Last week I shared a letter from a woman who described herself as a wife, mother and grandmother concerned about the future of her family. Her husband, a successful businessman, was planning to retire and transfer the business to their children. But there is tension as well as hidden jealousies between the children and she fears this sibling rivalry could erupt into an inferno that would consume the entire mishpachah.
Her husband shares her fears to an extent but feels that, ultimately, the family will remain solid and united. She feels her husband’s views are influenced by his intense desire to retire and move to Florida. While she too would love to move to Florida, her maternal instinct is stronger than the new life that beckons from the Sunshine State.
The following is my reply:
I wish I could dismiss your worries and assure you that you are making much ado about nothing; that your husband is correct and you can definitely retire without any concerns. But I’m afraid I cannot say that so easily. I cannot tell you there is nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, I have seen too many families divided by money issues. Money can destroy good will and kindness and lead to bitterness and hatred.
Hatred was the reason our holy Temple was destroyed and why we were taken into exile. It is written that every generation that does not rebuild the Beis HaMikdash is as guilty as those who directly brought about its destruction. How could that be? Certainly we American Jews in 2013 did not destroy the Temple in Jerusalem. Why should we be held accountable?
The answer is simple: The reason the Temple has not been rebuilt is that we continue to indulge in the same ugly greed and jealousy and continue to dress ourselves in the same garments of anger and hatred. In 2,000 years we have learned nothing. We have not changed.
So I must agree with you. You are justified in your fears. While your husband is also correct when he says you and he won’t be around forever and that the children will have to be accountable for their words and actions, the fact is that a parent’s task is never over.
What are you to do? What is the best solution to your dilemma? While I’m keenly aware that there is no guarantee for anything, just the same I would suggest that now is the time to divide your estate. Assign each of your children his or her inheritance so that there is less chance for any controversy when you and your husband have passed on.
Mind you, you should retain total control during your lifetime; this is to be actualized only after both you and your husband have departed this world. Hopefully Mashiach will arrive before that day ever comes. But our sages teach that you should “put your matters in order a day before you die” – and since you cannot possibly know when that day will be, you must clarify everything now so the future of your family will not be jeopardized by infighting.
If I may suggest, you should also delineate in your will that if any of the siblings should refuse your terms and demand litigation, he or she will forfeit the inheritance.
Furthermore, we live in a world where many of our Jewish sons and daughters are disappearing into assimilation and intermarriage. From your letter I gathered you are a traditional family who go to synagogue from time to time, keep a kosher home, make Shabbos and Yom Tov dinners, have mezuzahs on the doorposts, etc. But this does not guarantee that your future generations will cling to those mitzvahs and remain within the fold.
So try to protect the Judaism of your descendants. You can do this by making provisions in your will for the yeshiva education of all your grandchildren, for establishing a kosher home when they marry, etc. And make it clear that any beneficiary who chooses not to accept these terms will forfeit the money you allocated for this purpose and it will go to a tzedakah of your designation.
May Hashem grant you Yiddishe nachas and shalom bayis from generation to generation.