Once, I already addressed the matter of Ultra Orthodox Jewish women financially supporting their husbands while they devote most of their time to religious studies.
Now, women who are living that life – and experiencing a terrible burn-out – give us a peek into their lives. I'm including the link for those of you who read Hebrew. For the rest of you, I will translate the paragraphs that best summarize the essence of the article.
"We are collapsing. We work three jobs: maintaining the home, educating the children, and a full-time shift outside the home. We all know what a scholar husband contributes financially (a meager scholarship - my note). And it got even worse with the economical crisis. We, like most of our community, have large families. We do not hire household help. With great pain in our hearts, we are forced to ask our older daughters to step up to the task, and these girls, even before they are married, already carry a burden which will be even heavier once they are wives."
"Was it the way of Torah in the past too – that the entire pressure of maintaining and financing the household would fall on the woman's shoulders? Isn't it a change of the last generation or two? Once, nearly all the wives of religious scholars held teaching jobs. We had plenty of vacation time. Our work day was finished early and we could return home before our children. Today most of us work in fields that require great emotional resources and many hours of exhausting effort. And only then we come back and begin the full-time second shift – which is actually the first for us."
I will be the last person to deny that we need full-time Torah scholars, especially in our generation of spiritual and moral downfall. But when there are no financial resources, I see something surreal in a situation when a man immerses himself in the spiritual while ignoring the very real plight of his wife and children.
The ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract, states quite plainly that the husband is the one who is supposed to support the wife, not the other way around. Yes, there is a loophole saying that if the wife is willing, she may support her husband while he's at his religious studies. But there is a tremendous pressure on the eligible young brides of the charedi community to choose a scholar husband, which is considered more noble and prestigious – and I'm not so sure all those girls know what they are getting into, and/or are really ready to be primary wage-earners while raising a family of 12 and keeping an immaculate house.
Here is a question that some, I'm sure, will consider almost sacrilegious: are all those who study Torah full-time really so brilliant that our generation would suffer a terrible loss if they worked at least part of the time? Certainly, we need scholars, but I don't believe that every boy should be encouraged to become one.
Perhaps, if there were less full-time scholars, and scholarships were awarded only to the most talented, there could be larger resources for each who receives one. Then the rest could also work part-time, and some of the burden could be lifted off the women's shoulders.