Advice For a BT Returning From Israel

OK, here’s the situation. How would you advise?

A young man 24-25 just returned to the US from two years study in a BT yeshiva. He’s flying spiritually. But it’s time to get serious about the next stage in life. He wants to get married –- his yetzer hara won’t leave him alone — and raise a frum family.
However, he:

a) is going to law school and has at least three years of schooling ahead of him before even thinking about making a penny.

b) is going to be a psychologist (5 years schooling) or doctor (5+ years).

c) he isn’t exactly sure what he wants to do, but is bright and has good grades and a degree from a good school to prove it.

How do you advise in each case? Does he go out? If not, how does he deal with Mr. Yetzer? How much information about the realities of frum living – e.g. like those on the Financial Realities thread – do you tell him about?

How does your advice change, if at all, if his circumstances change – if he is 27-28? 30-32? 32+?

How does your advice change, if at all, if we replace “him” with “her,” i.e. it’s a young woman just returning from Israel?

61 comments on “Advice For a BT Returning From Israel

  1. havent read all the posts, but I can relate to the issue. I left a BT Yeshiva in Israel to come back and go to law school in america. I moved to New York and started my new life in a new city. In a lot of ways thats when you realize who you really are. It was a hard adjustment in a lot of ways. I left the friendly confines of yeshiva where everyone has similar goals and values, for the liberal ideals of law school. In addition, I didnt really have a chevra like I did back in yeshiva. I was doing everything more or less on my own. Sure I knew frum people, but I was fresh out of yeshiva and they werent as inspired as I was
    I started really dating about 6 months after getting back to America. I think I needed to wait 6 months so that I could be grounded in my hashkafa. My biggest regret is that none of the rabbis really talked to me or tried to convince me to stay and learn for another year. I think I would have gained a lot out of it. Occasionally I tell people I want to go back and learn for a year and most frum people think its not realistic. Soon Ill have an advanced degree and more earning potential, but at the same time my skills in learning arent so refined. The best advice I could give someone coming back from yeshiva is 1. find a good place to live. 2. Find at least one family you admire, and spend time with them. Go there for shabbas and observe their lifestyle. 3. If you can do it before you leave, find a learning program. Unfortunately, that was next to impossible for me when I came back to New York. Every program was either too introductory, or for people with more background. I still see it as a huge gap. I didnt find any shiurim specifically for people who had spent little time in yeshiva.

  2. Gershon Seif , thanks for the accolade … i’ve finally found my niche in life – summing stuff up…… actual solutions will eventually follow by default ….. – your idea of a BT yeshiva with the intended objective being a general structure and support system is awesome .

    Yaakov Astor , totally agree with you on the importance factor .Without some sort of general structure system ,its hard to maintain any sort of focus /discipline/ proper perspective/ inner equilibrium and internal emotional check system .The marry when lucky in love and subsequent temporary hiatus on the birthing children for a bit could work nicely .As could the BT yeshiva proposed by Gershon Seif as a general structure system with a network to fall back on when in need .

    Rabbi Schwartz , regarding the pointed abscence of an actual opinion on the “obvious imbroglio of trying to balance bitachon and hishtadlus” 1) imbroglio is one awesome word, did you have any say on as to what made it into the 2006 webster merriam thesaurus or dictionary 2) i know u left out ure opinion but that is one complicated topic bitachon versus hishtadlus its right up there with free will versus destiny . Interesting OTC remedies on channeling the energies.

  3. There could really be a lot of benefits to such an approach that might not be immediately obvious. Becoming from is a very major life adjustment (for many) and becomming a parent is another one (particularly for the mother). Let them settle into one change a bit, before embarking on another. I like it.

  4. Yakov, I know of one Rav here in Chicago, who often gives guidance to a kiruv type Bais Medrash I am a part of (evenings and weekends). On a case by case basis he has indeed given such a psak. He’s a respected Rov in town. I’m sure if you asked others you’d get a different psak. But it’s not as unheard of an idea as you might think. On one occasion I was involved in asking the question and he deliberated between a one year or two year delay. After just a brief deliberation he set it at 2 years.

    BTW, that young couple is currently happily married, earning a nice living, and now have a beautiful child!

  5. It is an interesting idea that deserves consideration. Yakov, maybe you could bring it up with a big posek and tell us what they say. If the question is presented as a choice between not marrying for another few years, or marrying and waiting to have children, it might go over better with a rav.

  6. I think Jaded Topaz’ point is important. And it’s basically this: Theoretically, all this is nice but for numerous people there are no good practical alternatives. These people are in the middle, suspended between two worlds. They are not necessarily in a structured yeshiva environment or even in a community with an infrastructure for singles and those not-yet-ready-for-prime-time.

    I think our theoretical BT returning from Israel is in danger of falling into that category and staying there until it does a lot of damage. He’s got a long rode ahead if he wants to become a professional, and certainly if he still wants to work out who he will be “when he grows up.” Yet, his yetzer is pushing him. Before becoming BT it didn’t matter so much if it pushed. Now, though, he (or she, of course) wants to be good, wants to do what the Torah says. But it’s a constant bombardment and the choices are not clear cut.

    If you quickly find some you really really like (and who really really likes you) you are a lucky person. Marry them and deal with the consequences afterward (while seeking good advice about balancing career and family).

    If, however, you don’t, the choices are not easy. Many people then fall into a cycle of unsuccessful dating and despair. They encounter the clash between the ideals they absorbed in yeshiva and the realities of work and love in America. Many roll with the punches and eventually find the right person. Others don’t find it so quickly. They begin to question the ideals. They may weaken their observance or fall out altogether. Yet others do marry, but perhaps under pressure and maybe unsure it was the right decision. In all scenarios something is lost, something is off.

    I want to suggest a solution that may be controversal, but may nevertheless be the best given all the alternatives. You date as soon as possible (if you feel you are ready, of course, i.e. in the right time for the right reasons); you meet the right person; you are both upfront about finishing your schooling; you marry frum, stay close to a rav and community — and, IF NEED BE, you delay having children… a year? two years? more?

    Of course, if you can go to school and have/raise children like the person above, then you truly have the best of all worlds. But you may not be ready for children right away. Yet, you are ready for a relationship (confirmed in part by your yetzer pushing you); you are going to school, you want to eventually have children and, of course, raise them in Torah. What I’m saying is BTs like our theoretical one above might want to talk to their Rav about possibly delaying children while they establish themselves professionally and in terms of a niche in a frum community.

    Note: this is not a psak, just food for thought.

  7. Michoel, it seems obvious to me that the Rambam understood the various maamarei chazal as I explained them. Perhaps you can say another pshat by looking at that gemara in and of themselves, but it’s going to be the Ramabam’s take.

    Anyhow, if you want to continue this part of the discussion offline, no problem. I don’t think this is a bais medrash, and I think we’re getting a bit off course.

    gershonseif@yahoo.com

  8. Hey, who needs money? We could just take out loans! Maybe we could get SephardiLady to take out an extra mortgage on her home to help us out!

    ROFLOL!!! Let’s see, you’d be lucky to get $100,000 in equity out of my “home.”

    Better find real g’virs.

  9. I’m not convinced. The Torah already says p’ru u’rvu. The various maaraei chazal are coming to add something.

  10. While parnosa and finding one’s bashert are up to Hashem (not voicing an opinion about the obvious imbroglio of trying to balance Bitachon and hishtadlus), dealing with the Yetzer is up to us in a much more sovereign way. We cannot control the variety of tests that Providence subjects us to nor the nature/nurture/environmental factors that make them so personally challenging. However, we are expected to deal with them.

    A Godol once quipped that the kavannah of a bochur of marriageable age during the Yomoim Noraim is “U’Vchain..SHIDDUCH ..Tain ..SHIDDUCH ..Pachdecho..SHIDDUCH ..” While being focused on Shiduchim is essential it is usually unhealthy to obsess over them. While obssesing, the disappointment and emotional peaks and valleys that result from those Shiduchim that don’t culminate in marriage only add fat to the Yetzer Hora’s fire.

    IMO one generic stratagem that most across the board will find helpful is to keep extremely busy. While med students and, to a slightly lesser degree, law students have their hands full, some grad students don’t. Get a part time job, if you feel that such a commitment will interfere with the free flow of dating volunteer for worthy causes. The Kotsker Rebbe said “I don’t want my Chasidim to be to frum to sin… I want them to be too busy to sin”.

    Best of all if one is in a community where it is feasible keep steady s’dorim and horova in lernin=learn with passion, depth and energy. As the Rambam writes (Isurei Biah 22:21) [As a means to confronting, subjugating and sublimating the libidinous Yetzer Hora] Greater than all the previously described strategies (Including marriage!) they (Chazal) said/taught let him direct himself and his thoughts to Divrei Torah and expand his consciousness with wisdom. For licentious thoughts do not overpower other [thoughts] except in a heart/mind devoid of wisdom. Whereas regarding wisdom[Torah] it says [metaphorically](Mishlei 5;19) “ A beloved doe inspiring favor….you will always be intoxicated with her love”

  11. Michoel, look at the Rambam I cited. The primary reason to get married is pru u’rvu. Then he says is you’re learning, since you’re already involved in a mitzvah, you may delay the mitzvah of pru u’rvu. Only then does he bring up the yetzer hora issue and says that delaying is only permissible if there is no yetzer hora issue.

    I understand the Rambam to be saying that the yetzer hora point is a side issue that needs to be reckoned with but it’s not the primary reason for mariage.

    So it would seem to me that if we have a mature guy back from Israel who can stay focused on his studies and be a part of a frum community as he gets closer to becoming a professional, it might be a solid option. And, sorry to repeat myself but, it might be much wiser than rushing him into marriage and being miserable later on.

    I know, I know, we gotta keep him frum…. but I’ve seen too much misery, decades later, as a result of that sort of thinking…

  12. Michoel,

    While all your qualifiers regarding the appropriate age are valid, I think it is clear from the gemmarra that Gershon mentioned that dealing with “sin” is, in fact, a reason to get married earlier rather than later. No?

    No, not necessarily. It’s a reason to get married in the right time, and not delay it beyond that time. Or it’s a reason to get married, and not stay celibate like other theological movements, including Jewish ones like the Essenes. Don’t think just because you’re so holy you are not also a human being who needs to get married.

  13. Yakov,
    While all your qualifiers regarding the appropriate age are valid, I think it is clear from the gemmarra that Gershon mentioned that dealing with “sin” is, in fact, a reason to get married earlier rather than later. No?

    Gershon, I would like to start the yeshiva with you. I’ll begin to look for a house for you here in Baltimore. Why don’t you get started with the fundraising. Let me know when you have about $500,000 together. :-))

  14. David- Good one!! Well I am a fundraiser by profession – but I was looking forward to becoming the Rosh Yeshiva! :-)

    Yakov, I agree with everything you just wrote. Even non BTs do not encourage their 17 year old kids to get married. Obviously there are socio-economic differences between the time of the gemara and now. I only brought up that gemara and rambam to clarify the facts. I was trying to strike a balance between giving good healthy advice for BTs and also being straight about what the sources say. It irks me when I hear people offering advice that sounds like it was straight from shulchan aruch without consulting the famous “fifth section” of shulchanaruch (reading between the lines – applying the halacha to context). But it also irks me when I hear advice that sounds very solid and yet at least at face value seems to ignore Torah sources.

  15. Gerson,

    First, I’m am familiar with that Gemara. It’s one of the first ones I learned in depth with my primary rebbe.

    I think it is important to interject in response to your post that people have told me that it is not abosolutely certain the years referred to in this Gemara were meant literally, i.e. chronologically. In other words, maturity has a cultural component and an 18-24 in that culture might be older in ours.

    Furthermore, I think this Gemara generally does not apply to most BTs, who not only begin learning late but since they have often been over-exposed to YH-eliciting lifestyles well before coming to yeshiva they are already past the point referred to in the Gemara (I’ll get more into this below).

    This, too, then is just another example of how and why one needs a real Rav, non just a middle-echelon Rabbi that knows the texts, but someone with big shoulders and a lot of experience (and a lot of success).

    The fact that the Rambam seems to temper the Gemara with “a husband must love his wife as he loves himself” and other qualifications for marriage further demonstrates how a real Rav looks at the above Gemara in the context of other Gemaras. In other words, from a cursory reading of the Gemara one could conclude that one should get married just to quell the YH. Based on other sources, obviously understood by the Rambam, that is a false conclusion. One has to understand this Gemara in the context of others. Taken in the greater context it renders a pshat along the lines of your last paragraph and my post above: namely, marry the right person for the right reasons and let the YH be taken care of as a consequence. Don’t just say, She’s a woman; I’m a man — I can get rid of my YH and go back to learning in peace.

    If so, why, then, do the Chachamim in the Gemara advocate certain ages of marriage to quell the YH? Why not just say: Marry right and let the YH be taken care of in that way whenever that is, no matter what age?

    It seems to me the Gemara is trying to create a balance. It’s addressing young men who are deeply into learning, who (unlike most BTs) may not yet in life have had over-exposure to yetzer-eliciting situations, and who might just say to themselves: I can do this without marrying any time soon. Sitting here in yeshiva I have no real yetzer issues, and I don’t think I ever will.

    No, say the Chachamim. Don’t underestimate the yetzer. It’s there even if you don’t recognize it, even if you are so immersed in learning that you don’t feel it. And if you don’t deal with it in the proper time, there comes a point of no return. Therefore, at age x,y or z, lift your head from the Gemara and seek a wife, the right wife, your bashert. Don’t assume you can go on and on and on without her.

    (Note: in the times of the Gemara there were influential Jewish and non-Jewish groups that advocated celibacy, from the Essenes to the Christians; this Gemara, then, might be an indirect counter to the claims of such groups.)

    To me, this Gemara can be problematic when it is applied to the majority of BTs, who may already anyway be well in the grips of their yetzer by the time they just first begin learning in yeshiva. As I think Gershon said above they have to be gentle with themselves in this area. Realize they are not going to turn into the Arizal overnight just because they are very inspired. Quelling the yetzer is certainly a motivation. But NOT at the expense of being sensible, which means marrying the right person for the right reasons at the right time, when you are truly ready. For a BT that may be well beyond 24. BTs have to be view the age limits given in the Gemara differently.

    This, of course, is only my opinion. Please consult with your Rav for your particular situation.

  16. Yaakov Astor wrote “Marrying to quell the yetzer hara is the WRONG reason to get married, IMO.”

    Gershon has already had his quibble/clarification but I’d be interested in hearing your opinion; what is/are the RIGHT reasons to get married?

    A generation ago yeshiva bochrim pursued marriage in a way that was a strange fusion of antebellum southern gentleman courtship and shtetl-esque pre-arranged sight (nearly) unseen shiduchim. Today owing to the general rightward drift of the entire gamut of Orthodox communities there seems to be a lot more Square town and a lot less “Gone with the Wind” in Yeshiva dating. Still I think most BTs are still in the previous-generation mode. It makes motivations and goals more ambiguous and may be another cultural divide in the Interdating of BTs and FFBs well documented in many previous threads.

  17. Jaded,

    You’ve summed up the problem very well. I don’t think we have a solid enough solution and I guess that’s why there’s a blog like this in the first place. I there weren’t problem, people wouldn’t need to talk things out over here.

    Wouldn’t it be great if there was a BT yeshiva where after you study there for a while, perhaps a year or two, the next step would be staying on campus with guidance from rebbeim but continuing schooling outside the yeshiva? The yeshiva would serve as a kosher environment with good guidance and having a large group of like-minded friends around would be a great support system.

    Hey, I like it! Anyone want to start a new yeshiva with me?

  18. My main reaction to the original question and the feedback was this: Life very, very rarely works out the way we plan it to. Realistically, what are the chances that this hypothetical young man will finish school and find a high-paying job in his field, and then marry the right woman and start a family right when he wants to? He shouldn’t plan for everything to go perfectly. Yes, marrying right away can lead to financial difficulties, but pushing off marriage can lead to difficulties in finding a partner. It’s all a question of what’s most important, and therefore, what you should least be risking.

    Personally, my husband and I are going to spend a while paying back loans because we started marriage as students. However, I certainly do not envy my friends who have the opposite situation–a good job but no husband, or a job and husband but no children. I am very glad that we both decided to put family first. Even if I would have met and married the exact same wonderful person after finishing school, we would have missed some great years together, and possibly some beautiful children as well. Don’t look only at the hard side of marrying earlier, look also at the downside of waiting.

    Basically, I would tell this young man to think very carefully about his priorities. Which is more important to him, the degree or the frum family? Whichever he chooses, he should go for it now, and not push things off, because the future holds no guarantees. If he decides to date while in school/ while establishing a career, he should explain his situation to his shadchan/whoever, and only date women who are willing to work while he’s in school and support the family until he can. Before they get too serious, they should discuss how they would deal with the financial situation, potentially having kids, etc. If you have a good game plan and stick to it, married student life is really not that hard. (Better than single student life, IMO). And as has been pointed out, a BT who starts dating immediately will almost definitely not be married with a child for at least a couple of years. Really, I think the best solution for almost anyone in that situation (provided that they are religiously and emotionally stable) would be to start dating.

  19. Michoel,

    Yes. Whoops – I left a key word out of my previous post – should have read “that the yetzer is NOT just a trigger..” ie I agree a person needs to make an honest valuation but also needs to understand how he can achieve shleimus (ie not just understanding Gemoro Rashi Tosfos).

    I got the gist from some of the posts that postponing the idea of marriage until after exams will help with the finances. OK, this may appear a good move al derech teva but how many people end up getting married many years after their exams not as originally intended as a result. At the very least I think a lot of older BTs need to be convinced that they need to get some etza on their situation rather than just make their own cheshbon which may be what “society” would agree with but not what Daas Torah would say.

  20. Yakov,
    I would say it like this:
    The impetus to BEGIN DATING should come from an honest evauation of a person’s entire state of being. An inability to deal healthfully with natural urges is definitely a large part of the cheshbon. The decision to marry this specific person should not be fueled PRIMARILY by the yetzer.

  21. Why is the sometimes trite, many times stale often times awesome and many a time perfect (basically 50/50 on the reviews ) packaged and repackaged concept of marriage, marketed as the panacea for all ills .From poor impulse control to high energy drives to a quick fix on the ever popular looking to belong somewhere quest .Contrary to popular belief marriage albeit the obvious life objective is not always the correct short term medication obviously its more of a longterm thing sometimes in order for a longterm medication to work properly gotta prep with short term meds first and tweaking the dosage here wont be of much use.

    Say you change the scenario forget about Israel, pick any origin from Truth or Consequence, New Mexico to Bangor, Maine to Kisseemee, Florida or Neversink New York. you’ve got an individual be it male or female ,school or working – makes a serious spiritual decision and experiences that re-awakening and engages in a constant concerted effort to be good and disciplined. do away with all questionable activities that have been the bread and butter of his/her emotional existence .in addition to trying hard (but not really wanting to give that up ) and spending less time with friends (shouldnt really have to ) that have interests that sometimes conflict with newly acquired somewhat fickle beliefs . its gets really tricky keeping those beliefs and finding new kosher hangouts and places to belong . unless you’re in new york city. but my basic point is that the check system in general with transition period is not usually the greatest unless you have some sort of rabbi to fall back on .but rabbis have a life too i guess.

    Other than marriage it’s not that simple integrating into a community in general . everyone wants to belong somewhere the question is how you go about doin it and options and chances keep getting more convaluted slimmer and fewer depending on demographics . But with the transistion period and letting go of an existing perfect comfortable supposedly happy go lucky belonging in the literal and figuretive sense (skip the intense inbetween learning) it’s exceedingly difficult to start over again figuretively with the brand new blackberry or treo with few contacts or way less contacts than before or less exciting more serious contacts …. . ok given, the new features and the better color is awesome but the trick is to learn how to use the new features as quickly as possible in addition to integrating some of your old contacts less the negative baggage though .its smart to have friends with similar figuretive blackberry and treo models on the local level or just regular old fashioned handheld devices ie phones and even way better that they have the same service .

    but obviously gotta keep an open mind and not paint yourself into a narrowminded cingular only corner with no verizon or t-mobile friends.basically the trick is finding a community to call home somewhere to really belong on a giving and receiving level “blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting ” whether your married /single/ in college part time/ full time / or graduate school / working or beach bumming .Also a spiritual sponsor/buddy would probally be the best check system to ensure that the tripping and falling is minimal and not permanent and it definitely helps with the focusing and the proper perspective reminding and facilitating especially during actual transistion when 50/50 is the name of the game . and everything seems to be trying to get your attention at the same time …..

  22. Gershon,

    Thank you for that important point which I didnt mean to ignore. Maybe this is what I would add: a guy who wants to push off marriage because of exams or training but is motivated in learning and personal growth AND who lives in a kehilla with a yeshiva or kollel may be able to have an adequate tavlin for his Yetzer.

    But if any of the above isnt true, then I think there is a danger that by putting off going on shidduchim just like lhavdil the rest of the world is frightened of marriage, he is at not just at prey to the Yetzer but is in danger of getting off the path to shleimus that he has just begun on.

    What I am getting at is that the Yetzer is just a trigger for marriage and the mitzva of pruv rvu but it ultimately helps us to fulfil our tachlis in this world bichlal of “it’s not good for a man to be alone” in a way that a bochur could never achieve (Rav Dessler – Kuntres Hachessed). Enough of my ideas, back to the Rav Miller tapes! May we be zoche to see many more BTs in our lifetime and the marriage issues getting easier to solve!!

  23. Yaakov, the truth is there is a gemara in kiddushin (29b-30a) that states that if a person isn’t married by the age of 20 he will have thoughts of sin for the rest of hs life. It then mentions cases of those who married even earlier than that.

    The Rambam in Hilchos Ishus Chapter 15:2 mentions that one should marry young in order to fulfil the mitzva of being fruitful and multiply (and says the optimum age for marriage for a guy is 17!!- but he’s not commiting an aveira if he waits until 20) but adds that if a person is involved in learning Torah and is concerned that after marriage he will be too involved in earning an income to learn at the maximum level, he may delay marriage (because he is already invloved in one mitzva and therefore he’s exempt from the other)>>> on the condition that his yetzer hora doesn’t get the best of him. If that would be the case, he shouldn’t wait on seeking out a wife.

    So yes, the yetzer hora factor is a real one in halacha. Here you’ve got a budding Torah scholar who is being told to seek out a wife because he’s thinking about women.

    But for those worried about the implications for marriage from this, please remember another Rambam later on in that same chapter (halacha 19) where he instructs a husband to love his wife as he loves himself and to honor her more than he cares for his own honor. If all she was to him was a way of dealing with his yetzer hora, woe unto such a marriage. There would be no honor to her and it would unfair and painful to his wife to live in such a marriage.

    So after all is said and done, he better be marrying someone he respects and sees as a life partner.

  24. I want to throw out something that at first may sound funny. Marrying to quell the yetzer hara is the WRONG reason to get married, IMO.

    Marriage should be for all the right reasons — you really like the person, find them attractive (in all senses of the word), have common values, etc. If you do that the YH will take care of itself (at least as much as that is possible).

    If, on the other hand, you marry because your YH is pushing you and you think by marrying this person you will quell it you are possibly setting yourself up for disaster, IMO.

    This may sound obvious, but based on some of the above posts I thought it needed to be articulated clearly.

  25. Great posts so far. Of course I happen to be in the exact same position described in the original post. I’ve been working while living at home (Baruch H’ my parents have made some adjustments for me), and am planning for a year at Ohr Someach in Monsey, then law school. But we’ll see what H’ has in store…

  26. Gershon-I will work on some of my ideas and put forth some observations later.

    Chava-You are certainly correct that grad school, marriage, and children are possible for some. For others (like myself), it is a near impossibility. A person needs to know their talents and limitations before entering any major stage in life.

  27. Oh, I guess I should add that 8 years ago, I went back to school after having 4 kids and had a 5th while in school. I carried a full course load and did it without parental help. “Loans and frugal living” are what carried us.

  28. I think it interesting that there are people that think that going to school and having children are an impediment to finishing grad school. I have known many, many people who are not frum and complete professional degrees while married and having children. Many of the residents I have worked with have married at some point, often before med school and have kids along the way. My own father went back to school to become a dentist with 2 young children and my mother had 2 pregnancies along the way. So why are we assuming it is impossible to do it or that they should not have kids along the way?

  29. I think that R Gil’s post is correct in a certain sense, but I do believe that a BT’s sense of community is enhanced by getting married and finding a welcoming community. These factors assume critical importance in proportion to the age of the BT .

    I think that the process of defining and finding oneself is a lifelong and gradual process that cannot be achieved simply by adopting a any lifestyle and then becoming very unhappy when one realizes that one has made a wrong decision . Student loans are expensive-but the income generated either by a top lawyer or doctor can reduce the same.

    I would advise anyone looking at medical school to consider a Shomer Shabbos internship and residence as a prerequisite.There are numerous prestigious medical centers in the US that have such programs.

  30. Looking forward to hearing a detailed answer.

    And I have a hunch Michoel would stick by what he said even if neither had an undergraduate degree.

  31. Gershon. I’m out the door and will try to address the question later. The answer is possibly yes, possibly no. Also, this discussion is on that is just as relevant to FFB’s as BT’s unless they have tremendous familial support. Lastly, many BT’s already have an undergrad degree, as does their future wife. And, many people (BT’s and FFB’s) are all carrying around student debt from college which can impact the decision in a major way.

  32. SephardiLady,

    Am I wrong in assuming that b’derech hateva a Dr. with 6 figure bills in student loans will fair much better down the road financially than someone who jumped into marriage with a few years in yeshiva and no degree? Remember, student loans are different than regular debt. They can be paid off over a longer period of time with less interest.

    What’s the alternative to my suggestion? Wait a few more years to start dating? What if they can’t for the reasons mentioned above?

  33. R. Astor and Michoel:

    OK, point well taken. Asay lecha rav is the overriding advice regarding birth control as well as other issues.
    However, the question was posed as “the question of advising him in birth control” in a general, hypothetical sense. I really dont think someone, unless he is the personal rav in question, should advise him one way or another. There are plenty of situations where people faced initial or secondary infertility down the road, and had they tried to have children immediately it would have been a lot easier. This is the future of their family and klal yisroel we are talking about.
    Obviously, waiting 6 months is different than waiting 3 years. I would be very circumspect to advise anyone on this issue, unless it is a general piece of advice to “ask your rav about this issue.”
    Another point is in choosing who to marry. If a new BT, lets assume male, is in grad school and is now opting to marry for the right reasons, (and dealing with his Y”H is certainly one of them) maybe one of his criteria in a potential spouse should be someone who 1) could support them temporarily or 2) someone whose life plans are more flexible than his are and who is not herself bound to a grad school or the like.

    This is certainly what kollel men do — why not a BT?

  34. I saw in the comments that Gershon suggested marriage with student loans and frugal living. As a person whose work has made me all too aware of the challenges of debt, I would warn potential borrowers of the pitfalls of debt, especially extreme amounts of debt (and very often medical students and law students are graduating with 6 figures of debt).

  35. Gershon,
    To clarify my comment above about grass:
    We have Shmuel the BT. Right now he wants to get married. He has some thoughts of pursuing medical school but he is unsure. It is not something that consumes him, it is merely and interest that he feels he can do well in and make a decent living. He decides to marry right away and pursue an income that is not tremendous but he is not worse off financially than most of us…. 20 years later, Shmuel is depressed. He has a lot of bills. He is not learning that much. His wife is stressed and they sometimes argue. One of his kids is behaving a bit “at risk”. He cries out bitterly “If only I has gone to medical school! I would have more shalom at home, I could take my wife on vacation, my kids would be more relaxed and confident. I would have more time for spiritual growth! Those rabbis! They should have guided me correctly! I entrusted my life to them!”

    Well Reb Shmuel, welcome to reality! your life is not much different then everyone else, including people that went to medical school. You need to work on happiness and improving your current situation. Maybe if you went to medical school, you would have gotten married much later. And your child that you have heart ache over would not have been born. think about the great nachas that you also have from him sometimes. Look at the good.

  36. Whilst a lot of good things have been said on this post at the end of the day would we really like to advise ourselves on this matter?
    Who knows if real Daas Torah would say the opposite? Or we do not know or understand the facts right?

    Surely our young man or woman has to to sort out the key issues first and then be directed to a Gadol or a Rov with broader shoulders to weigh them up. (In case anyone’s missed them one of 2 brilliant articles on seeking Daas Torah in the Dec 05 edition of the Jewish Observer is available in full on this site by Rabbi Horowitz:

    http://www.beyondbt.com/?p=172#more-172

    But for what it’s worth I would say that if the problem is put as a struggle between the YH and the difficulties involved in meeting one’s financial responsibilites – then although chazal tell us “kasha mezonos shel odom c’kriyas yam suf” it seems to me that the tests of kedusah today for an unmarried man are probably greater.

    Yet it seems that one issue overlooked is the influence of the breakdown of marriage in the world around us. As humans too, we are subject to the same difficulties as the rest of the world are, but which is crumbling under due to the desire to be takers and not givers. Ok, we see the difficulties of work, child rearing and marriage as as nisyonos, a way to develop our emuna and achieve our tachlis but l’maaseh we are all suject to these tests, and whether we are BT or FFB , they wont disappear 2, 5 or 10 years after marriage either!

    So, I believe if someone is no longer in full time learning, and knows what he wants to work as, then he cant simply dismiss his desire for marriage as his Yetzer Horo. That’s exactly why he was given it and Chazal called it “tov me’od”. It means biting the bullet and seeking etza from a Rov with experience and Yiras Shomayim.

    The only substitute in the mean time I’d recommend are Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt’l’s tapes – specifically on the subject of bitochon and emuna and many other related titles. He also mentions things on a tangent which are often etzos min hashomayim with choice words that combine humour and Da’as Torah highly relevant to our times from a Gadol B’Yisroel. But be warned – he does not speak favourably about girls out of seminary who dont want to get married straightaway!

  37. Reb Gershon,
    I agree with you that it is a life’s work.

    “The grass is always greener” seems to be a particularly strong yetzer for some of us. It could be that a tendency toward disatisfaction with our present circumstance was a motivation in becoming frum for some. If teaching bitachon is too tall a task for a few years of yeshiva, maybe teaching the importance of happiness is more realistic. “things are going to be challenging! Put a smile on your face and get tough!”

    A BT starting dating today, can be pretty confident that they won’t be supporting a child for another two years. they should work hard during those two years.

  38. Michoel wrote: However, if a person is embittered because he never became a lawyer, the “kiruv failure” is not only a result of the questionable eitzah, it is also that we did not succeed in teaching him bitachon. Who’s to say that had he gone to law school things would have worked out exactly as he envisioned?

    Teaching bitachon takes a lifetime. I think we delude ourselves in assuming we can superimpose an entire value system on people by just giving them a little more time at it. I advocate being much more realistic and face the facts that people are people. The guy who hasn’t learned as much about bitachon because we haven’t guided him into a lifetime of difficult financial tests, and leads a happy frum life, is on firmer religious ground than the guy who supposedly has learned about bitachon and might be down the creek without a paddle a few years after his bitachon euphoria wears off.

    Perhaps your notion of teaching bitachon until the BT really gets it would work if someone is going to be in full time Torah learning for many, many, years. The Kedusha of the Torah and the environment will go a long way. But even in that case, I know lots of situations where the bitachon was parroted because that’s what was expected of them. When push came to shove, years down the road, it’s not as simple as you assume.

    Even being able to quote verbatim chovos halevovos shaar habitachon and the entire sefer madreigras ha’adom doesn’t make a person a ba’al bitachon.

    I really think too many Baalei Teshuvah have been guided in ways that weren’t good for them in the long run.

  39. Belle,

    A good Rav is like life or death for a person. I like to tell people that the definition of an Orthodox Jew is NOT someone who follows the Shulchan Aruch but someone who has and listens to a Rav who follows the Shulchan Aruch. A good Rav, it is said, knows not only the four parts of the Shulchan Aruch but that all-crucial fifth part. (There are only four in actuality; the “fifth” is what we would call common sense or a sixth sense.)

    Today’s challenges, especially for baalei teshuva, create unique circumstances that require a living, breathing Rav to know how to apply. (This is not to suggest that a BT shouldn’t think for themselves, but that’s another discussion.) Such a person can be life or death for the BT, especially someone returning from two years in an insular yeshiva environment and now leaving the cave, so to speak (see my earlier article on this blogsite). I have no idea what the percentages are, but I will say, as Michoel confirmed, the issue is not necessarily as black and white as one on the outside might think. Asay l’cha Rav. That’s the main point. And make sure he’s a good Rav, local and on the spot, with lots of experience with BTs.

  40. Yaakov,

    No general advice intended. I was just adding an important consideration. In the end, it all depends on the people and their complex situations.

  41. Belle,
    Not so simple. I know of at least one case where a couple was advised by a very frum rav to use birth control. It was not just an issue of going to grad school. They wanted to grow in the stability of their yiddishkeit and their personal growth.

  42. Rabbi Astor:

    I have heard that it is very rare that mainstream orthodox rabbonim grant heterim for birth control use immediately upon marriage, for “family planning” purposes. From what I understand, these heterim are to support the health and well being of the mother and/or child, mostly. There may be exceptional cases, of course, but for your general hypothetical, I doubt that would be a usable option for most. I do not know how modern orthodox rabbanim advise, if it is different I would be interested to know why.

    What I was told by others is that rabbonim would sooner advise to postpone marriage if the person is not ready for children.

  43. Gil,

    From your post you seem to be advocating — given of course the caveats that everything is very individual ultimately — that BTs in such a situation take both making a career decision, marrying and raising a family more slowly and gradually than the average FFB. Is that an accurate diyuk from your post?

  44. Yes, Rabbi Student. I agree and I alluded to that above. All this is very much dependent on how the individual feels about himself. If he is embarrased to date a woman when he has no clue how to support her, than he needs to straighten that out before he dates.

    The issue of personal sh’ifah to become a Dr. and the issue of having lots of money to pay tuitions are somewhat separate things. could be he will gain more financially by starting to work now. Could be he will shteig more in his carreer on grad school when he does it with a wife behind him.

  45. Gershon, your right, in the broad sense. However, if a person is embittered becasue he never became a lawyer, the the “kiruv failure” is not only a result of the questionable eitzah, it is also that we did not succeed in teaching him bitachon. Who’s to say that had he gone to law school things would have worked out exactly as he envisioned? As I mentioned up front, of course there has to be subtlety and advising the individual. But in life, there are innumerable variables. His waiting to get married until everything in his life is “just so” could also end up causing bitterness, when he is 40 years old and single.

  46. Keep in mind that BTs will generally not have the family support that FFBs will have, especially if they marry other BTs. I’m not talking about financial help.

    Also, a BT rushing to marry before figuring out exactly where he fits into the world could lead to serious marriage problems in the future.

  47. Gershon,

    As usual, good, practical insights.

    So here’s a novel idea. Forge ahead with school and marriage plans. Take out student loans. Plan to live frugaly (gasp!) on the the student loans and hopefully some of the money that comes in from the wedding. That sould get the young couple through the first few years. Hopefully, with Hashem’s help, they will start to earn enough money to get on their own 2 feet a few years into the marriage.

    Is it realistic and practical for both of them to be in serious grad school while at the same time she becoming pregnant and then having/raising the child? And if she decides to put school on hold for the time being to have that child or children, and raise it/them, and at the same time he is in school, who is making the money to support them and their growing family? Are you saying the chasuna money can be expected to allow them to hold out for 3-7 years of grad schooling?

  48. Maybe so R’ Michoel, but if we rush him into marriage and he ends up never becoming the lawyer he was about to become, and having a hard time making ends meet, he might end up very bitter a few years down the road. Would that be called a kiruv success story in the long run?

  49. Another consideration for our stongly yetzered young man is: do we want him to be in grad school sitting next to attractive young women without having a wife, or without even being involved in finding a wife? He just came home from Yeshiva full of idealism and with a new sense of k’dusah and tzinus. Let’s hlep him hold onto that.

  50. These questions are also very relavent to FFBs. A bochur who’s decided to step out of the Bais Medrash and study law or medicine (and hopefully learn an hour or two a day) at a certain age will also feel the need to marry in the middle of his years in school. The same goes for a girl back from seminary – if she wants to get a specialized degree of some sort. Should she wait until she’s completed her schooling she might be 23 by then, and the shiduch prospects deminish.

    So here’s a novel idea. Forge ahead with school and marriage plans. Take out student loans. Plan to live frugaly (gasp!) on the the student loans and hopefully some of the money that comes in from the wedding. That sould get the young couple through the first few years. Hopefully, with Hashem’s help, they will start to earn enough money to get on their own 2 feet a few years into the marriage.

    Of course this requires enough maturity to stay focused on schooling while starting a marriage. It also requires maturity to live frugaly in a world that doesn’t kow how to do that. But if they’re not mature enough for that, having a yetzer hora is not enough reason to get married. Lot’s of people who got married because they have yetzer horas but didn’t have adult skills for navigating through situations that require hanging strong, ended up getting divorced.

    As for all the specific questions asked above,(age, and variuos profession choices and situations) I also think there are no hardfast rules. If you have a very mature person that has 5 years of shooling ahead, perhaps telling him to wait at least two of those years before seeking marriage might make sense.

    One thing’s for sure, any BT who returns back to university needs a strong frum support system to sustain what they’ve achieved in Israel. It would be ideal to live in a frum community while continuing with school.

  51. All the considerations are real, but the perfect flow chart covering what to do in all specific cases does not and cannot exist.

    Why is there Torah SheB’Al Peh? Because not all the potentially needed fine detail can be reduced to writing, we need Rabbonim as personal guides to a Torah life.

  52. Yaakov,
    I am not so worried about big things like p’ru u’rvu with emunah. Just simple practicality. There are very few baalei t’shuvah that get married 3 months after they start dating. Two years or more is probably closer to average, some take much longer, even into their 40s. Life with financial problems can be very difficult. Life without a spouse is vastly more difficult.

    Also, for every guy who could have found a really fulfulling career path had he had more time and less pressure to decide, there is at least one who benitted from the pressure of family, which forced him to just choose a path and make the most of it. Also, there are folks that spend 10 years studying medicine and end up in business.

  53. An underlying question, which I may have just realized now, is the question of advising him in birth control.

    And, yes, each case is individual. However, given that and given that one’s response will be understood to represent the general trend, consider the situations:

    1) Our law and medical school student, and probably any other serious grad student, will have his hands full with work from morning to evening, if not weekends and even Shabbos (I had a friend in Med School who was told that he use Shabbos to study for an exam if need be.) How is such a person going to also be a good father to a newborn… or two… or three that will be sure to arrive before he even graduates? And that’s to say nothing about being also a good husband

    2) The guy who is still probing around for the right career — he, too, is confronted with some very pressurized realities if he marries right away and starts having children right away. E.g. he could easily end up heading down an unfulfilling and financially insufficient career (or non-career) path because the immediate pressure of having to support a wife and kid or kids. Do we just say, You’re not different than FFBs (if FFBs are indeed any different): fulfill pru urvu with emunah; marry, have children without concern of the financial realities. Or do we say — in a general sense — BTs in such a situation should generally be advised to perhaps consider taking on the responsibilities of having and raising a frum family in a slower, more gradual way?

  54. When I was getting ready to come back from Israel to commence grad school, I had been given a lot of pressure to put it off or do away with it.

    I didn’t pay any attention to that pressure, mostly because I’m stubborn but also because, more often than not, I felt it was coming from a place that disdained higher education and that my individual situation wasn’t being taken into account.

    In retrospect, some of the advice/arguments that I had been given wasn’t that bad. Perhaps I would have benefited from it if someone sat me down and spoke to me as an individual and gave me “the facts on the ground” — the real financial realities.

    That being said, I would echo the point of those saying that each situation is individual. I would definitely give a more detailed understanding of the financial details. I think that many newly minted BTs often don’t appreciate the hishtadlus aspect of the bitachon/hishtadlus continuum. As such, they often fall short in analyzing what their particular level of effort should be and where that effort should be placed. This is also an area that I would discuss with Yaakov’s “returning returnee”.

  55. Bob,
    Your right. But I do think there are general principles that should guide the spcific plan of action. Waiting to get married can cause big problems fo BTs. (And yes, so can getting married too quickly.) But all in all, getting married can greatly improve the sense of being a normal member of rum society, and it helps to keep the BT frum. Lo tov h’eyos haadam l’vado, especially BTs.

  56. Yaakov Astor is looking for a type of Algorithm for Life! That’s too ambitious, but I hope Beyond BT can get qualified Torah authorities to contribute pieces on this topic.

    Michoel said, “Obviously each case has to be tweaked for the individual”. This is an important point, but “tweaked” is not a strong enough word. Details about the individual and the situation can greatly influence what his/her action plan should be.

    Here’s where people really need a Rav or Rebbe who knows them well, has a good rapport with them, and has a track record of successful advice.

  57. If he is a man, he should get married immediately. If she is a woman… she should still get married immediately.

    In seriousness, if the person involved feels sufficiently stable in their Yiddishkeit, and feels themselves to be emotionally mature, they should pursue marriage immediately. The hypothetical male should be advised to begin pursuing his career path right away, and with focus. He should accept shidduchim that are read to him but not get so deeply involved in it that he looses focus on his career goals. Obviously each case has to be tweaked for the individual. As far as dealing with the yetzer, he should be told very clearly to not allow himself to fall into a depression about difficulties in controling his thoughts etc. Hashem has no nachas from his depression. When BT males have those type of self-critical feelings they are essentially punishing themsleves for becoming frum, where they should be congradulating themselves. Meaning, until he was 22, he was totally OK with all the bad thoughts and yetzers he had. So now he is at least shomer shabbos and trying to keep Torah in addition to having all those thoughts. Should he them bash himself by saying “How can I fail to subdue my yetzer! I’m a frum Jew!” He should rather say, “In this area, I’m certainly no worse. In a lot of other areas I am better.” He should go on dates happy and confident and not like he needs to be saved from gehinnom.

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