Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kollel Vacation

Revelation: I am not good at everything. Among the things I don’t do well: Vacation.

I’ve known about this problem for a long time; almost two years ago, I posted here about my inadequate vacation skills. That was okay, though; since there was no local substitute to teach the Daf Yomi, not to mention to run the halachic aspects of the vaad hakashrut, eruv, mikvah, and so on, my inability to properly vacate dovetailed nicely with the requirements of my pulpit.

But with my transition to running a kollel, I thought I might manage to ratchet it down a bit during the month of summer bein hazemanim. [See also my post on vacations from this past Pesach.]

So far this year, no such luck; the learning and administration are still going at full steam, and then some.

Part of that is practical – I still have some shiur responsibilities, and I have a few articles to write. I’m also working on setting things up for next year, upgrading our website, modifying budget, meeting with people, answering email, keeping track of office and personnel issues and so on.

But another part of it is the guilt that comes with stepping back. You’re a Rosh Kollel, for goodness sake – how can you stop learning? (Well, a Rosh Beit Midrash, by title, but we’ll skip the nuance for now.) Are you not supposed to be תורתו אומנתו, immersed in Torah as your lifeblood around the clock? Don't you breathe, eat and sleep Torah? Since when does Torah take a vacation, pal?

Yes, I know that taking a break is healthy in the long run, that human beings need to breathe, etc. I’m not intellectually opposed to the idea of closing a sefer to pause and regenerate. And I see the effect – poor judgment, slow emotional reflexes – when I don’t take a break. But it’s hard to carry this out.

The solution: Israel. Gd-willing, and through the wonderful kindness of babysitting relatives, the Rebbetzin’s Husband’s Rebbetzin and I will spend 11 days in the greatest place on Earth.

Of course, I’ll still be Net-connected, and there will still be some work to do. I’ll have my sefarim with me. But we’re planning a full travel schedule that will keep me away from the computer (No Blackberry! Hooray!), and the time difference between Israel and Toronto will further slow communication. A vacation will be had, by gum.

Last note: This will not, of course, keep me from blogging. A guy’s got to have priorities, you know.


  1. I think Jameel owes you a waffle breakfast.

  2. My rosh kollel once said that the difference between a baale bayit and an avreich is tha t the for4mer is yotze on talmud torah from kriat shema boker va erev, while the latter is NEVER yotze on talmud torah. So how do we allow ourselves "ben hazmanim"? The MAHARAL in his time railed against the practice saying that there is no excuse for bittul torah.IIRC it was the Chayyei adam who said even on Shabbat an avreich should spend more time with his family even at the expense of limud. I find that ben hazmaim is a necessary break to "recharge the spiritual and intellectual batteries. Of course tzaddikim and talmidei chachamim gedolim have no such need, but IMHO for us mere mortals it is a necessity.

  3. David,

    Why do you say that tzaddikim and talmidei chachamim have no need for breaks? They are also human.

    Someone once told me that he was staying overnight by Rav Elazar Teitz. He got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. He passed by Rav Teitz and was shocked. Rav Teitz asked him what was wrong. He replied, "The Rosh Yeshiva... is wearing pajamas." Rav Teitz replied, "What am I supposed to wear?"

    My point is that our leaders are human. What makes them great is what they accomplish despite being human, not by having superhuman powers.

  4. David-
    But who is to say whether I should be striving for tzaddik status or not?

  5. Marc,

    But surely there's a difference between nightly sleep (as in your story of R' Teitz) and a couple of months' sabbatical, which is what "bein hazmanim" is? I think David's point is valid: tzaddikim and talmidei chachamim need to sleep and eat and go to the bathroom like the rest of us, but they don't need a two-month vacation.

  6. Good for you! May you be filled with a hashraa that will carry you both, and the beit midrash, to new heights in Torah v'avodah. And, may you both just plain enjoy being in Israel. ;-)