Inbox: Issue 952| March 7, 2023
“The recent censoring of books in secular society highlights an incredible opportunity we may have to make great books available to Bais Yaakov students”
Not Worth the Deal [Inbox / Issue 951]
Continuing the inbox discussion about the Tama 38 construction in Ramat Eshkol, I wanted to add the perspective of apartment owners.
After years of moving from one rental to another, we finally bought an apartment thinking we’d be settled and wouldn’t have to move again. Then came Tama.
As everyone knows, it’s nearly impossible to live in a building undergoing Tama due to the noise, dust, utility outages, Arab workers, etc. People assume that property owners welcome Tama, because their apartments will be expanded by 20 meters. No! Many don’t think it’s worth the deal.
We intentionally bought an apartment in a building with fewer apartments, without the expense of an elevator blocking the airflow in the open stairwell. We don’t want to live through five years of Gehinnom and then have 12 additional apartments on our roof, with sloppy workmanship throughout. We don’t want rooms without windows or train-style bedrooms where you have to walk through one to get to the next. The current residents of the building don’t want to lose our covered entranceway and the bike/stroller storage area, so that the contractor can build another apartment there and profit another million dollars, or for our front lawn to be turned into a parking lot for only the new apartment owners.
Why do the new apartments get larger, private-entrance storage rooms while the old apartments get small ones at the end of a windy hallway? Who wants to be part of a construction plan that clearly focuses on the sale of the new apartments and doesn’t care about the current ones?
We can’t afford expensive lawyers to fight these plans that clearly reduce our quality of life. Sadly, this also causes a lot of friction between neighbors who disagree on the plans, and it breaks up close relationships that neighbors have had for years. The only winners are the builders and the real estate agents who fill their wallets.
M. Greenfield, Ramat Eshkol
Perfect Timing [Voice in the Crowd / Issue 951]
I must share the Hashgachah pratis involved when I read Sruli Besser’s latest Voice in the Crowd column, “Extremely Normal” (Issue 951).
Yesterday morning, I had the unfortunate circumstance of being on hold on the phone for almost an hour. During that time, a friend tried to click in from her cell phone number. This friend lives near me in our small, yeshivish, out-of-town community, and on occasion she’ll call from her cell phone to ask me if I have a certain grocery product she can borrow or if I have room in my car for one of her kids. Because I was on hold, I couldn’t answer, so I texted her, “Sorry on hold. Call u back soon or we can text.”
Immediately, I got back an automated response. “This phone does not accept text messages. This is an automatic reply.”
Oh my gosh, I thought, Really? She’d mentioned to me in passing that she’d gotten a new flip phone, but I hadn’t realized a lack of texting ability was part of the change.
As soon as my phone call was over, I tried to call her back, but she didn’t answer. I went into my husband’s home office and gave him an earful. Why do people think they can’t text? Nothing’s wrong with texting! What if she needed something? What if her husband wants to take a picture at the supermarket and ask her which ketchup to get? (This is admittedly a weekly occurrence in our household.) I went on and on, listing one disadvantage after another to not being able to text.
Then, a few hours later, I received the weekly Mishpacha preview email. I quickly scrolled through it and clicked on Rabbi Besser’s article, as I always enjoy reading what he has to say. I read through the article, found myself nodding along with his premise that the only “normal” should be what the Torah asks of us, and then, there it was: “...We feel patronized by the woman who tells the school that sorry, her phone has no text messaging and they will have to call her to share updates....”
Oh. Right. There may be many valid reasons why my friend doesn’t want to text, none of them having to do with my supermarket habits. Maybe she doesn’t want the text messages beeping during her family dinner. Maybe she doesn’t want her kids picking up the phone. Maybe she feels it might be habit forming. Or maybe, she just generally wants to increase the kedushah in her home, which we should all be doing in the first place.
Thank you as always, Rabbi Besser, for elucidating what “normal” really is.
Reach the Highest Level [Bottomless Pit / Double Take – Issue 951]
As always, your Double Take stories provide ample food for thought. In the “Bottomless Pit” story, once again, the optimal answer lies between the two extremes presented.
Aryeh, the wealthy brother, was helping his sister and brother-in-law significantly on an ongoing basis by paying their tuition and grocery bills. In his modesty, he was doing this in accordance with a high level on the scale of the Rambam’s Eight Degrees of Charity — Level 6, where the giver knows the recipient, but the recipient is unaware of the giver.
However, the goal would be to get to Level 8, where the giver helps the financially challenged recipients to get to a stable situation where they can earn their own livelihood in an honorable fashion. With that goal in mind, when the father, Zecharya, came to discuss the situation with Aryeh, Aryeh would have been wise to confide with his father about the significant help he is already giving in a discreet fashion. Then they should have discussed the financial challenges, and figured out how to convene a meeting with Pinny and Rikki to discuss the entire picture, and to insist on proper financial counseling (for which Aryeh was obviously willing to pay).
This would have meant a temporary drop from Level 6 of charity, as Pinny and Rikki would have certainly found out who was paying for their tuition and the groceries. It may have caused some additional family awkwardness in the short term. On the other hand, it would likely have accelerated the challenging but necessary process of giving Pinny and Rikki the tools to assume financial responsibility for themselves.
J. L., Toronto, ON
Take a Page from the Woke? [The Beat / Issue 950]
What an impressive job Gedalia Guttentag did in his analysis of the censoring of the Roald Dahl books. He succeeded in highlighting the nastiness of the author and his books, and, at the same time, the absurd and fractured way the woke have “improved” them.
For me, however, the recent censoring of books in secular society highlights an incredible opportunity we may have to make great books available to Bais Yaakov students.
I am an English teacher in a school that wants to offer our girls quality literature, but that also puts restrictions on any content that is at all objectionable to frum sensitivities — and we struggle.
When I bought a Kindle some years ago, it occurred to me that we could take advantage of technology to delete some problematic words and sentences from books in which the content is mainly fine, and sell a selection of kosher literature on a “kosher Kindle” to Bais Yaakov schools all over the world. Yet, although people who work with technology have told me it would be easy to do, I have never found anyone interested enough to take on the project.
But now perhaps it is time we should reconsider. After all, if the woke can do it, why can’t we? We can even promise that we will leave all the tractors alone.
Keep Hashem in Your Budget [Money Talks with Dave Ramsey / Issue 949]
Thank you Mishpacha and Kosher Money for your interview with Dave Ramsey.
As frum Jews, even with the Ramsey formula, it seems like we have more monthly expenses (and Yom Tov... and camp... and kid’s clothing...) left at the end of the paycheck. And for many, even when we try to make the numbers work and cut back, we’re still unsure what else to cut — generally we like to put meat in our cholent, as opposed to Ramsey’s suggestion of eating rice and beans until there is extra money in the bank.
One thing Ramsey doesn’t take into account is hishtadlus vs. bitachon, tefillah, and Hashem stepping in. We’ve noticed that once our clients do the hishtadlus of creating a working budget and come up short, and they come to the conclusion that they are doing as much as they can to bring in money while being mindful to have time and patience for their children and home, they start reporting that Hashem sends them the money.
How? This month they received a check from a tax return they weren’t expecting. Another month a washing machine broke and the insurance company sent a reimbursement that they completely forgot about. Every time, the amount reported is similar to the amount of the shortfall.
Once a budget is in place, pockets of unexpected money seem to appear. And on the flip side, someone who budgets like crazy and has everything figured out 100 percent has to remember that Hashem is in control and their budgeting is hishtadlus, but not a guarantee.
We Jews are l’maalah min hateva, and more important than the necessary hishtadlus piece of budgeting and making money, is the work on our emunah, bitachon, and letting Hashem in. Saying to Hashem, “I’m doing everything I possibly can, I’m maxed out, and I need your help” is a huge part of Yiddishkeit. So along with Ramsey’s seven steps, a tremendous dose of tefillah and bitachon will allow us to become a keili for brachah and shefa.
Tsippi Gross, Business strategist and Dave Ramsey Master Financial Coach
Rivky Rothenberg, CPA and Financial Coach
The Fortune Formula
Debt Should Not Be an Option [Money Talks with Dave Ramsey / Issue 949]
I read with interest the article on Living L’chaim and Jewish money. I was very interested because I have been following Dave Ramsey’s plan since day one of our marriage. That was over 18 years ago and we are going strong on baby steps 5, 6, and 7.
My husband is a rebbi/IT professional and I teach; our salaries are moderate but we make it work without any debt (except for the mortgage). Two tools have been incredibly useful: Dave Ramsey’s baby steps and minimalism.
I have heard people claim that the financial situation of Orthodox Jews is different, because we have non-negotiable budget items such as tuition and kosher food. I believe it is just an excuse to claim that an Orthodox lifestyle is keeping us from financial stability.
Frum people need to stop using religion as an excuse for debt and simply work within the numbers. A debt-free approach is a choice! Dave Ramsey’s steps can be applied to anyone who is willing to commit.
There is another tool that I have found extremely helpful to live within my means — the concept of minimalism.
I have studied under Joshua Becker, author of “Minimalist Home,” and have gained an appreciation for owning and buying less. The concept of buying and spending intentionally has taken pressure off me financially and socially. Instead of looking at the ads and thinking about all the things I am missing, I focus on owning less, and using my finances towards my goals. I have saved so much money buying fewer clothes, home decor, toys etc.
Thanks to our minimalist and intentional lifestyle, my house is easier and cheaper to keep clean, and I seldom lose things because every item has a home. I host a shiur and know I can get my house picked up before the women come. I rarely make impulse purchases; I try to use what’s in my pantry and waste less food. And my children have learned from my example, and remove unnecessary items so their rooms stay neater.
I think it’s time to focus on what Hashem has blessed us with, and remove the option of debt.
Elisheva Hiller, Milwaukee, WI
No Body, No Soul [Inbox / Issue 950]
I much appreciated Rabbi Friedler’s point about the shortcomings of AI and I totally agreed with his characterization of chatGPT’s devar Torah’s as lacking soul. I would perhaps change the characterization from “guf bli neshamah” — a body without a soul, to “bli guf, bli neshamah” — lacking both body and soul.
The issue with AI is not so much that it can’t replace teachers and rabbis, as that it can too easily simulate work of students, which unfortunately often displays precisely the characteristics Rabbi Friedler attributes to the new chat. How will we then combat this technology that allows students to get away without even having to exercise the minimum of effort?
A Worried Observer
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 952)
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