Once more, someone mentioned the issue of women supporting their Torah scholar husbands, and even though I have covered the subject before, I can't help bringing it up again.
The Ultra-Orthodox women used to be primarily kindergarten and school teachers. A teaching post is a job outside the home but it's one of the more flexible ones. A few years ago, some companies had the brilliant idea of integrating these women by providing training in high-tech jobs which are full-time and energy-consuming. The financial situation of a woman who takes such a job may improve, of course, but now even more is expected of those who chose that path.
"Do you know why so many of the Ultra-Orthodox women have a child every year?" said my husband. "Because they have to go to work very soon after giving birth, to support their families, and so very often breastfeeding doesn't work out for them." I think he might have a point there.
I don't want it to sound as though I think very closely spaced children are a bad thing. Each child is a gift from God. But I also believe the Almighty made our bodies in a certain way - we are geared towards breastfeeding, and initially, most of us aren't supposed to be perpetually pregnant.
If a woman is naturally supposed to have spaces of one and a half or two or three years between children, but has a child every year because she is unable to breastfeed and doesn't believe the use of birth control is acceptable, it will put a toll on her body. Throw in exhaustion and malnutrition into the equation, and you'll understand why many 30-year-olds in those communities are suffering from osteoporosis.
I expect there are at least a few women who are happy with the arrangement and want a scholar husband at all costs. But there are many who are pressured into accepting the path I just described. In my eyes, it's the oddest mix between misogyny and feminism.
It should simply be a top-rank priority that a mother of a rapidly growing family has the opportunity to stay home and nurture her children. Especially in a community that talks so much about the importance of a woman building her home.
I will be the last person to say we don't need full-time Torah scholars in our troubled and corrupt generation. But wives and children aren't supposed to bear the burden of a husband immersed in spiritual studies. No lofty ideals are enough to excuse a husband from his obligation to support his family.
There are scholarships and donations, but the problem, in my opinion, is that they are divided among too many Torah students. My suggestion? The truly gifted scholars should be given scholarships that will allow them and their families to live decently. The rest should get professional training and continue studying Torah part-time as they can.
I know it can be difficult to determine who is talented enough, as we are talking about a spiritual realm, not mathematics. But personally, I see no other solution to take some of the burden off kollel wives' shoulders.