Believe it or not, I have been waiting for this type of letter to be sent to me. Yes, I could have always chosen to write about the topic, but I decided to wait until someone chose to pick this topic to write about. It has been close to a year, but the email finally came. The reason I waited is because I want the readers of this column to read the words the writer chose and hear the passion in her voice. Only a person who believes in something strongly will have the emotion needed to get her message across to others. I am answering from the side of reality. I’m not for or against what the writer is writing, because I know some who are doing just what she is talking about and are doing fine.
My answer is longer than I intended, so I will save that for next week’s column. But what I am preempting some emails from those of you who may get in a huff after reading my response next week or thinking of what my response will be, by saying: We all have dreams. I have my own dreams and wishes, but I live in reality and I know that if I want everything I dream of to come true, I will have to make some sacrifices along the way. I’m not saying that the sacrifice won’t be worth it – but as I was always told, “Nothing worthwhile is easy.” If you want to live out your dream, be prepared to cut some other things out of your life. Don’t live in your mind where you have your cake and eat it, too, plus have no weight gain from the cake you just ate. No, that’s not happening because that’s not real life! People sailed across the ocean back in the 1600s and 1700s for a better life in America. They didn’t sail on the Disney Cruise ship to get here! Many died on the way, and then once here, they didn’t rent a house; they had to build a house with their hands, and then those hands had to make dinner, braid children’s hair, plant and farm, etc. They were able to live their dream, but it was a hard life. Take the analogy for what it is. Don’t expect to have it all without giving up some things.
I’m a few years into dating. I’ve dated some nice and not nice guys. Some were for me and others not, but I continue on with my search for my zivug.
I’m not writing to you to ask for help with a specific guy or complain about dating. I need to vent and ask for your advice or opinion.
I came home from seminary and, thankfully, within a few weeks I had my first date. I always knew what type of guy I wanted to marry, but after my time spent in seminary, it was solidified, “This is what I want.” I discussed all of this with my parents because I know that without their financial help, the life I wanted for the first few years of married life wouldn’t really be possible. It would be able to happen, but with difficulties and a lot of struggles; but with my parents’ help, the bumps in the road would be made smoother.
My wish is to get married and live in Eretz Yisrael for at least a year, ideally more, and then come back to the States and my husband would have a plan of either going to work or starting some sort of program for a degree. While in Eretz Yisrael, I want my husband to learn and I will be the one working. I know it will be hard, but I’m prepared for it. I’m sure that after we come back to the United States and get settled with life, things may get easier with two incomes. The problem that I run into is my parents. They aren’t the problem, but what they have recently told me is problematic. In the last year, when life and the world has changed, things in my family have changed, as well, and my dream of being a kollel wife is not easily accepted or approved of anymore.
Baruch Hashem, no one in my immediate family passed away from COVID, but we did get sick from it. Other relatives and friends of the family unfortunately suffered and were niftar from it. My father’s company had to downsize drastically. They could not afford to keep everyone on payroll, so they laid off people. Luckily, my father was not let go, but in order to keep the company in business, many had to take a pay cut. And that affected my father. Yes, my parents have savings, and we were not in desperate times as others were, but it was difficult, to say the least. I have two married siblings with their own families that my parents help to support, and another three siblings younger than I am who are still in school. My parents sat me down one day and told me that they support me in every decision I make, but I needed to understand that because of the change in the family finances, they would not be able to support me and my future husband for the first couple of years while in Eretz Yisrael, as we had discussed when we first discussed me dating and what type of boy I was looking for, years ago.
I was and am upset and disappointed. I know that my parents have bills to pay, I hear them talking about the yeshivos not giving them any financial aid, and the mortgage and car payments are due every month and everything else. I understand that. I’m not complaining that they sat me down and told me that they can’t support me and my chasan for the first year. I am upset because they are continuing to support my married siblings.
I don’t know if they are contributing as much as they had been in the past, but they are still helping them while my dream is causing me anxiety now. How will we pay rent? What about food? What about regular expenses. Yes, there will be a monthly stipend from the yeshivah, but that’s not enough to live off of comfortably. I plan on working. I’m studying to be an occupational therapist, but it will be another year until I get my degree. I have money in savings, but not enough for a whole year or two of living in Eretz Yisrael.
I shared my worries with my parents. They understood where I was coming from. They said that they would do as much as they can to help, but it will be considerably less than what they had originally wanted and what we discussed. My parents even offered to put some of the money saved for my wedding into another account that I can use when I’m married – double-edged sword. I know the wedding lasts hours and what’s important are the years I spend with my husband and family, but the little girl in me was upset. “Take away money from my wedding?!” My parents said that I would have to decide if being a kollel wife for the first few years of marriage was still what I wanted, because it was going to be harder than I and they had thought.
They were asking me to change my dream. I was fully able to say that I would be more than happy being the one working in the beginning because, eventually, my plan was for my husband to begin a program working towards a degree and a career when we return. But I always had the cushion of my parents in the back of my mind that made thinking of being a kollel wife easier. That cushion is now gone. My parents had a very real discussion with me telling me exactly what essentials in life cost, and I won’t feel like I am living a great, happy life at times when we have to go without a few things that I have been used to or always thought would be around.
As I said, I’m ready to make sacrifices. I don’t want to sound spoiled, but when someone is raised a certain way and told what the plan is, it is a real shock to have the carpet pulled from under her. That’s what I feel like. I have friends living the kollel life without the help from either set of parents, and I see how hard things are at times, but my friends are always smiling and saying it’s worth it. I hope I can be the same way, but I’m not sure. But when I found out that my parents were still helping to support my married siblings, I was hurt and felt singled out. They can live their life, but I won’t really get the chance to even start the one that I want?
I’m not saying that my brother or brother-in-law should get jobs, but did my parents talk with them as they did with me and say that things had to change for them, as well? Don’t they see the financial crisis my parents are now experiencing, and why haven’t they said on their own, “Let me do something to help. This is my family. I will stop learning and go to work so the burden isn’t all on you.” I don’t know what was said or not said to them, because we don’t discuss money publicly. But if they were not given the same speech I was, then why not?
Nothing is wrong with dating and marrying someone who is learning here in America or learning for half a day and working the other half. But I just never thought about it before – it was always a given: I would marry, move to Eretz Yisrael for one to three years, and come back. Yes, I am disappointed, but I’m also angry that my parents are still supporting my siblings when I was told that I wouldn’t be able to count on the financial support as much as I would have in the past, because they are suffering as well.
Stay tuned next week for my response to Chaya. What would you say if you received an email like this?
Hatzlachah to you all.