Two weeks ago I published a letter from a mother who sought guidance in finding the right shidduch for her eldest daughter. Last week I began my response, focusing on her specific situation. This week I’m expanding on that response in more general terms because so many readers experience their own shidduch-related dilemmas.
One of the concerns expressed by the letter-writer was the importance that all too many people place on money when it comes to searching for a shidduch. She is right to be concerned. Money can build walls of animosity between friends, siblings, spouses, parents and cousins. Money can destroy lives.
Money is often equated with happiness, but those who make that equation eventually realize that money in fact does not bring contentment. There are all too many tragic marriages – and painful divorces – among the affluent.
Money cannot create a bond of love or faithfulness between husband and wife. Money cannot replace the power of love. It cannot substitute for the meeting of hearts that creates shalom bayis – a tranquil home. Children who grow up in a home where love is cherished over money inherit a legacy they pass on from generation to generation. The opposite, alas, also holds true.
Many centuries ago the giants of our people warned us, “All love that is contingent on any one thing will not last.” So if you marry someone for that person’s fortune, or looks, or prestige, any semblance of love will disappear once those gifts evaporate. One of the words for money is “zuzim,” which literally translated means “to move,” teaching us that money moves – today you have it but tomorrow it moves someplace else.
Those who build their lives on money invite disaster, for not only does money move, it does not satisfy the soul. Our Torah teaches, “Not by bread alone does man live but by that which emanates from the lips of Hashem.” To try to outsmart our Torah and bypass the word of God for bread (money) is to invite disaster into our lives.
Through my experiences at Hineni, and as the rebbetzin of a glorious rabbi, Rav Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, and the daughter and granddaughter of saintly sages, I have witnessed time and again the problems people bring on themselves when they build their lives on the quicksand of money. This holds true in the secular as well as the Orthodox world.
If you marry someone because his or her parents are wealthy and will happily support you or because your new spouse is earning a seven-figure salary, you are placing your fate in very uncertain hands. Things can, and do, change in the proverbial blink of an eye. The in-laws go bankrupt or the business collapses and suddenly the expensive clothes and the fancy vacations are no longer there. The husband can no longer lease a top-of-the-line car; the wife can no longer employ a housekeeper, even once a week. A second family car now becomes a budget-breaker. The wife must start getting around by subway or bus. Tuition for the children’s expensive schools is out of the question.
Where peace once prevailed there are altercations, mean words, anger and bitterness. Life is turned upside down and the entire household is in turmoil. I have had many couples in such situations come to me on the brink of divorce and sometimes already separated. Only yesterday they thought they were in love but when the money disappeared the foundations of the marriage dissolved with it.
Unfortunately, when it comes to human nature there is no distinction between secular and Orthodox. Very often a couple marries with the assurance that parents or in-laws will support them while the husband devotes himself to studying Torah. The young couple has no worries. Mom and Dad provide a credit card, pay the tuition when children enter the picture, and even buy a house when the family grows. From A-Z, everything is taken care of. And then suddenly the wheel of fortune turns and the parents no longer are in a position to be so generous. Anger now dominates the home of the couple who for years had been handed everything on a parental platter. “Where is my check?” “Where is the credit card?” “How can we take care of our expenses?” “But you promised to support us!”
Perhaps the couple does not even recognize at first that their problem is money -rooted; they just know that nastiness has come to define their home life. The sad truth is that because the money well dried up, everything else dried up as well.
Certainly money is important – but it cannot be allowed to be the defining factor in a relationship. The bond that connects husband and wife must transcend the changing fortunes inherent in almost every life.
So you need to summon forth the courage to tell shadchanim, and potential spouses, the truth: “I am not wealthy. I will of course help my children as much as I possibly can but I cannot promise anything. So if you are marrying my child for money, you’ve come to the wrong address.”
Please G-d, your daughter’s bashert – the “right one” – will come. He will love your daughter for herself and only for herself. Pray to – and place your trust in – Hashem. It is He who holds the key to all shidduchim – that very special soul mate He Himself designated for each individual. Be patient. It will happen. And when it does, please don’t forget to invite me to the wedding so that I may have the privilege of personally saying Mazel Tov.Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
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