Financial Squeeze

We all feel as if we are taxed to death! It seems for most people that we spend more than we earn. I recently landed a great job and couldn’t believe how much I would be making especially after living in eretz yisroel and earning not even a fifth of that. But when I got my first pay cheque I cried!! I couldn’t believe how much of my $ went to taxes. I soon got over the initial shock but then once you take away mortgage payments or rent, insurance fees, car loans, clothing, food and travel expenses, what is left? For many of us, not much.

Now if that was all we had to pay for, it still wouldn’t be that bad but we still need to factor in private schools, kosher food, synagogue dues, Jewish camps, bar and bat mitzvahs, trips to Israel and the other items of Jewish life that cut into a family budget. I think the reality is that being frum is more expensive! Each year I myself am baffled by the cost of sukkos, the first year I was married it was the lulav and esrog that cost more than a day’s salary. This year it was the cost of putting up a sukkah which cost more than a months rent! I can’t even imagine what making a Seder must cost! S’is shver tzu zein a Yid – It’s hard to be a Jew.

On the other hand a lot of it boils down to values, I don’t see too many families in E’’Y complaining. And they certainly make less and have less. The question is what is important to us? I think for many of us as BT’s it is hard to shake the pursuit of certain things that the secular world tells us is important: fancy cars, big houses, the latest technology, exotic vacations. But at the end of the day we have to decide what is more important the education of our children or the pursuit of things that will never bring us happiness.

9 comments on “Financial Squeeze

  1. I also have issues with what seems to be other people’s materialism, but I suspect that my own motives are not so pure and that my reactions are out of envy. The best way is to accept that Hashem gives everyone what they need and some people’s needs are greater than others.

  2. True, having a large family and paying tuition is a large ongoing expense. I have not experienced it yet, because I currently don’t have any children in school.

    Once upon a time, education was non-existant for girls, and boys often ended their education after cheder. The extent of Jewish education seems to be a mixed blessing. Thank G-d that the average Jew is far more educated than he or she was in past generations, but the financial cost of this level of education has been very high.

  3. The only thing two things that I find inordinately expensive about being frum are 1) housing, 2) tuition, and 3) having a large family (if one is lucky enough).

    Besides housing and tuition, the other expenses, while they are can be steep, can be managed much more efficiently. The pinch of a one time purchase of tefillin is nothing like the ongoing expense of tuition. The once a year pinch of pinch on Pesach can be controlled by making more foods from scratch and by steering clear of chumrot.

  4. Being frum is definitely expensive. However, I often question how being frum became so much more expensive in America. Did past generations in Europe go to expensive hotels for Pesach? Did they serve ten course meals on Shabbos and Yom Tov? Did they go out to eat at expensive kosher restaurants? Obviously, the necessities of yidishkeit are expensive by themselves – Pesach, Succos, Tefillin, etc. Yet, as American Jews we make things more expensive than past generations did.

  5. I think the main issue here is the need to work on Emunah. It is brought down in the Shulchan Aruch that all the income a person will earn in a given year is determined on Rosh HaShana, however, certain expenses are not factored into one’s alloted income. Namely expenses such as Shabbos, Yom Tov, Rosh Chodesh, schar limud (tution) are not deducted from your income.

    So, one should not complain about the money one spends on an Esrog (as long the the price is in proportion with your income), because that money does not affect one’s income.

    In any case, it reminds me of a bumber sticker, “if you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” “If you think being frum is expensive, try being a Secular Jew who spends their money on nonsense.”

    Also, the expression: “it is hard to be a Jew” is just wonderful. Keep saying it and let your children hear it, and eventually, they or their children could decide that they don’t want difficult lives, chos v’sholom.

  6. I think making generalizations about anyone is dangerous to do. I know numerous people in the secular world who are not materialistic whatsoever, I know those who are very materialistic and I know people in both camps in the Orthodox world too. As far as I know, I would say that a majority of people in this country are really really struggling financially. There are plenty of two income families who are doing so just to put food on the table and keep a roof over the family’s head. I also know plenty of people who struggle very hard in order to renovate their homes so that they can have separate milchig and fleishig kitchens (and sometimes even a separate Pesach kitchen, to boot!). I also know secular people where have the fanciest clothes, things, etc. is their main focus in life.

    Who I do feel sorry for are the people who are secular and Orthodox who lost sight of true Torah values.

  7. >I think for many of us as BT’s it is hard to shake the pursuit of certain things that the secular world tells us is important: fancy cars, big houses, the latest technology, exotic vacations.

    Plenty of BT’s and FFB’s grow up without the pursuit of such things. I am just looking to find $50,000 a year lying around to educate my children (present and future). I’m more than happy to make a Bar Mitzvah in the home, camp isn’t even an option, much less trips to Israel or Pesach vacations.

  8. I think that one of the important hashkafic lessons that we all learn, regardless of our orientations, is regardless of our “income”, the simple facts are that tuitions, tzedaka, shul and school appeals as well as the zillions of private appeals that accompany every day’s mail and just being an educated Jew via sefarim and books, etc, means that the term “disposable income” and “savings” are not exactly the same in our communities as they are in the outside world.

  9. For me, becoming frum was an intense spiritual experience, and I completely forgot about the material side of life for a couple of years. Then one day I came down from my cloud only to discover, much to my amazement, that many in frum society (mainly FFB’s) have value systems that are excessively materialistic. I observed frum people running after the shallow vanities and frivolities of life that had nothing to do with spiritual fullfillment. This paradox perplexes me to this day: Jews who are born into a society that offers them the beauty and richness of Torah who seem to be willing to trade all of that for a bowl of lentils.

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