Rabbi Ahron Lopiansky has served as Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva of Greater Washington – Tiferes Gedaliah in Silver Spring, Maryland, since 1994. He recently authored a new sefer (Jewish book) called “Orchos Chaim – Ben Torah for Life.” The book aims to guide young men in transitioning to the workforce from full-time learning in a yeshiva or kollel setting.
As Yonoson Rosenblum wrote in a January column in Mishpacha Magazine: “The subject has never been more relevant, for never has such a high percentage of young men remained in full-time learning for so long … [T]he ubiquity of long-term learning makes the transition that much more jarring when it comes.”
Rabbi Yosef Elefant of the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem described the book as “the first sefer in the modern era that addresses topics critical to our existence as the Am HaTorah with such depth, clarity, honesty, and respect.” The website theyeshivaworld.com called it a “masterpiece” and “life-changing.”
Before assuming his current post, Rabbi Lopiansky studied at the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem and taught at Aish HaTorah and the Mir. He is a prolific author, with more than 20 published works on Torah thought, liturgy, and philosophy, and lectures widely both nationally and internationally.
Rav Ahron, as he is known around town, took the time to speak with Kol HaBirah about his latest sefer.
What was the impetus for writing this book?
Watching boys as they learn in yeshiva, and are sincere and doing well, and then struggle with the expectations they have of themselves as they merge into life outside of the confines of the Yeshiva.
What feedback have you received on a practical level from men who are making this difficult transition?
There is a sense of unpreparedness — both in terms of perspective and practical applications.
How can the wife of a Ben Torah, his ezer k’negdo or helpmate, best aid him during this time?
By demonstrating continued pride in her husband’s spiritual achievements, despite the fact that they may not be as “glamorous” as those in kollel. She needs to really appreciate what it means to wake up early for davening, to find time to learn, and to behave as a Ben Torah in whatever environment one finds himself.
Are there any unique challenges faced by men transitioning to the workplace in our region?
In many ways, we have a positive environment. Money does not play the outsized role in life that it does in New York, for example. Government jobs tend to be easier on things like time off. There also tends to be less hours at work, allowing for learning, time with family, and other things.
On the other hand, a frum family is a very expensive undertaking, and being limited to a government salary tends to be difficult.
Is there anything else you want people to know about this important topic?
I think that the simple awareness — that one is aware that he is entering a new phase in avodas Hashem [service of G-d], and he needs to think and rethink and experiment, until he finds the modus vivendi that fits his ruchniyas [spirituality] best. It is not “a yeshiva, with adjustment.” It is a whole new world.
“Orchos Chaim – Ben Torah for Life” can be ordered from eshelpublications.com, amazon.com, and Jewish bookstores.
By Kami Troy
Kami Troy is the senior editor of Kol HaBirah.