Is Living Simply an Ideal or an Unfortunate Consequence of Tuition Induced Pressures

By: Always A BT

My 4 children (all girls) are mostly grown. Our eldest is 31; the youngest is now in high school.

We are fortunate to have chosen a Yeshiva where no child is turned away and although there is a “minimum tuition”, those with extenuating circumstances are dealt with on a case by case basis. The Hanhalah and Board are committed to this standard. As far as I know, none of the other Yeshivas (of which there are several) in our city have this policy regarding scholarship.
We managed to pay full tuition for several years when our children first started school. We managed to paid full tuition even while going through foreclosure. Our children know that Yeshiva tuition was a priority. We are very pleased by the “return” on our “investment” in their ruchniyus.

Now, in middle age, we have made peace with the fact that we will always be renters.

Due to health obstacles and several downturns in the economy over the years, we were never able to pay full tuition again. Our limitations, both due to our own health issues & caregiving obligations, made this impossible. We have a relative who helped with tuition for Yeshiva ketana and my husband has worked for my children’s high school for the last 13 years as barter for tuition as well. He currently works 3 jobs just to put food on the table. I have been a full time caregiver for my mother for over 18 years. I have been unable to work for the last 10 years because caring for her is a full time job.

It frustrates me that there is a prevailing perception that those of us who work in “business” are well heeled, wear custom sheitels and the latest fashions, go on lavish vacations, frequent Pesach programs and drive luxury cars. Nothing could be further from the truth. We take care of our things so they last as long as possible. Yom Tov comes and goes without the “requisite” new clothes for the kids and/or jewelry for the wife. Vacations are sporadic at best and very low budget. We try not to incur debt unless absolutely necessary. We and our children are very happy with the simple lifestyle we lead. In many ways, it has brought us closer because everyone pitches in.

Our children are all hard workers and while not lacking, do not get much in the way of frills unless they have earned a good portion of the money themselves. They realize it is impractical to marry a “learning boy” because their parents cannot afford to support. They do not want to live on public assistance or charity; they want to be financially independent. My husband learns Torah daily and my daughters’ husbands attend minyanim daily and have regular learning sedarim as well. Another myth dispelled; Torah is a priority to many men and women who work outside the frum community to support their families.

Many, if not most, of those in chinuch in our community, have a higher standard of living than we do. Most own their homes, but many work multiple jobs to support their families. Many get “perks” such as cash gifts, scholar in residence at Yom Tov programs, various discounts, parsonage, etc., not available to those in “business”.

I am not complaining. But please, recognize that not all of us “businessmen” live luxury lifestyles and have large disposable incomes.

I have no answers. My question is, why are the “haves” not teaching their children to live simply as well? Is this not a Torah value?

3 comments on “Is Living Simply an Ideal or an Unfortunate Consequence of Tuition Induced Pressures

  1. Spaced out BT–absolutely. I think differing views on spending is one of the major causes of marital difficulties.

    Bob Miller
    Let me clarify I do not envy what others have & we are happy with our lot–we have a good life. For those who work and earn their income honestly–gezunta heit. It’s not a question of envy, it’s more a question of others having preconceived notions & judgment about US. It is baffling to me that so much gashmius has entered the Torah world. One of the values that drew me to Shomrei Mitzvot was the many people I saw who were tzanua about income & taught their children respect for their material possessions, financial blessings and all people regardless of checkbook balance.
    Another frustration is the way “working” families are looked down upon by the many who have chosen a kollel lifestyle. Looking down at any Jew is definitely NOT a Torah value. We need both the Yissachars & Zevuluns and both should be valued for their role in Klal Yisrael.

  2. If both spouses are on the same page, fine. If not one spouse will nag the other about spending to “keep up” -either resulting in a marital battleground, endless piles of debt, or both.

  3. If the simple life is good for families, the families living simply should not envy the affluent or become preoccupied with the choices the affluent make.

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