My oldest son (S1) is an animal nut. Ever since he was a pup, he's always loved animals. To him, a trip to the zoo is a great day. His favorite computer game is Microsoft's Zoo Tycoon. He reads animal books whenever possible. For a long time, he wanted to be a farmer when he grew up. When he found out that most forms of farming are more about the agriculture than the animals, however, he switched his goal to becoming a zoologist.
Naturally, you'd expect a kid like this to want a pet. And naturally, as good parents who want to encourage him to chase his dreams, we were open to the idea of pets. (As a side note, I had two dogs in the house growing up, so I certainly was no stranger to the concept of animals in the house). However, for a long time we were renting and has leases that did not allow pets. In addition, certain relatives of ours are highly allergic to cats and dogs; and since we value thier company in our house, such large animals were ruled out, even when we got a place of our own.
Even before we had kids, my wife and I had hamsters in the house. By the time the kids came around, however, we had stopped having them (the ones we had died and we simply did not get any new ones). So, naturally, when S1 decided he wanted a pet, we went with the animal that we had experience with, that wouldn't cause allergy problems, and wouldn't get us evicted from our apartment - hamsters.
Hamsters, being small rodents, have a lifespan of only two to three years. My son, because of his love for animals, tends to become attached to them. He's already lost a few hamsters over the years (we usally have more than one at a time), but each time he loses one, it hurts. Sadly, we lost a long-time hamster (over three years) this week and it left my son upset and crying.
As it turns out, my wife (W) had to go to the boys yeshiva to speak to the Menahel about a matter concerning my son (unrelated to the hamster). While she was there, she also mentioned the fact that his hamster had died and that he may be "out of sorts" for a day or so.
Now, this Menahel is a very fine gentleman, one for whom I have respect. In all the years that our kids have been in the yeshiva, he has always shown to have our children's best interests at heart. While other officials in the yeshiva are seemingly ready to knock the kids down (figuratively) whenever possible, he always looks to build them up. Of course, he is very Chareidi and has one view of the world, as was again illustrated to us this day.
So, W told the Menahel about the hamster and S1's attachment to it. She explained to him that he *really* loves animals and that he has aspirations to be a zoologist one day.
He looked at her and said "We had hopes that he'd aspire to be a Rosh Yeshiva."
Now, of course, aspiring to be a Rosh Yeshiva is certainly a good thing - for those who aspire for it. While one's life should be filled with Torah and Mitzvos regardless of the occupation that one goes into, there is certainly nothing wrong with aspiring to be something other than a Rosh Yeshiva. After all, we can't ALL be Rosh Yeshivas. There certainly isn't anything wrong with recognizing the fact that one wants to spend one's life in the pursuit of other goals. The Torah certainly recognizes it, of course - that why it gave us laws for farmers, buisnesspeople, hunters and the like. If everyone was meant to be a Rosh Yeshiva, we wouldn't need laws telling us to give Terumah and Ma'aser from agriculture - since there wouldn't be any Jewish farmers anyway. There wouldn't be any laws concerning false weights and measures - because there wouldn't be any Jewish grocers - they'd all be learning in Yeshiva. The fact that the Torah gives us laws regulating our daily lives in business shows that it is acceptable to persue those occupations.
I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a classmate when I was in high school. As a high schooler (and to this day) I've always had an affinity for computers. Sure enough, I ended up making my living working with them. Anyway, I had invited a classmate of mine to come to my house to play computer games. He came and we played, and it became a semi-regular thing for him to be at my house playing computer games with me during lunchtime or on Sunday afternoons. However, there was one time when I invited him over that he expressed some hesitency. When I asked him what the problem was, he told me that he was concerned because he was sure that his father wanted him to be a talmid chochom and not a computer programmer when he grew up.* Even at that time, I knew the two didn't have to be mutually exclusive, but nonetheless that seems to be the prevailing theory even to this day. I often wonder: if any of my high school classmates could see me today, would they think that I was a failure because I don't spend all day learning? And, if so, have they ever given any serious thought to what the world would be like if we all were Roshei Yeshiva and no one engaged in any other occupation?
* Of course, we all know that one does not become a computer programmer from playing computer games. But even then, I had a feeling that I would end up on the path I took.