In Israel, Rav Shteiman has said it is time to discontinue the vort, and go with a l'chaim following the engagement at the home of the kallah. Perhaps I'm missing some information being only familiar with things in America, but I can't really tell the difference between what people call vorts and l'chaims. Besides my husband and me, I can't think of too many people who have not had an engagement party (my husband will take issue, however, he claims that because our parents met for a meal in which he announced our engagement that we too had a party. . . . .next time one of my kids wants a birthday party with classmates, I will insist that a meal with family is a party :).
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I personally am not at all attached to the practice of a vort or l'chaim. I think engagements are best started off slowly, without a bash. It seems extremely logical to me that when cutting expenses, the vort be the first thing on the cutting block. The Simcha Guidelines from about a decade ago also called for only a small l'chaim. I wonder if a decade later, someone else will call for discontinuation or if the financial realities will finally par down on this expense. Time will only tell.
Also of interest is a story in Haaretz as reported by VIN that Badatz has ruled that Chareidim in Israel cannot invest in stocks of Israeli companies. The concerns reported are that Chareidim should not become *partner* in companies that violate Shabbat and engage in inappropriate advertising. I won't even bother to comment that investing does not make on a partner; I actually have my own moral concerns with certain American companies and don't care to invest directly or patronize certain companies. That said, such an announcement is disturbing in combination with the past policies I've reported on. I guess the post He Can't Work, She Can't Work could now, in light of this new pronouncement be titled He Can't Work, She Can't Work, Nor Can They Invest. It seems that each month, we the big fat pocket book, are privy to another report of what Chareidim can't do because it violates religious principal. Worse yet is when leadership complains that Chareidim can't get ahead because of the man. Seriously, it is no wonder that people think about selling a kidney (which is in fact not permissible).
What surprises me most about the Haaretz reports that of the 50,000 Chareidi households, 42% deposit 825 NIS a month in savings plans. According to this exchange rate calculator that is almost $220 a month. There are so many people in America unable to save such amounts monthly. This just seems unbelievable given the unemployment rate and other stats.