in the crib. The boy with the suit and tzitzit and peyot. The girl with the shell and dress (and stockings - that was not part of the fantasy. I did not realize I would be haredi!)

Thank you G-d. Only You knew how possible it all really was, and only You made it happen.

I hope this can give chizzuk to all those who have baggage. Yes, you have baggage - but it is designer baggage. It might never leave you. But G-d willing, that baggage will only benefit you to be a better wife/husband, mother/father, and eved HaShem.
Keep pushing through, keep growing closer to HaShem and His holy mitzvot, and never give up.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Goyish music - what's so terrible??

I really enjoy music. I like to sing. I like to listen to acoustic, classical, rock, pop music, etc.
Music really helped me get through so many challenging, and often miserable, stages in my when I was a new baalat teshuva, sitting in my room all alone with nobody who understands me and many who were judging me.
Or when I was dating. Or experiencing a heartbreak...a issues...
music was always my comfort. It would help me calm down and help my soul elevate and heal.

I would listen to secular music but make sure that the lyrics were "kosher." And to be honest, that music helped me so many times to get through whatever it was that I was dealing with.
But after getting married, I stopped connecting with that music. I suddenly felt like it was coming from a wrong place. The romantic love songs were often so dirty or just...not about true love and felt foreign to me. I no longer sympathized with the break up songs. The rock songs suddenly became depressing and meaningless.

Now, every time I turn to music it's an Avraham Fried, Meydad Tasa, Itzik Eshel, Shwekey, etc. song and that is also the music that my children listen to. Hearing a song like "Ma Ashiv" by Mordechai ben David or "Ki Hirbeisa" by Avraham Fried or "K'ayal Taarog" by Shwekey can change around my whole day.
I have no idea how to explain it, but my mood and outlook towards music is so much more positive now. Every song I hear has positive vibes. Has productive lyrics. Has soul touching ability and elevates my emotions instead of bringing them down. Every song has a purpose, depth, and elements of holiness to it.
This is the kind of music I want resonating in my mind. In my home. In my relationships.

I recently heard a moving story:

Rabbi Wallerstein told the girls in his kiruv high school - let's do an experiment. People may think that secular dvds, music, movies, etc. doesn't negatively affect them because "I'm different."

So, he put on a popular rap song and asked everyone to close their eyes.
Then told them to write what they envision while listening to the music.
After 4 minutes of listening to this song, the papers read: hate, darkness, depression, anger, rage

Then he put on "Mama Rochel" and asked everyone to close their eyes again and listen to the music.
Then told them to write what they envision while listening to this song.
Their papers read: warmth, potential, love, HaShem, protection....

Rabbi Wallerstein's point of conducting this exercise was to show them that the music goes somewhere. It doesn't just go in one ear and out the other. It touches your soul, your mind, your thoughts, and impacts your mood.

Granted, not every secular song is a rap song or vulgar, but this story really made an impression on me.
It made me wonder - what kind of music do I want touching my soul?

So yeah. It's been 3 years since I've been exclusively listening to Jewish music, and I feel such a difference.
Thank G-d, being that I have a fulltime job as a wife & mother (and some other job for money ;)), I don't have as much time alone time as I previously did and can't listen to shiurim daily, go to Shul on Shabbatot, read as many books, etc. as I used to. I would assume that my relationship with HaShem and emuna would suffer because of that. And yet...I feel so much closer to HaShem and spiritually aware than before.
I really think it is somewhat due to surrounding myself in a home and environment that yearns for kedusha and eliminating the music I would listen to.

I'm not really sure what the purpose of this post was. Just thoughts/reminiscing/ideas and some introspection.
I hope to be able to listen to a aseret yemei teshuva related shiur this week & record it on this blog.

Wishing everyone a Shana Tova & Gmar Chatima Tova!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Chizzuk For Elul

I'm sure y'all have heard the phrase "live every day as if it's your last."
It's one of those played out, overly quoted lines that basically means live life to the fullest.
Now while "the fullest" can be defined in many different ways, according to Judaism, it means make the most out of your potential by doing as many mitzvot as possible and being as close to HaShem as possible.
Afterall, do we really know which day is our last day? We all hope to live until 80, 90, 120...
But who really knows? I'm sure everyone, unfortunately, can think of somebody who tragically died unexpectedly at a young age, in a weird incident, etc. (lo aleinu)

So I'd like to share with you a very moving email that shook my neshama and screamed "It's Elul! Do Teshuva!" It is from, which is a fantastic website that distributes daily Sephardic halacha to thousands of Jews around the world.

May we all be zochim to do full teshuva during this holy month of Elul and have a wonderful & productive year of 5775 (in Hebrew: Tash'aah. Tav - the last letter of the Hebrew Alphebet. And Shaa'ah means hour. So "last hour"...this year is hopefully the year of the geula. It's our last chance for teshuva, so yalla! :))

The First Lebanon War broke out in the year 5742 (1982). On Erev Rosh Hashanah of that year, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l delivered a powerful and uplifting speech which seems ever so appropriate for us after just having experienced a difficult period of time, i.e. Operation Protective Edge in which our soldiers battled courageously against terrorist elements in the Gaza Strip who brazenly threatened the lives of millions of Israeli citizens. Unfortunately, the Jewish nation sustained priceless losses of human life. Similarly, the Jewish people, especially the residents of Southern Israel and many innocent children, were made to live in terror fearing the worst and the unexpected at any moment. It is therefore an opportune time to share the words of Maran zt”l (with some additional insights) with our readers in order to infuse them with the strength and support necessary for the upcoming year.
“Many tragedies have befallen us this past year, especially regarding the First Lebanon War, a war resulting in much bloodshed in which over six hundred IDF forces were killed, among them many G-d-fearing individuals especially the forty Hesder Yeshiva students. This is besides the multitude of injured soldiers, many of whom will remain handicapped for the rest of their lives, some without hands, feet, or eyesight. All this is in addition to the many people killed in fatal car accidents throughout the course of the year, for not a day passes without a deadly car crash.
If we stop to think about this, all of these horrific incidents were decreed to befall us on Yom Kippur. If only we would be aware of the harsh Heavenly decrees hovering above our heads, we would certainly storm the gates of Heaven in prayer in order for the King of all kings to nullify these decrees and save us from our enemies.
Would all the individuals who are no longer with us have known that this would befall them this year, we can only imagine how much they would have awakened themselves to repent fully on Yom Kippur and to shed copious tears in order to nullify this harsh decree. Certainly, not only would they have acted accordingly, for the families of these individuals would likewise not rest until they succeeded in nullifying the harsh decree against their loved ones if they would only know what lay in store for them. However, Hashem’s secrets are not revealed to us.
Fortunate is the man who takes all of this into consideration ahead of Yom Kippur, for one who repents beforehand is forgiven. One should think that he is also numbered among those for whom this year will be their last and then pray, confess, and beg Hashem to grant us all a good and sweet new year.
Picture the following: One wakes up in the morning feeling healthy, invigorated, and full of smiles. The individual says goodbye to his family (not realizing that this will be his final farewell), gets in his car, and drives off to work contently in Tel Aviv or Haifa. Sometime along his journey, at a busy intersection, a truck speeds out of control, crosses the divider into the opposite lanes, and smashes head on with this individual’s car killing him instantly. Did this person realize that this would be his end? If he would have known that this was to be his end, he certainly would not even have left the doorway of his home and he would have locked the door with seven locks. However, this human being with eyes of flesh brought himself to his own death, as the Gemara (Sukkah 53a) states that one’s own feet carry one to his place of death.
On the other hand, if one has more of an intellectual outlook, one will understand and realize that we are all in harm’s way and the world is erupting all around us. Who knows what the next day will bring? We do not only do we require Heavenly mercy from a security standpoint; one requires Heavenly mercy and assistance in every aspect of life, including meriting to bring children into the world, raising and educating them, one’s livelihood, health, peace, tranquility, and the list goes on and on. Every individual must know that everything is in Hashem’s hands and what will befall a person throughout the course of the year is being decreed during these days. Any decree has the ability to be changed from one extreme to the other during this time through repentance, prayer, and charity. After the Days of Awe, this task becomes infinitely more difficult.
Fortunate is the individual who focuses on this idea and capitalizes on these awesome days by repenting fully, for Hashem shall accept and heal him.” (See Ma’or Yisrael-Derashot, page 4)