Tuesday, May 26, 2020

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The latest stream of conversations regarding Distenfeld’s well-meaning advice (“A Viral Opportunity,” April 23, 2020) that our community must recognize the pandemic message to cut back on our spending on luxurious weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, vacations, etc., due to the discomfort it may cause to those in the community who cannot afford to do the same, is misguided and is focused on the wrong audience. As a CPA for well over 40 years, who has advised some very financially fortunate people and some less so, I am fully in favor of encouraging those people who worked hard or were creative enough to honestly generate wealth to enjoy it any way they wish, assuming they appropriately support local charities and community institutions and don’t harm anyone else. Instead of admonishing those more financially fortunate persons, the message should be directed at the families whose members are envious or jealous or depressed by the “extravagance” of the others. We need to work on ourselves and our families to be satisfied with what we have, as the great Rabbinic sage Ben Zoma expressed (Perkei Avot 4:1) “Who is rich? Those who are happy with what they have.”

We need to stop looking at what others have, or may do, and be happy with what Hashem has generously blessed us with. Suggesting that schools limit winter vacation time so families don’t feel forced to go on expensive trips is unjustified on several levels. Aside from reminding families that escapes don’t have to be that costly (as we’ve learned of late), aren’t our beloved educators entitled to a winter break? Also, calling on the RCBC to provide guidelines for our spending is way beyond the scope of what our modern Orthodox community wants or needs, and once again, focuses on the wrong issue. Unfortunately, there will always be some who feel overwhelmed by the pressure to keep up, and perhaps the solution is to consider living in communities that are more economically appropriate.

Len Fuld