THE AGONY OF THE BENCH WARMER1

Dr. Miriam Adahan, Feb. 2008

 

            In Part I, I described the agony of the bench warmers, i.e., those men who are supposedly sitting and learning in kollel, but who do not really want to be for any number of reasons, including:

  • Those with learning disabilities, who feel like failures when they try to learn.
  • Action-oriented types and cannot sit and learn all day; they might be great askanim or succeed in a business, do chesed or learn a trade.
  •  – anything but having to sit passively.  Some of them are depressed, some are happy and some simply feel lost. And once the wives realize what is going on, they tend to feel outraged, depressed, ashamed and scared.

SHAMED WIFE #1: My husband openly admits that he has a good thing going. He gets up after the kids are gone, has a relaxed cup of coffee in a quiet house while I'm out working, gets to kollel around 11 or 12, learns a bit, has more coffee, schmoozes with the guys, smokes a bit and then comes back for lunch, has a nap and goes back for another couple of hours. Since my father supports him and is proud that he has a son in learning, he tells me I shouldn't complain. Sometimes he does a little business on the side – maybe a shidduch here or there or gets paid for driving someone somewhere. For him, it's the good life. We go on vacations, have nice furniture and look like the perfect family, but I'm ashamed that we are living a lie." 

DEPRESSED WIFE #2: "Before we got married, my husband said that he was really into learning, but afterwards, he complained that his brain can't grasp the material or remember anything. Every morning, I try to wake him up and scream at me to at least help get the kids out of the house, but he says he cannot move. I beg him to do something to help with the parnassa – even an hour a day.  I asked him to teach a learning disabled child, but he said he had no patience for children. I come from a big family and cannot ask my parents for help, and I'm getting depressed too. Whenever I complain about the lack of money, he says he, 'If you have faith, money comes.' But he doesn't know from where or how. At least my work pays for health insurance and we get welfare, but if I can't work, what will happen?  What do we have to look forward to? It's really depressing."

ANGRY WIFE #3: "The truth is that I'm furious. I have become the man and my husband is the woman. I let him handle the budget when we were first married and I'm still paying off the debts he incurred now, ten years later. I make the money and he has to beg me for spare change.I work two jobs, have eight children and am collapsing, while he claims that he is incapable of functioning outside the kollel walls. It's like being in Egypt, with the women doing the men's work and the men doing the women's work, except that he doesn't even want to help in the house. To him, 'work' is a four letter word – work of any kind."

 

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