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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Money: The Solution to Everything?

A Yated Letter writer had this to say (in regards to shidduchim, but he really could have been writing about any subject):
"I’m not a rabbi or an authority on the matter. I don’t have any advice to offer, except, perhaps, the idea that when money is the solution to every problem in Klal Yisroel, then that is a problem in itself."

Unfortunately, much of the advice that can be found in any society, and ours is certainly no exception, is that problems can and should be solved by "throwing money at it." For those who lack the funds (or just don't want to divert the funds), these "solutions" can be hurtful, because they aren't solutions at all. Funds or no funds, I am of the opinion that throwing money at a problem rarely attacks the root cause.

Shidduchim : Shidduchim may be the area where the popular solution of late is to offer up money to fix the problem. Forget innovation or reevaluating expectations, green is the color of the day.

Problem: A girl's parents can't ante up the funds so their daughter can marry the kollel-learning prince charming of their choice? Solution: Pair up girls unable to land the dates of their choice with big givers who will fill in the financial gap where their parents left off.

Problem: Girls in Baltimore and Girls in Queens are having a difficult time getting married by the age of 22 and 2 months or 23, respectively. Solution: Pay shadchanim $2000 per shidduch made for a girl in either community. (Note: Baltimore is know paying $2,500. Guess $2,000 was no longer motivating enough)

Problem: Not enough (Israeli) shidduchim are being made. Who's to blame? The parents. They aren't flashing enough green. Solution: Parents should pay shadchanim more.

Problem: There are more Orthodox girls dating than boys and boys want to date younger girls. Solution: The NASI (North American Shidduch Initiative) Fund looks to close the age gap between couples by providing an incentive of $750 to shadchanim of couples who are within two years of age of each other, $1250 to shadchanim of couples in which the chosson and kallah are less than a year apart, and $2000 for couple in which the girl is at least three months older than the boy.

Household Management/Shalom Bayit: The pressures of running a dual-income (or even a single income) home, especially if there are many children, can be enormous. Let's face it, sometimes we have too much on our plate. So we often hear talks about how important it is to have household help, get out with your husband for a date on a regular basis, etc, etc.

Now, sometimes these solutions can work their magic. But, for others, they are hardly a solution. If the funds aren't there (or have been designated for a different purpose), hearing about these solutions can leave one disappointed. Where is the creative thinking?

What types of organization systems can help our children put their things away? How can we help our children self-direct? What types of activities can help keep them out of our hair while we make an important call or pull together dinner?

How can those of us who have learned the ropes of managing a house share non-monetary solutions with those who can't/don't want to hire help? And how can those of us who want to learn more come together?

How about Shalom Bayit? Seems every young chatan is told how important gifts are to his wife and how he should make sure to always buy flowers for her every Shabbat. Hearing advice like this drives me batty! First off, who (besides Hallmark) assumed that all women want it flowers, jewelry, and chocolates? Maybe I am speaking for myself when I say, I want a cushion in the bank so I can sleep at night, and no crumbs on the countertop. Other women I know want flowers, perhaps at the expense of their budget.

(Hat Tip: Ariella of Kallah Magazine). Problem: Wife lashes out at husband and throws a chair. Solution: Buy her flowers. Perhaps the little I have read from this very popular internet Rabbi, I have read incorrectly. But, it seems to me that gifts isn't the solution to serious Shalom Bayit issues.


Problem: You want your son to learn more Torah. Solution: Father-Son learning programs offer some really cool prizes. This really could turn into its own post, but we have opted out of the motzei Shabbat learning programs for now. My son loves learning and I don't feel the need to ply them with soda, candy, and pizza to do so. And, as my readers know, I'm not much into raffles, even if you can win an IPod. This is a far cry from nuts and honey the Rambam suggests. (Also, with thanks for commenter "anonymous mom").

(Hat Tip: Once again Ariella) Problem: Kids can't be quite in shul. Solution: They should enter a raffle for a prize of $25 for not talking at specific time or $50 for not talking at all. What ever happened to role modeling and expectations?

And on that note, I'm looking forward to Rabbi Horowitz's next parenting column. Problem: A family wants to see their children get good marks in school. A Possible Solution: Pay them. I'm willing to predict that Rabbi Horowitz isn't going to buy into this solution.

The Yated writer is correct. When it seems like the solution to every problem is MONEY, that alone is a problem.


Looking Forward said...

I don't think that buying someone flowers, chocolate, or perhaps depending on their character sacrificing something you wanted and putting 100 or 200 additional dollars in savings and showing the recipt to your wife so she'll sleep better sounds like a bad idea... as long as its followed up by a sincere and thoughtfull "is something wrong?" and "what can I do to help?" "can I do anything"? and having a sincere and hopefully caring and affectionate conversation in which you empathize with your wife's concerns and hopefully make some real changes to make her happier.

But making some sort of sacrificial offering to try and appease her long enough not to get another chair thrown at you for your trouble doesn't seem like such a bad idea...

Charlie Hall said...

"When it seems like the solution to every problem is MONEY, that alone is a problem."

It means that the idea of isolating Orthodox communities has resulted in acceptance of the worst of secular culture rather than the best.

Leah Gayle said...

There are lots of free things that a husband and wife can do together - but they're usually "cultural" things which the cheredi and even some modern orthodox refuse to avail themselves of: gallery hops, free concerts and lectures (especially if there's a university nearby), museum exhibits and educational programs, arts and craft fairs (you can just look, you don't have to buy anything)... Or how about just a walk in the park, an early evening picnic, or inviting a few good friends over for a pot luck to play music (live or recorded) or watch a cheap classic movie rental? You can pick the best of these things - using discernment shouldn't have to mean being completely isolated from the rest of the world. But many people won't think outside the orthodox box - so they're bored silly and can't find anything to do that doesn't cost money. It's sad.

DAG said...

I'm not sure my parody is even a parody anymore....

Anonymous said...

In my experience the problem isn't that dates cost a lot, it's that going on dates requires getting a babysitter, and babysitters cost a lot. Unfortunately there aren't a lot of free museum days or concerts around here, but most couples I know are happy to make "date night" a picnic in the park or walk around the city, etc. The problem is that even a two and a half hour picnic together will cost at least 75 shekels just for babysitting.

There is always the option of a babysitting swap, but that can be hard to arrange as families get larger. Also, it requires living in an area with other couples w/kids the same age, which unfortunately I don't.

In Israel davka a lot of hareidi couples I know won't go for the expensive options (restaurants, etc) b/c they don't really do restaurants. Instead "date night" for them seems to be a walk around town while grandma watches the kids.

Leah Goodman said...

For some "gifts" try "honey, let me do the dishes tonight" or a back rub or run the bath for your spouse.

For Channuka this year, I had my husband bring me every pair of pants that needed mending (8) and mended them, and then I ironed a pile of shirts for him. (admittedly, if I were more of a balabusta, that wouldn't be a gift, but...)

When I want to surprise him, I make a batch of his favorite flavor of ice cream (strawberry).

One of the nicest gifts he gives me is that he takes the baby out Shabbat afternoon so I can read or rest.

More importantly, he thanks me for EVERY CHORE I do, and I endeavor to do the same. You'd be amazed how much some silly little words to for a marriage "thank you for doing the laundry" "thank you for cleaning the sink" "thank you for fixing the toilet" "Thank you for feeding the baby" "Thank you for doing the grocery shopping"

Add those phrases into your daily speech with your partner and you get a lot more than you can by bringing a dozen roses.

Leah Gayle said...


You belong to a shul, don't you? Surely there are people there who can do a babysitting co-op? Maybe even AT the shul - a drop off night. Isn't there a multi-purpose room where the kids can run around for a couple of hours? Or a library? Kids can watch a video or play board games, even do homework. You can trade time working a night or two a month with each other at no cost. That way it doesn't cost anyone cash - just time.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, as usual.

These "throw money" solutions also have the effect of causing additional grief and frustration. When people confronting these problems read that the solution is money, which they can't effort, they just get more upset and down on themselves.

I've been there, so I can very much relate.

Anonymous said...

I meant "afford," not "effort"

Critically Observant Jew said...

I'll disagree about flowers. While understanding that a $5 bouquet a week amounts to about $250 a year, I still think that it's a cheap enough way to show appreciation to one's wife (other ways noted above not excluded). Also, many flowers will last for 2 weeks (and my wife, in particular, doesn't want to waste money on new ones when the "old" ones are still alive). So that brings the "flower" bill to about $125 a year.

Anonymous said...


I don't want to speak for anyone else, but I'd go bananas if my wife thanked me for every time I did a load of laundry or took out the trash. Not that I don't value being appreciated, and don't like the occasional thank you, but if my wife were to thank me multiple times a day, for every chore around the house, I'd find life less pleasant.

Anonymous said...

SephardiLady, excellent post! It is right on the money :-)

jewchick said...

As far as raffles go, I though of you, SL, when I got this letter. A local kiruv organization is having a fund raising campaign, "kugel for kiruv" - it's a raffle in which you can win a 9x13 kugel made by one of the local rebbetzins. So what's the cost - a few foil pans, a few pounds of potatoes and a couple dozen eggs. I thought it was a really creative idea.

Orthonomics said...

Gregory-If your wife likes flowers, that is an appropriate gift. I'm protesting the assumption that a husband SHOULD buy his wife flowers. A husband should give his wife gifts she will appreciate. The key is to communicate about what one appreciates. I know a wife whose husband use to bring her flowers (like the chossen teacher recommended) only to find out she liked something else in lieu.

Orthonomics said...

JewChik-Report back if this turns out to be a successful fundraiser. :)

Anonymous said...

ahavah, I like the babysitting co-op idea, except that most families put their younger kids down to bed by 9:00 or so and don't want them running around shul at that hour.

When we go out by ourselves at night (HARDLY EVER because hubby is usually at night seder 4 nights a week), but we are going to the kollel dinner tomorrow night, yay!) we want to stay out past then especially if we don't make it out the door till 7:00 or 7:30, you know? So tomorrow we have a sitter who can stay as late as we want--- that way when our kids are tired, they can go to bed.

flowers--- I WOULD LOVE an occasional bouquet of flowers from my hubby, but he doesn't like flowers and doesn't want to waste the money.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a lot to be said for going broke, but gracefully. We lost our cheap rental house last summer and are now forced to sell our van in order to pay the obscenely high rent that is necessary to keep living near our shul. But we and our kids are really trying to roll with it b'simcha and know that in the long run these hard choices will help us get ahead. A lot of it is just about attitude and not feeling like your life is over when the checkbook dries up. I still prefer this to the alternative of working for low wages that wouldn't help anyway after the extra bills and childcare.

Critically Observant Jew said...

I still think that the advice to give flowers is not without its merits. At the same time, I see your point of communication between the spouses. My wife told me that the flowers should not be expensive, and that she wouldn't like a new bouquet if the old one is still "alive". I think that the chatanim should start off bringing flowers for every shabbat, but further down the road, the communications should take their path and they'd find out what their wives really like

Lion of Zion said...


". . . but we are going to the kollel dinner tomorrow night"

we also don't get out that often, but i'd kill myself if the one time we do go out is to a formal institutional dinner.

Critically Observant Jew said...

". . . but we are going to the kollel dinner tomorrow night"

don't tell me it's separate seating :-)

Anonymous said...

it is separate seating, and we WILL enjoy it and have fun. Almost nothing in our community is mixed seating-- weddings, even our son's bris seudah was separate seating.

It's good to get out now and then. On a typical weeknight I'm home with the kids and hubby is out at night seder. So we each enjoy hanging out with our buddies on our own side of the mechitza and then we get to compare notes in the car on the way home. Frankly, I'm thrilled. I get to dress up. :)

Esther said...

Trilcat, I really love your comment. That's the kind of marriage advice that would be helpful to couples, not just telling them to spend money.

I know SephardiLady remembers me telling her about some poor advice I was given when I was a new mother. I had a baby a few weeks before Yom Kippur. I went to my rebbetzin very concerned because I was going to be alone all day with the baby, still recovering from a cesaerean, nursing, and of course expected to fast if at all possible. She vaguely suggested finding a teenage girl, but they were all committed to being in shul. The she said, "Hire someone." She was NOT offering to pay of course...

Esther said...

Twinsmommy - have a great time!

Anonymous said...

YAY! My husband just read to me that the U.S. is considering additional tax credits which would probably apply to us. THROW MONEY OUR WAY IRS, and THANKS!!!
You see, the U.S. is in a deep recession and the value of the dollar is waaaaay down. What better way to solve the problem than... money????!!!!!!!
Maybe we should have more kids to qualify for MORE MONEY!

Anonymous said...

I second Tricat. I have enjoyed going to the kollel dinner. I also enjoy going out to friends on Shabbos.

SL, a quote I found very helpful.
"Don't confuse frugality with depriving yourself." Jonni McCoy, Miserly Moms as quoted in antohyer book.

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Ariella's blog said...

"SephardiLady, excellent post! It is right on the money :-)" I love the irony of this phrase for this post. But, of course, I agree completely. And thank you for pointing out those posts of mine. As the spring issue of Kallah Magazine is in the works, I can tell you that the Ms. Maven column is on exactly this point. You and she must be on the same wavelength.

For all those citing the high cost of babysitting, I know that we also rarely went out when a babysitter was needed. Aside from the expense, just finding someone willing and available took many phone calls. And no one seemed inclined to a swap. Sometimes the grandparents watched them for us for a special occasion like an anniversary. But we did not go out on a weekly or even monthly basis. It is so great to have teenage kids who can watch the younger ones.