Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I am sitting here in a panic, at a loss of how I’m going to manage finances what with Purim and Pesach. These past two years I’ve been in denial, thinking things will change – my husband will get out of his depression and find a job, I’ll be able to stay home more and spend more time with our children – but things have only gotten worse.
Our family is an illustrious one, looked up to in the community in which we live, and while we have fallen on hard times, no one knows the true matzav in my home. Though all outward appearances have not changed, where once there was great wealth that enabled us to give tzedakkah generously, now we are in debt to a number of banks, our home is in danger of foreclosure and we owe tuition to our children’s yeshivos. I am breaking under the pressure and don’t know what to do. My husband insists we must find a way to keep up the charade, but I can’t possibly find the resources or the ne’emanus to make a magnanimous Purim feast for everyone and anyone who walks through our doors, give huge and expensive misloach manos baskets to countless people in the community and abroad, as we did in the good years, just to keep up appearances.
Why am I writing to you about something so out of your jurisdiction? I’m not quite sure. Perhaps in the hope of educating the Klal that most things are not what they seem on the outside, that what we expect from others may not always be forthcoming due to extenuating circumstances and not due to ill will. Perhaps to show that we have placed values on things trivial and unimportant and make it difficult for the oppressed amongst us to be able to celebrate Yomim Tovim because food and celebratory requirements are so overpriced and unattainable. I shop in a number of grocery stores so as not to draw attention to myself and each one has prices more ridiculous than the other. I never realized, when money was abundant and readily available, how shallow and frivolous we have become and how much stock we put into bigger and costlier mishloach manos. I am ashamed that I was guilty of these gross debaucheries in the past and feel that my financial situation now is Hashem’s way of showing me the low standards I had sunk to. Now my eyes find others like myself going through the grocery shelves, picking through the “cheap” candies and tasteless cookies to find the best way to save face on Purim. If Purim is unattainable, I can only imagine how absolutely impossible Pesach shopping will be! Why must our food vendors make it so impossible for those of us in dire straits to enjoy, albeit meagerly, a nice and satisfying Yom Tov; why must the almighty dollar dictate who gets to eat and who doesn’t?
When I daven each morning, I beg Hashem not for the selfish things I thought I wanted and asked for in the past, but for what I now understand and appreciate to be of true importance – that everyone in Klal Yisroel whose cupboards are empty and tables are bare have food enough. That we not judge our brother by how much is in his pocket, but by how great his heart is and the deeds he does out of love for Hashem and his fellow Yid.
I hope you will see the value in printing this letter and open the eyes and the hearts of our kosher vendors to the importance of making it easier for those with little means to be able to purchase their Yom Tov needs without embarrassment or difficulty. And then, perhaps, Hakodosh Boruch Hu will bless usso that all of Klal Yisroel will share equally in good health and adequate wealth.
A Shvester In Need
Each year at this time, I hear stories about the hardships many people face in their efforts to be yotze on Yom Tov, be it with mishloach manos or the very specific requirements of Pesach. Sadly, it is becoming more and more unattainable for many people to celebrate Pesach the way it should be, what with meat, fish, matzoh and wine (yes, even the standard grape juice prices!) going through the roof. Are cows and chickens suddenly fed gold nuggets that cause prices to double and in some places triple? Do fish swim in molten silver lakes? Why then must almost every kosher vendor and food establishment jump on the greed bandwagon?
They should all use the Rami Levy business model. Rami Levy is a prosperous supermarket proprietor who owns many large groceries in Eretz Yisroel. Last year, he broke the price ceiling for Pesach staples by offering chicken and matzah at a fraction of the lowest prices advertised by his competitors.
Did it ruin him financially? Did he have to close some of his mega-stores because of the fall off in prices? Did he suffer any kind of set-back for his admirable act of chessed? Did he have any backlash from people about this unusual act of brotherly love and concern? No, no, no and no. In fact the opposite is true, he prospered and his name is respected, honored and appreciated throughout the land. Vendors the world over, take notice!
My heart goes out to all the many of our people who cannot partake of Purim and Pesach the way they did in the past, with a light heart, easy hand and a free spirit.
If we could calculate the waste incurred by all the candies, sweets and pastries thrown away after Purim because Pesach is kicking at the door (and who needs so much chometz in the house), I think many of us would be shocked at the number of people we could have helped make a proper Pesach. There is no mitzvah to go beyond one’s means, borrow money that cannot possibly be paid back, just to make an impression of grandeur. Our Torah is beautifully simple in what it sets forth for us as a way of life and it dictates modesty in all things. Yom Tov need not be an actual circus of gluttony, rather, let it include acts of giving where it will serve best. We all know families in our midst who are suffering financial hardships – put it there!
Thank you so much for your timely and important eye opener.