Volume 24 Number 52
                       Produced: Tue Jul  2 21:54:19 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Cost of Observance
         [Meyer Rafael]
Expensive Weddings--A Talmudic Precedent
         [Russell Hendel]
High Cost of Frum Living
         [Esther Posen]
Wedding Costs
         [Lisa Halpern]
Wedding Extravagance
         [Jeffrey Woolf]
Weddings (2)
         [Freda B Birnbaum, Anonymous]


From: Meyer Rafael <M.Rafael@...>
Date: Tue, 25 Jun 1996 12:23:51 +1000
Subject: RE: Cost of Observance

 From: Oren Popper <opopper@...>
>Paul Shaviv wrote:
>> The spread of otherwise laudable standards in food, arba minim etc has
>> placed impossible financial burdens on ordinary salaried people, many
>> of whom vote with their feet and qietly move away from Jewish life.

>I find it very hard, if not impossible, to believe that anyone would walk 
>away from Jewish life because of a 'financial burden'. At most, this 
>might be used as an excuse to cover up on the real reason.  From my 
>discussions with other people, it seems obvious to me that a Torah way of 
>life is no more of a financial burden than any other way of life. It is 
>only the priorities that are different. A torah Jew would rather spend 
>his money on mitzvos such as proper education for children (the most costly 
>ingredient of Torah Jewish life), Kosher food, Mehudar'dike Mezuzos,
>Tefillin etc.

While Mr. Popper may be correct in at that a "torah Jew" would *prefer*
to spend money on mitzvos, I think that this reasoning opens a most
undesirable social schism between people with high discretionary incomes
and people with low incomes.  Jews who *prefer* to spend money on
mitzvos (...) may be actually be constrained by the inability to pay the
high prices!

Mr Popper also fails to acknowledge that the financial burdens of an
orthodox life are real. In my experience the costs are measurably
greater.  I use supervised milk, eat glatt kosher meat, send my children
to Jewish schools, eat Shmura matza on Pesach etc. All this items do
cost more that the the comparable expenses for another "way of life".

Lastly, Mr Popper's reasoning are simply indifferent to the traditional
Jew who may have unclear motivations about why he/she wants "kosher"
items and will pay a modest premium but can not (or does not want to)
afford large premiums on kosher items.
 I think that any move to decrease the significance of the traditional
basis for Jewish observance (as opposed to the personal piety basis)
should be resisted by all Jews to whom the notion of "Klal Yisrael" is

>I fully agree, that where priorities have gone adrift, the leadership 
>should step in. There is absolutely no torah-justifiable reason in the 
>world to spend thousands of dollars on extravagant bar-mitzvahs, 
>weddings, etc. 

We can most assuredly agree on this point. Rabbinic leadership should
set priorities more proactively and see their realm as "social" as well
as "ritual".

Finally, even though we starting out discussing wedding costs, it would
be beneficial to consider that the "wedding-style" bar-mitzva
celebration is a post-WWII innovation (ie lacking in authenication from
Jewish history) and may involve a specific issur (using a band) in a
manner lacking in halachic justification.

Meyer Rafael


From: <rhendel@...> (Russell Hendel)
Date: Sun, 30 Jun 1996 20:40:24 -0400
Subject: Expensive Weddings--A Talmudic Precedent

I had a short thought on the recent discussion of expensive weddings and
the hardships they cause.

The Talmud relates that *funerals* used to be very expensive.  The
situation was unbearable.  Finally some great leader (I believe Rabban
Gamliel) ordered that when he died that the funeral, coffin, etc should
be simple.  The Talmud relates that this "broke" the trend and made
people more comfortable going back to less expensive weddings.

Perhaps some distinguished people in the community could set similar
precedents for weddings and ease the anguish of the not so affluent.  If
people were aware of the fact that this is a Mitzvah and that Rabban
Gamliel did it maybe it will encourage them further.

Russell Jay Hendel, Ph.d. ASA  rhendel @ mcs . drexel . edu


From: <eposen@...> (Esther Posen)
Date: Mon, 24 Jun 1996 13:09:34 -0500
Subject: High Cost of Frum Living

It was my understanding that people lived in frum communities because
critical mass was required for frum schooling, shuls in walking
distance, kosher butchter shops and the like.  Again, how we slander
ourselves by saying that people who live outside of jewish communities
are looked at askance.  I would question a committed frum person if they
did not provide their children with a day school education...

Also, the laws of supply and demand dictate prices.  And, face it, there
are jews out there with lots of money... Those of us with less should be
more determined NOT to keep up with the Katzes or the Cohens.



From: <ohayonlm@...> (Lisa Halpern)
Date: Thu, 27 Jun 1996 11:12:06 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Wedding Costs

I'd like to add another idea to the "wedding-cost" dialogue. As 
centerpieces on each table at their weddings, two friends of mine had 
beautiful food arrangements.  One was a basket filled with drygoods, 
arranged with ribbons, warapped with tissue paper, etc.  The other was a 
professionally done vegetable-flowers-candle centerpiece from a local 
florist.  After their celebrations, the food gifts were sent to local 
organizations that distributed them to needy families.  I think is this a 
terrific way to start one's married life - both enjoying family and 
friends, and sharing with others.


From: Jeffrey Woolf <jwoolf@...>
Date: Thu, 27 Jun 1996 17:34:48 +0400 (IDT)
Subject: Re: Wedding Extravagance

I thought I'd add another side to the question of wedding extravagance,
or actually, two sides.

1) Halakhic literature is replete with Takkanot which severely limit
opulence and extravagance. Yet today it is only Hassidut Gur which makes
a point of saving its members from penury in making weddings. When
Yeshiva tuitions are driving people into debt and reducing either the
birth rate or the quality of education, it is a sin to waste so much
money on food or 'feeding the fed.' I think Sumptuary Laws MUSt be
rigidly reintroduced.

2) For those blown away by American weddings, and envious of how much 
simpler Israeli weddings tend to be (though the affliction has spread 
here too), consider what the average Dati or Haredi parents are 
expected to furnish their children with: 1)  One half of the down 
payment on an apartment ( along with furnishings): Est cost- 
$175-250,000. 2) A Car( $15,0000-25,000) 3) A year to three year's kest 
($50-60,000)-this is true mostly of Haredim).
We spent nine years in the US slaving and saving. So I can identify with 
those who won't give Hachnasat Kallah for a Honeymoon.

Jeffrey Woolf
Dept of Talmud
Bar Ilan University


From: Freda B Birnbaum <fbb6@...>
Date: Sun, 23 Jun 1996 12:10:19 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Weddings

In v24n48, Alana adds some excellent suggestions re wedding costs.  I
heartily agree with most of what she and Diane Sandoval said, but would
caution that you do make sure that you get competent people to do some
photography.  We have some great stuff from friends and relatives, but
in retrospect (almost 25 years ago!), it would have been nice to have
had some professional stuff too.

Another thing you can do is have a large number of people to the chupa
and a kiddush-style reception afterward, with music and dancing (if you
have it in the early afternoon, they aren't expecting a full meal), and
limit the dinner to family (I know of one like that where the best
friends were included by making them bridesmaids and saying, well,
they're bridesmaids, they have to come!)  People you'd really like to
have included in the dinner can be invited to sheva brochos.  Indeed,
there's usually more time to enjoy their company at a sheva brochos than
at the wedding!)

Our wedding was along those lines and many people, from all over the
spectrum and some off it, told us it was one of the nicest they'd been

Freda Birnbaum, <fbb6@...>
"Call on God, but row away from the rocks"

From: Anonymous
Date: Thu, 27 Jun 1996 11:49:04 -0400
Subject: Weddings

Regarding weddings, and their expense, the following thoughts come to

1) One is required to have nothing other than a chatan, a kallah, 2
kosher witnesses, an item worth more than a pruta (@chatan's expense),
and a ketuva.  The approximate expense for the above comes to $10.00 for
a preprinted ketuba + 1.x pruta for the kidushin item + good will on
behalf of the witnessers.  Anything above and beyond this is at the
discretion of the ba'alai simcha (parties to the happy occasion) and is
TOTALLY OPTIONAL.  . The fact that some feel compelled to spend above
their capacities for a wedding for fear of losing face among their peers
is a hashkafa (religious philosophy/outlook) problem that should be
dealt with in its own manner - through the Rabbanim of the community
teaching the more fortunate that extravagance is a form of ga'avah
(haughtiness) and the less fortunate "ayze who ha ashir - hasameach
bechelko (who is considered wealthy - the one who is satisfied with his

This same hashkafah problem ("keeping up appearances" beyond ones
ability) is also manifest in areas apart from weddings such as housing,
clothing, the types of car one drives etc.  In sum, the outcry about
wedding expenses is but a tip of the iceberg of the larger question of
our values.  Thus, there should be no sense of outrage at the costs of
making a wedding - one does what one can or feels is appropriate.  The
anger and resentment sometimes detected in complaints about wedding
expenses seem to be more borne of the frustration between the shortfall
between others expectations and one's financial realities. This energy
is misdirected and should be directed towards hashkafic self

2) If a person of means wants to make a big simcha, he is allowed to
make a big simcha.  Suppose this person gives 20% of his income to
tzdakah.  Suppose he is a ba'al chesed.  If he wants to make a big
simcha with a "yad rechava" (an wide (open) hand) and he wants others
join in his simcha he is allowed to.  One should not be jealous of a
"gvir" (wealthy individual), but rather, we should be happy for him, and
be honored if we are asked to join in the simcha. This should not be an
occasion for us to look at our selves and feel inadequate and small.
Carping about the expenses involved seems like jealousy transformed into
fault finding to me. Again this is misdirected energy.

In closing, I would like to relate a story that helped me very much with
respect to feelings of jealousy regarding other's "good" fortune.  There
was once a Rabbi, old and respected and the leader of his community.
Into this community moved a young man who was smarter, more
knowledgeable in Torah, and more eloquent than the Rabbi. This bothered
our esteemed Rabbi no end, for he could not match the intelligence and
communicative ability of the recent arrival, for his gifts in these
areas were more meager.  People would admire the young man and comment
approvingly on his depth of knowledge and wisdom.  Meanwhile the Rabbi
was burning up inside - not only was he coming up short in comparison to
this young man - this was a "kid", not a learned older man.  Whenever
the Rabbi saw this young man in his community, anger and jealousy would
rise within him, and he was always looking to find finding flaws in the
young man, often seizing upon trivial matters in the young man's dress
and actions.

And so it happened after a particularly difficult day, that after the
Rabbi went to sleep, he saw HIS teacher in a dream. He related to his
teacher his troubles with the young man.  The teacher than asked our
Rabbi "Do you believe there are people in the world who are smarter than
you?"  The Rabbi said " Yes".  The teacher continued "Do you believe
that there are people in the world who have greater depth of learning
than you"?  The Rabbi answered "Yes."  The teacher continued "Do you
believe there are people in the world more eloquent than you?"  Again
the Rabbi replied "Yes."  Finally the teacher asked "Then why can't this
smarter and more eloquent person in the world be this young man?"


End of Volume 24 Issue 52