You mentioned before an example of a talmid chacham who sits and learns when he has no money for his family; he’s depending upon support from the outside.  Is that the proper way for a husband to fulfill his responsibilities towards his family?


Is it proper for someone to study Torah even though his family is in need?

And the answer is, it’s a gemara.  On the words in Shir Hashirim, שחורות כעורב – black like a raven, the Gemara (Eiruvin 22a) says like this: במי אתה מוצא דברי תורה – By whom will you find success in learning Torah? במי שמשחיר פניו עליהם כעורב – By someone who blackens himself with affliction; he deprives himself so much that he becomes black like a raven.

And then it goes on and says, רבא אמר – Rava says, במי שמשים עצמו אכזרי על בניו ועל בני ביתו כעורב – The Torah will not be found—it means nobody will succeed in studying Torah—unless he is cruel upon his wife and children like the raven is cruel.

Now what does that mean?  It means that who a person wants to succeed in Torah, he must make up his mind that he cannot have the things that others have.

Now sometimes he’s disappointed.  Sometimes he studies Torah and it happens that he becomes wealthy too.  It happened to very many people.  It’s surprising how many people became rich when they started out with nothing! 

Rabbi Akiva, when he married, his wife told him to go and study Torah, so they spent their honeymoon in the haystack.  They didn’t have any place to sleep.  In the morning, they had to pick the straw out of their hair they were so poor.  And once a poor man came and begged them to give him a little straw. The poor man’s wife had just given birth and she needed a little straw on which to sleep.  

So Rabbi Akiva said to his bride, “You see, there are some people who are poorer than we are.  We have straw at least.”  

The end was, he became a millionaire.  He didn’t go into business but he became wealthy. There are many people who learned Torah and became wealthy.  Queer as it may seem, if you look back in our history, it happened.  

But they didn’t intend it should happen that way.  They were willing to sacrifice everything for the Torah.  

It’s a queer thing, however.  You see these people who study Torah in Yerushalayim, for instance, and they have no means of sustenance and they have a lot of children and yet their children all grow up to be nice looking specimens; nice looking men and women and they all marry well and all eventually have homes of their own.  

It’s a remarkable thing!  People wonder, how could it happen?  You have to be a millionaire to marry off fourteen children!  And these people don’t have even enough to live right now!  But that’s how it is.  Hakodosh Boruch Hu steps in and He helps them.

Now, if a person is willing to afflict himself then he has a right to tell his family, “We’re going to live on a meager scale of existence.” But if a person is indolent; if he likes ease and he’s not going to afflict himself studying Torah then forget about it. Let’s say he comes to the kollel at 10:30 in the morning after reading through the entire newspaper. And then at lunch, he takes off another hour-and-a-half or two hours and then he loafs at night too. And you see him many times on the street in the middle of the seder. That fellow is being cruel to his family, but he’s being very kindhearted to himself.  He’s living the life of Riley, not the life of a kollel man.

But if a person afflicts himself and he’s willing to sit in poverty and study Torah, he has a right to expect his family to participate.  Of course he can’t starve them, but he has a right to be cruel to a certain extent.  

Now it doesn’t mean he’s actually hard-hearted towards them.  He’s a kindhearted father; he’s a loving parent.  There’s no question about that. But he is not obligated to give his family more than the barest sustenance if they’re doing it for the great ideal of studying Torah.

Again I say that if a person is not putting his heart into Torah and he’s merely using the kollel as an excuse to live a life of irresponsibility, then of course he’s nothing but a cruel and selfish fellow.

TAPE # 320

By |2023-07-11T01:37:09+08:00December 17, 2021|Q & A|0 Comments

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