With the bittersweet reality that he needed to start chasing a parnassah dawning upon him, Yaakov Thumim was quite unhappy. For years, he had hoped to stay in kollel long-term or maybe build a career in klei kodesh, but it had become clear over time that such a path wouldn’t work for him and his family. Instead, Yaakov enrolled in an accounting course and secured a paid internship to feed his family, but he felt mundane and uninspired. He was disappointed in himself, and the reality of working in a secular culture created scenarios Yaakov was unprepared for.
What could he do to ease the transition while keeping his values intact?
Support is Necessary
Of course, having a rebbi and a chaburah to count on offers a great boost to one’s ruchniyus during transitionary periods and upheaval, as does giving special attention to davening and Torah learning. Even so, entering a new reality of working in a foreign land of corporate culture can be exhausting and emotionally challenging. And simple reassurances often don’t alleviate the doubt and loneliness of a ben Torah entering the workforce. Thankfully, in recent years, awareness of this issue has increased, and there are resources to help one not only survive the transition, but thrive in it.
Orchos Chaim: Ben Torah for Life
In this brilliant guide Rav Aharon Lopiansky, rosh yeshivah of Yeshiva of Greater Washington and sought-after ba’al machshavah, gives readers an illuminated perspective in lucid, powerful English on how to uplift a ben Torah’s career and a life of parnassah pursuits. From finding fulfillment in work to dealing with distraction in davening to demonstrating honesty and integrity, Rav Lopiansky teaches that there is a special opportunity for those outside of Shevet Levi to reveal and sanctify Hashem in all the mundanity and physicality of this world.
Rav Lopiansky’s publisher, Eshel Publications, also has a great audio library of his shiurim and schmuessen on the topic. Along with TorahAnytime and other audio resources, it can be great to listen to on the commute to work or during break time, elevating the entire day.
Ben Aliyah B’olam Haparnassah
Another great option is this sefer, newly published by Rav Simcha Klein, a grandson-in-law of Rav Shmuel Berenbaum zt”l. Rav Klein provides guidance on approaching working as a form of serving Hashem, how to overcome challenges in a secular workplace and create a kiddush Hashem, and how to use even a short seder of Torah learning to continue to grow. An extra treat, the sefer is also chock-full of relevant quotes and anecdotes from gedolim zt”l ranging from the Chofetz Chaim and Rav Yisrael Salanter to Rav Elya Svei and R’ Shmuel Berenbaum. This masterpiece resonates in a language bnei Torah are accustomed to.
Yorucha Business Halacha Program
This unique program offers a full curriculum of workplace halacha broken down into clear, bite-size sections. Under the auspices of Lakewood’s Bais HaVaad Halacha Center, Yorucha offers booklets, podcasts, source sheets, daily Q&As, and even in-office chaburos to address a plethora of financial, legal, and business-related questions. From Shabbos to geneivas akum to avodah zarah to lo salin, this program is like mini-semichah for the kosher workplace and drives home the point that all of life can be avodas Hashem. Find out more at baishavaad.org/yorucha.
Doeihu Workplace Tznius Guidance
A central halachic and hashkafic issue for bnei Torah often emerges when a job involves regular interaction and physical proximity with members of the opposite gender. The nuances and sensitivities of the halachos of yichud and tznius can be subtle and difficult to navigate. Doeihu is a popular email list offering small daily bites of halachah and chizuk in these areas. The free email subscription is available in English, Yiddish, and Hebrew and is under the guidance of Rav Yechiel Michel Steinmetz, Skever dayan of Boro Park. You can sign up by emailing [email protected] or calling 845-386-0477.
A classic “parnassah” resource, the Chovos Halevavos provides vital perspective on our relationship with Hashem in all we do. More specifically to our purpose here, Sha’ar Habitachon teaches how to view the complex interplay of hishtadlus and bitachon—in other words, in what ways we are meant to put effort into our income and when to leave the rest to Hashem. This section has also been translated and published separately with various commentaries and perspectives in text and audio formats so one can easily find a version that they relate to and absorb most readily.
Sefer Ahavas Chessed was originally written by the Chafetz Chaim primarily to encourage Yidden to lend money without interest to fellow Jews. This is both a chiyuv d’Oraysa and an opportunity for growth, and the Chaftez Chaim elaborates on the zechsuim and segulos of helping Yidden make a parnassah and vice versa. The attitude of ahavas chessed helps remind those toiling to make money that our wealth is given to us with a purpose and how we should use it to better others’ lives. Nurturing the middah of chessed within oneself is critical and elevates their pursuit of wealth.
A Growing But Incomplete List
This list is far from exhaustive, and new initiatives and solutions are being created as we speak. One notable point is that the new seforim mentioned above are geared primarily toward men. Women have entered the workforce in a way unimaginable generations ago—they are now CEOs, entrepreneurs, and managers, and some have public personas. There is much work to be done to expand the resources tailored to women’s expanded roles in the corporate world. Transitioning from the world of yeshivah, Bais Yaakov, and seminary to the harsh realities of the workforce is getting a bit easier, but there is room for much more chizuk and guidance.