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Basic Math

You don’t make a penny more or less than you’re supposed to. We hear this all the time, and yet and yet — it’s daunting to live by this knowledge.

In Real Time // Esther Kurtz

You don’t make a penny more or less than you’re supposed to. We hear this all the time, and yet and yet — it’s daunting to live by this knowledge.

I offer an online writing course. The first time I offered it, I had no clue what I was doing. I put an ad in Family First, cultivated a tiny email list, and that was it. The course cost $347. Twenty people signed up. I had no idea how impressive that was.

The course was a success, but I gave each participant feedback on every assignment and was swamped with work. Overwhelmed, I resolved to never format it like that again.

Next iteration, I offered a tiered model with differing levels of support. Sign-ups were split between the lowest and middle tier, with one person springing for the VIP package. Only 15 people registered, so while my workload was easier, I earned significantly less.

The third time around, I decided to make use of all the marketing and process knowledge I’d acquired — this was going to be done “right.” And I raised my prices: $497 and $997 for the different tiers.

I had 30 signups. One VIP registration.

Registration doors closed (a marketing tactic to create urgency), and then the late requests came in. “I forgot.” “I didn’t realize.” “I just found out.”

I hesitantly allowed four more people in.

The course started and another marketing cog kicked in: the no-questions-asked refunds. Some participants couldn’t commit to the time demands and requested refunds.

You can probably guess what I noticed when tallying my revenue: late sign-ups equaled refund requests.

All the hesitation for late sign-ups and for issuing refunds was for naught. I’d made rules and shouldn’t have hemmed and hawed and wondered if I was losing out by keeping to them. I got exactly what was coming to me.

In bitachon, there’s no would’ve, could’ve, should’ve: there is only “is.” And there’s nothing more relieving than living with that comfort.


Esther Kurtz is the creator of Emunah for Non-Rebbetzins, an audio series teaching Shaar Bitachon in 2-minute clips. This column will share personal anecdotes and actionable concepts in bitachon — non-rebbetzin to non-rebbetzin.


Hearts Full of Hope
In Search of Happiness // Rebbetzin Aviva Feiner

We left our discussion last time with the idea that we should try to look at the sprinkles and frosting on the doughnut, and not on the hole in the middle. Because all of our lives, at some point, are filled with ups and downs that could turn us into bland, sour, or even unpleasant people.

Let’s wake ourselves up and look around outside — it’s spring and the world is fresh and filled with bountiful beauty. What was dry and cracked earth and twisted bare branches is now alive with vivid hues and fragrant smells. Birds and butterflies and all of our other insect friends are having a party.

Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz ztz”l gave us Lecha Dodi. In his Holy prose, he masterfully encourages us to Hisna’ari mei’afar kumi —  shake yourselves and get up and out of the muck and dirt. Livshi bigdei sifarteich, ami — put on your most beautiful clothing, my nation. Al yad ben Yishai beis haLacḥmi, korvah el nafshi ge’alah — Ben Yishai (Dovid Hamelech)  taught us to keep the Geulah close to our souls.

Dovid Hamelech wasn’t zocheh to see the Beis Hamikdash, but worked his whole life to bring it to fruition. His life was full of incredible challenge. Yet he was the “Neim Zemiros Yisrael,” The most pleasant singer and songwriter in all of Jewish history.

His message: Keep your heart full of hope. Good times can come and will come, be ready for them and feel that they’re close.


Exact Change
Stories That Uplift // as told to Raizy Jotkowitz

"You applied for negative income tax for me and you?” my husband asks as he comes into the kitchen. He’s holding a pile of mail.

“Yes,” I reply without even looking up from the onions I’m chopping. “I do every year. We’ve never qualified for it, but you can always hope, no?”

I’m suddenly curious. “Why are you asking?”

“'Cuz we just got two letters saying we got it. Works out to be exactly half of what I committed to the shul for their building fund.”

I look up from the onions and smile. “Wow, that’s cool.”

I’m proud of my husband. He’s really responsible about our finances. And he’s amazingly reliable about giving maaser. Every little bit of income gets recorded on a spreadsheet, and every month he does the math and gives ten percent to tzedakah.

I’ll be honest. If I was in charge of finances, I’d probably spend most of everything we earned. And I’d find it painful to do the maasering. Especially this year, when my husband’s business has been a little slow, and we had to dip into our savings a couple of times.

The next day, I get a text that we’d qualified for a subsidy for our baby’s day care center. Not just any subsidy. The highest level. We’d be paying peanuts for full-time care plus three meals a day.

The amount of money we saved makes up for the half of our shul donation.

This time, my, “Wow, that’s cool” is a little louder.

That was at the beginning of the year.

Just before Pesach, we’re feeling the pinch again, when I get a call from the HR manager. I hope nervously that I filled out all my taxation forms correctly. Why else would she be calling?

She sounds so cheerful, she couldn’t be calling just about administrative matters. “I’ve got great news. I met with the CEO yesterday about some things. He saw how hard you’ve been working this past year and wants to give you a 500 shekel raise, starting this month.”

A raise without me even requesting it?

And when I tell my husband, he goes pale.

“That’s exactly how much I signed up to give the kollel for their fundraising drive. 500 shekel a month,” he whispers.

My “Wow, that’s cool” rattles the window pane.

Thank you, Hashem.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 893)

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