We’re here to serve. Whatever Hashem has given us, He expects us to share
If you’re expecting that I’m going to try to convince you that the life of the very wealthy isn’t completely rosy after all, well, that’s not going to happen. Not because we don’t have our challenges — of course we do — but because I wouldn’t dream of complaining about my life. Being the wife of a philanthropist can have its difficult moments, but it’s also easier, far easier, to have money than not to. To be on the giving end and not have to receive.
I don’t ever want to be ungrateful enough to whine about the burdens that come along with being the wife of a baal tzedakah. Being able to give is the greatest gift imaginable, and any minor inconveniences pale in comparison to the blessing.
My husband belongs to the public, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re custodians of Hashem’s largesse so we can share it with others. Should I complain that he doesn’t make it home for supper as often as I’d like, when he’s supporting the family and half the community through his efforts? Should I kvetch that he’s a public figure, cornered at every simchah and as we walk home from shul by acquaintances and strangers trying to raise funds for worthy causes?
I’m grateful that people call all day. It’s not a life for everyone, that’s true, and not all my kids are interested in replicating their father’s packed schedule, but baruch Hashem, this is our life’s mission.
There are some who think we’re cash registers, and that’s totally fine. When faced with pushback from people who didn’t get as much as they felt was appropriate, my mantra is “don’t engage.” I won’t speak negatively, whether to them or about them. Everyone’s got their private pain, and I can’t fathom what it must be like to be in their shoes.
As my father used to say, “M’megt fregn.” Anyone can ask. It’s their task to ask and do their best to raise money, and yes, even be obnoxious in their demands (though that isn’t often. Most people are nice, respectful, and appreciative). It’s our job to make the best decisions we can with the money Hashem has entrusted us with.
Part of being responsible with Hashem’s beneficence is allocating it as well as we can. That’s why my husband has a system in place, with set hours for receiving people and a secretary who handles solicitations. Some people resent that we don’t make exceptions to the official protocol, but it’s what preserves our sanity and keeps him from being hopelessly overwhelmed.
The spoiled rich kid stereotype is a biggie. Frum society lumps everyone together. The haves and have-nots go to school and shul together, and the peer pressure is real. It’s true our home is one of the nicer ones in our community, and our kids dress well, so you may not realize the enormous effort we invest into raising our children not to feel entitled. We teach them to compare prices and think before swiping, and we’re successful, I think. We feel lucky not to worry about our mortgage and tuition, and try to pass that gratitude on to the next generation, the way our parents did for us.
I told you I don’t want to complain about our blessed situation, and I won’t. But can I talk for a minute about being human?
Please remember that while money can smooth some of the rough edges of life’s trials, it doesn’t take away the pain.
When faced with illness Rachmana litzlan, or chinuch challenges, or any of life’s other myriad difficulties, pain is pain, no matter your net worth. You may be too tactful to say it, but I know that you’re thinking, “She’s got money, what does she know about suffering?” It’s true that we can afford out-of-network doctors, we can get into gedolim for brachos. Money does open doors.
But VIP treatment in a hospital where you’ve donated a wing doesn’t make it easier to die. Driving a Range Rover is small comfort when your adult child cuts you out of her life. We thank Hashem for what He’s given us to cushion the blow, but it’s incredibly hurtful when our pain is invalidated on the basis of our bank account.
Really, none of the things that matter most in life are affected by our bank account. We’re here to learn, grow, and give, no matter what circumstances we’re in.
An acquaintance once told me, “I wish I could do what your husband does.” I told her, “You can!” Even if it’s not the quantities of money my husband deals with, everyone has the ability to give something. Whether it’s driving for Bikur Cholim, cooking for new mothers, or volunteering in their children’s schools, there are so many opportunities for chesed.
We’re here to serve. Whatever Hashem has given us, He expects us to share.
give my kids preferential treatment. I understand the temptation, but you’re undermining our attempts to teach them that it’s their character, and not their bank balance, that will get them places.
pressure me to approach my husband for you. He has a system and a gabbai tzedakah in place for a reason — so he can maintain a semblance of a personal life and not be forced to be the bad guy who dashes people’s hopes for a living. When you ask me to pull strings for you, you’re putting everyone in an uncomfortable spot.
You probably don’t believe me
when I say that I don’t think my kids have a happier life than my husband did growing up middle class. Past a certain point — once you can afford to give your kids their needs, and maybe a few wants as well — having more and being more comfortable doesn’t actually impact their overall happiness much. It sounds clichéd, but a warm, stable, loving home matters so much more.
That we have shidduchim lined up around the block for our daughters. We get our share of noes, and in some cases, having heaps of money is a liability. The best advice I ever got was from the shadchan who said, “Go where you’re wanted.” You’d be surprised at how many people are wary of marrying money.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 663)