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Coping With Financial Setbacks

Editor’s Note: Rebbetzin Jungreis, a”h, is no longer with us in a physical sense, but her message is eternal and The Jewish Press will continue to present the columns that for more than half a century have inspired countless readers around the world.

Coping With Financial Setbacks

Last week I shared a letter from a woman whose husband had experienced severe financial reversals. While in the past they had been prosperous, overnight everything changed. She wrote that she and her husband support their married daughter, son-in-law, and two small children in Jerusalem, where he is learning. While this never presented difficulties, it has now become problematic. She doesn’t know how to break the news to them. Additionally, she has a 19-year-old daughter who is in the shidduch parshah and is also hoping for a husband who will be learning.

“How can I tell my daughter,” she asked, “that we won’t be able to do for her what we did for her sister?”

My Dear Friend:

As painful as your situation may be, you should not view it as a threat to your lives or survival. Yes, it involves your husband’s parnassah, his ability to support your family. Just the same, however, it is not a debilitating or terminal illness, nor is it a shalom bayis crisis – unless you allow it to become one.

I realize a financial setback can place health and shalom bayis at risk. But that’s precisely why we have to be on guard not to allow such tragic consequences to unfold.

Remember, we as a people have experienced trials and tribulations throughout the centuries. There is no pain or suffering we have not endured. In our own time, we witnessed the Holocaust, after which the entire world was convinced we had reached our end. But – Baruch Hashemwe are here, with more yeshivas worldwide and more of us learning Torah than ever before. And, of course, we have returned to our homeland after a 2,000-year absence.

Now, if we as a people were able to survive so many catastrophes, surely we as individuals and families can overcome a financial crisis. We need only tackle our problems the Torah way.

Following our Exodus from Egypt we sojourned for 40 years in the barren desert where Hashem sustained us with manna. But manna was a peculiar food. We were to take only the allotted portion that was our daily ration, and those who gathered more discovered that their manna rotted. Thus, early on Hashem taught us the basic principle of Jewish life: emunah – faith that Hashem will provide for tomorrow even as He did today.

This faith is our heritage and we must never lose sight of it.

Having said that, let us consider some practical suggestions for your dilemma.

Repeat in your mind: “It’s bad enough that we are experiencing a financial crisis. I am not going to place our health and family in crisis as well.”

That thought should steady you and prevent depression. As a wife and mother, there is much you can do to remove stress from your husband and children. Encouraging your husband will strengthen him; assuring him that with G-d’s help you can manage will imbue him with confidence. And putting a smile on your face you will put a smile on his. Smiles are infectious, and if you are consistent, your children will smile with you as well.

Be strong – that’s what being an aishes chayil is all about.

As for your daughter and son-in-law, you must tell them the truth. They are not made of tissue paper. They too have to be strong and become innovative about finding some sort of work. Unquestionably it will be a struggle, but struggle can make them stronger as well.

You must be frank with your single daughter as well. Explain to her that if she truly desires to have a husband who learns full time, she can follow the example of the many young kollel wives who work and support their families, or she might consider marrying someone who combines learning with working. In either case, with Hashem’s help it will be okay.

It is also important that you and your husband take a good look at your finances and determine where you can cut back. In general I believe it is a good idea for all families nowadays to become more modest in their spending and try to help their brethren who are less fortunate. If we do that – if we feel for one another, encourage one another, and share with one another – then surely Hashem will help us.

Finally, you write that you have always been a “stay-at-home mom” and have no experience in the workplace. But sometimes circumstances demand that we tackle challenges we have hitherto not considered. If your situation is truly critical, I would recommend that you explore every job opportunity. Don’t be embarrassed to speak to friends and acquaintances. Let people know you are looking for work. Many organizations offer guidance in this regard. Research it, and as you do so, remember: there is no shame in working.

Keep a positive attitude, even if it means you must pretend. The Sefer HaChinuch tells us “a man is shaped by his deeds.” So if you pretend long enough, you will discover that what at first was pretense has become second nature.

And don’t forget the most important ting of all – daven! Prayer is one of the most powerful tools we possess. Seize it. It works

May Hashem be with you, guide you, and bring the Geulah to all our people.