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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Return on Investment

Unfortunately it seems that an attitude of "entitlement" and "something for nothing" seems to define my generation. A while back the Yated ran some letters where non-self-supporting young wives kvetched that their parents would give generously to them but complain to their friends about the burden. Other young wives complained that the money would come with "strings attached." The message the young were trying to send the older was: it should be your pleasure as a parent/grandparent to "help," you should do it with an open hand and a big smile, and don't dare make us feel obligated as it should be "your pleasure" to "help."

This past week, two young husbands, obviously of the same ilk, wrote their own letter. Their complaint? Their father-in-laws provide generously for them and their family (7 mouths to feed, no less), but pressure them by testing them on their learning and asking them to give a dvar Torah. They just don't understand why their father-in-law wants to test them.

It is simple. They are looking for a Return-on-Investment (ROI). You are their investment, and they want to make sure you are performing well (update: and they would like to enjoy your Torah learning too).

The attitude portrayed by these friends is definitely one of entitlement and it is shameful. L'havdil, but I can't imagine a PhD students complaining that in order to continue to receive his stipend and grants, he must complete a thesis, teach sections, and make progress on his research projects. L'havdil, I can't imagine a college football player kvetching that his coaches expect him to max out regularly on squats and bench press, as well as be timed in a 40 yard dash. And, I've yet to see a college student write a letter to the editor to complain their scholarship wa cut off because they didn't meet the required minimum GPA.

To these young men I say, you should be ashamed. Say a vort with a smile and take your test. Unlike a future employer, he probably won't fire you.

Letter below.

QUIZZED BY THE SHVER
Dear Editor,

Why do I have to feel like I am being farhered every time I go to my shver’s house in Brooklyn? I understand that he gives us money each month and we appreciate that very much. But does that mean that I have to be subject to questions about what I’m learning and pressured to say vertlach on the parsha every time we visit? My in-laws are very nice people. They shower my wife, 5 children and me with gifts, they bought us a car, among other things, and graciously give us a monthly check to keep us afloat. Is that the reason that my father-in-law feels compelled to quiz me every time I come to his house?

I mentioned this issue to a friend of mine who said that he experiences the same exact thing. This friend encouraged me to write this letter to the Yated. Actually, he’s pushed me for months to write something, but I never got around to it. Perhaps there is a father-in-law out there who can explain it to us. Why do you have to bombard us with your questions on our limudim and with your vertlach on this inyan or that inyan? It is not that we aren’t interested. It is just that we somehow are made to feel that we have to constantly be ready for our next “exam” when we meet you. (This is surely not as bad as a different friend’s shver who actually makes him fax a shtickel Torah to him once a month. This friend lives in Yerushalayim, while his father-in-law lives in New York.) There are other issues about in-laws that my friend wanted me to share, but for now I think this one will suffice.

Answers, anyone?
Two Friends

C. R. & M. F.
Lakewood, N.J.

33 comments:

Lion of Zion said...

i was once told that it is a mitzvah to consumer your in-laws' resources based on the pasuk ואכלת את שלל איביך

Zach Kessin said...

Suck it up and get a job, and learn to spell while you are at it.

Part of me says sorry for being so blunt, but I have been working 50-60 hour weeks so I don't feel too sorry for this guy

Anonymous said...

I laughed when I saw the original letter. Forget the ROI - how about lshitatam realizing that the zvulun thirsts for torah when he is able to get it. I wonder what this bnai torah are planning for their children - perhaps studying the fallacy of composition would be of some value in that niche.

KT
Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

This is actually the kind of attitude that disgusts me about Orthodox Judaism. I keep believing that being observant would lead someone to lead a more virtuous life, but clearly that was lost on this fellow and his friend. He is burdened by all of the questions by his father-in-law and he has the chutzpah to complain? He is complaining about his father-in-law who GIVES THEM MONEY TO LIVE??? Such chutzpah is pathetic and abhorrent. Hopefully the father-in-law will recognize the letter writer and explain to his daughter that unless the son-in-law can figure out the correct answer to his problem, those monthly checks are going to go away.

Oh, and I guess the guy can't get a job.

I don't know why, my husband and I have made it a point NOT to ask our parents for help, to deny offers - because we don't want to burden our parents; they have already given us so much (education, life, etc). Let them enjoy life and the fruits of their labor...

Larry Lennhoff said...

I made a note of that letter too. Did you also see the one about the bocher who felt a potential match needed a valid reason to say no?

Anonymous said...

Larry, Yes, but I assumned that he paskined like R' CSN&Y:
"Turn your heartache into joy
She's a girl and your a boy
Get together, "

KT
Joel Rich

Ephraim said...

Can someone explain to me how this attitude developed? If I am not mistaken, all of the great sages worked, some at what we would consider quite menial jobs, such as woodcutting and shoemaking. Since when, and why, did it become acceptable to do nothing but learn while others support you?

And then to complain because the person who is supporting you asks you to give over a vort every now and again? Chutzpah doesn't even begin to describe such an attitude. I would say "learning" is pretty much wasted on this fellow. Or does kibud av v'em not extend to one's shver?

If this man was my son, I would throw him out of the house.

Honestly Frum said...

To echo ANON 12:20's sentiment, I hope the father in laws figure out who these trolls are and cut them off. These people have no hakaras ha tov to the people that are suporting them and their families. Cut them off and send them a bill for the years they were supported.

qsman said...

lion of zion - LOL!!!!

No different than measuring employee perfomance at work. I meet with my team members on a weekly basis to find out how they are accomplishing their tasks.

If you have true ahavas hatorah and are shteiging and growing all your years in kollel, you should have no problems enthusiastically replying to your shver and sharing with him your passion of learning. I suspect these 2 shleppers are shmoozing during seder and at the coffee dispenser a bit too much. I wish I could cook up a vort at a moment's notice.

If you read "All for the Boss", you will surely recall when the Shains went to Mir, and R' Moshe was chastized for not mailing some "shtiklach torah". Or how when R' Herman made aliyah , he expected that "each one of the sons-in-law would take over one shiur". Perhaps they should obtain a copy of the book.

Anonymous said...

Those letters, and the attitudes associated with them are wrong on so many levels. And are probably contrary to many halachot as well (but I will leave it for the more learned to determine that). First and foremost, being asked to give a dvar torah is a great honor and is something that should be accepted gladly and with great humility. I am not such a great learner, and the few times in my life that I was asked to give a dvar torah, I was trembling in fear of accepting such an honor and worrying if I will do it well enough! Second of all, what ever happened to kivud av va'em? And what about simple gratitude for large amounts of support? Frankly, such a person doesn't belong in yeshiva, and instead needs to get a job and learn in the evenings and on shabbat instead.

Sadly, it adds more convincing evidence to me that the system is broken and needs to be fixed. I think one of the biggest problems in the system today is that derech eretz isn't taught anymore, it was crowded out by other things.

ProfK said...

Wow, biting the hand that feeds you with a vengeance, but unfortunately fairly common in those who have been brought up to understand that giving is a one-way process, and they are the recipients. And yes, the older generations share some of the responsibility for that attitude. We created the first generation that felt it was entitled to things and they passed along the message. Now we are seeing just how "well" that worked out.

DAG said...

Well, these guys ask for an answer...write it in to the Yated.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if these fathers (in law) are trying to ask these men about their careers, to make what they are doing seem important and equal to what they themselves are doing, and the letter writers are just too immature to see that. Either way, it is terrible that they can't relate to others on a mature level.

Ariella said...

This generation has forgotten the principle of soneh mathanos yichyeh. The Maharal discusses chiyus, but on a very simple level, one can perceive that "s/he who pays the piper calls the tune." I know a family in which the husband is not in kollel or school from the time of marriage. But his parents bought him a house (not a mere apartment) and just about all the furniture in it. His mother gives them money for new carpeting, painting, etc. The daughter-in-law resents her mother-in-law's intrusiveness -- like demanding a light fixture be moved and paying the electrician to do it, etc., but she never says no to the gifts. If anything is proof that you can't buy love, this is, for this daughter-in-law admits to looking forward to years ahead when she would not have her mother-in-law (who is elderly) around anymore.

qsman said...

I don't mean to sidetrack this thread, but I just wanted to apologize for not responding to the last couple of questions that were put up on my guest posting. Not trying to avoid, it's just the post yom-tov work catchup.

Please to continue the current discusssion

Chaim B. said...

I understand and agree with the sentiments of these comments, but read the letter a bit differently.

>>>It is just that we somehow are made to feel that we have to constantly be ready for our next “exam” when we meet you.

I read the problem as a blurring of lines between family relationship and business / professional relationship. A PhD student needs to prove his/her professional ability to others in his/her field. A business venture needs to establish a positive ROI to attract investors. These metrics are meaningful in the professional or business world, but not in the realm of family relationships. A "shverr" is not an investor or a professional review board. Thr problem is the system that has been set up blurs the boundaries.

SephardiLady said...

Ariella-Parents who provide like those referenced end up turing their children against them because the children are so smothered by gifts they don't have a chance to achieve by themselves because nothing they accomplish can be attributed to them.

Chaim B-I appreciate your reading. There definitely is a blurring of lines.

Charlie Hall said...

"being asked to give a dvar torah is a great honor and is something that should be accepted gladly and with great humility"

Amen!

I thought that when hosting a rabbi or a full time learner that I was mandated by halachah to honor him by allowing him to give a dvar torah.

G said...

Chaim B.-

>>>It is just that we somehow are made to feel that we have to constantly be ready for our next “exam” when we meet you

Why is it that the son-in-law "feels" this way? Notice that "exam" is in quotes.
There are not actual test being administered! As he states, "questions about what I’m learning", "vertlach on the parsha" & "questions on our limudim and with your vertlach on this inyan or that inyan".
These are "exams" that instill feelings of "farhered", "pressured" & "bombard"?!

A "shverr" is not an investor or a professional review board

Why not?

Ariella said...

"Parents who provide like those referenced end up turning their children against them because the children are so smothered by gifts they don't have a chance to achieve by themselves because nothing they accomplish can be attributed to them." I agree with you on that 100% and, of course, parents must take on some of the blame for bringing up a generation of people who feel no shame in na'ama dekisufa [bread given without having been earned]. In Jewish thought, the rationale for creating the world is to allow people to earn their reward. If people would simply get a "free lunch," they would not enjoy it as much as one they worked for. But our society seems to have forgotten that principle altogether and believe that beating the system -- that is avoiding earning one's way by getting it all free -- is the ultimate object.

Tamiri said...

I would sooner blame the parents who are supporting than the kids on the receiving end. This poor neb did not learn to beware of gift-bearing in-laws. There are always strings attached.

Elitzur said...

Chaim B. when I was a PhD student my parents and in-laws always asked what I was studying (and I answered even though I wasn't being supported by them!). It's called hakaras hatov. And believe me their knowledge of my field of study was MUCH less than any Orthodox Jews knowledge of Torah.

Ariella said...

You are so right, tamiri. Elitzur, I would have been much amused to have my in-laws "quiz" me on my graduate studies (English lit). But I didn't just study full-time and earned at least some income while working on the PhD even though I had a number of children along the way.

Poor but proud said...

My in-laws are going to Israel next year, and they want to buy our entire family tickets to visit them during Sukkot. I told my husband that we cannot accept because the ultimate cost of the tickets is more than I can afford to pay. Those free ticket would cost way too much in terms of the power it would give them over us.

Tamiri said...

"My in-laws are going to Israel next year, and they want to buy our entire family tickets to visit them during Sukkot. I told my husband that we cannot accept because the ultimate cost of the tickets is more than I can afford to pay. Those free ticket would cost way too much in terms of the power it would give them over us."

Wow. Ayn chacham kebaal nisayon

G said...

"Those free ticket would cost way too much in terms of the power it would give them over us."
--------
(As with the letter from the post)...wow, this is such a sad commentary.

Poor but proud said...

Okay, I'll admit to being dumb. I don't understand the point that tamiri and g are making. Are you saying that I am right or wrong for not taking the tickets?

Just to clarify, I am not explicitly saying to my in-laws, "No, you can't take us to Israel because I don't trust you to not use this as a weapon against us for the next 35 years." I tried to explain that we are incredibly grateful for their kind offer, but that we would rather wait until the children are older before we take them to Israel.

It is really important to me to not take money from my parents or in-laws. My husband and I made our beds by deciding to go into careers that pay in the mid-two digits. We are not corporate lawyers or hedge fund traders. We have to live within our means. Expensive gifts from our parents would do funky things to us.

Larry Lennhoff said...

t is really important to me to not take money from my parents or in-laws. My husband and I made our beds by deciding to go into careers that pay in the mid-two digits. We are not corporate lawyers or hedge fund traders. We have to live within our means. Expensive gifts from our parents would do funky things to us.

That is certainly a legitimate choice.

A tale from my own life: When I was young, my father was supporting his elderly parents in addition to his wife (who also worked) and children. I wanted to go to a Jewish sleep away camp, but they couldn't afford it. My mother's father offered to pay, but as far as dad was concerned that would have meant that his father in law was paying to support my father's parents. He found that unacceptable, so I didn't go to camp. Years later he told me this story (at the time I was just told we could not afford that camp) and said he now thought he had made a mistake.

Rachel said...

I have a (stupid) question. If every one is supposed to learn, and have a lot of children, how is one expected to provide for one's future generations? I mean, if a man is a torah learner, (and more power to him), how is he expected to give his children the same money that he is so blessed to receive from his in-laws? This all seems so farkackta. I was raised in a Conservative Jewish home, and this idea was just never discussed, so I am confused! :) Thanks.

Anonymous said...

The idea of learning and having lots of children is a new one

yes there were always those who learned and were supoported in the ashkenaz world - but they were very very few - less than 1%. In the Sephardic world - probably less than that

in terms of many children - one is obligated to have one boy and one girl - every thing else (in my view ) is a mitzva kiyumis - if you have them you get a mitzva - but it is not an obligation

Yosef Hatzadik did not have children during thefamine in egypt

he ended up with just two boys (did he have daughters ?)

alm said...

anonymous: depending on who you ask, the mitzvah is to have a boy and a girl, or it is to have as many children as possible, or it is to have two children (no matter the gender), or it is to- at the very least- attempt to have children (think: couples struggling with infertility)....

Tamiri said...

Poor but Proud: My WOW was to say: I am proud of you. For realizing the price of things and not succombing (sp).

G said...

I was not commenting as to whether you are right or wrong, only that it is sad that your resultant feelings would be limited only to your feelings of what kind of power it would give them over you.