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Frum man contemplates suicide over finances

Originally Published on Matzav

Frum Man Jumps to His Death Over Finances.

That headline isnt a real one – yet. But it may be soon. I am at the verge of either losing my mind or giving up my life as I struggle to support my family. The stress and pressureare unbearable. I earn upwards of $80,000 a year, but with a mishpacha and all the related expenses, there is no way I am able to cover my regular expenses.

Make the calculation: tuition, mortgage payments, car expenses, food bills to the sky, clothes, utilities, camp

There are another dozen items I can add, and I am sure you can think of some too. What is a person like me supposed to do? How exactly am I supposed to survive while keeping my sanity?

I have a good job, but so what? Am I a Tomchei Shabbos candidate? No one thinks I am.

In the world out there, people say that the middle class always pays the price, because they are ineligible for assistance but dont make enough money to truly cover their costs. Much of their money goes to taxes, and they struggle maybe even more than those who are classified as poor.

In our frum world, the decent-sized mishpacha earning $80,000-$100,000 and paying full tuition, in addition to countless other costs, is in this boat of the middle class. It sounds crazy, but it is true and its been said a million times before. The frum breadwinner earning what should be a respectable salary is so far behind balancing his personal budget that it is not even funny. Its a true crisis.

Just wait till my kids reach shidduchim in a few years. If I didnt commit suicide by then, thatll probably be an appropriate time to do so when the bills start hitting my desk.

I am not exaggerating and I am not just writing this to get attention. This is all true.

I know. I know. Youll tell me to be appreciative for my relatively decent health, healthy children, a wife and all that. But it is hard to appreciate the good things in life when you are sitting and staring at a bank account that is emptying out faster than it fills up. It is hard to smile when you have to tell your 12-year-old kid that he cant go to the dentist this month even though his tooth is hurting because you dont have the money for it. It is hard to be happy when your wife is frustrated that you are just not making ends meet no matter how hard you are working and how hard you are trying.

When you see me standing on the ledge, at least have the courtesy to wave.

Losing My Mind

Some of my thoughts: I feel deeply for the situation this man is in, because I grew up in a similar one, however, my father was straight with us – if he couldn’t afford it and he frequently couldn’t and still can’t, he told us, if he needed money he borrowed from us. I feel that many folks don’t have the balls or know how to admit that they are struggling to their children or wives and this causes them to doll out money that just isn’t there.

I noticed that the man mentions camp as one of his expenses, camp is a luxury to me, kids need to run wild and free and they should but, the family cannot afford it to the point that the breadwinner is contemplating suicide, that is just insane. How much must people keep up with their neighbors? The frum community (like any community) is rife with the conflict of keeping up with their neighbors, relatives of mine mortgaged their home over one daughters wedding and then lost their house when the next daughter had to get married – it seems ridiculous – but, when people are contemplating suicide (although I think the letter is just trying to make a point, it’s pretty insane)

Here’s another thing I don’t understand, if you’re contemplating suicide, wouldn’t it be better to just stop being frum. It’s pretty obvious that you would do well without having to fork over obscene amounts of money for a poor yeshiva education and poor quality meats which need 4 hashgachos because one isn’t frum enough anymore.

I don’t really have a solution, I just wish more people would realize the difference between a necessity and a luxury. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it and if you need to have a fancy wedding because everyone else is doing it – you need to get over our insecurities.

Let’s just say this was a non-c0nventional person who had balls:(I am not married and don’t have kids, and don’t feel the pressure to conform, but let’s just think of some quick money saving solutions)

Cutting out meat during the week saves loads of money (frummies would never think of such things)

Camp is a luxury

Have a non-Jewish style wedding with 30 people or just have it in your backyard (people never remember the average frum wedding they are all the same and mostly suck, but if you have a real cheap and fun wedding, it will be remembered)

Buy in bulk

Learn how to coupon (I am going to interview a friend of mine who does this, she spends absolutely nothing on food besides for kosher meat, in fact she makes money every time she goes shopping, all from learning the tricks of the coupon trade, she has it down to such a science that she is starting to give classes on the subject, she has a stockpile of food and store credits just fromcoupon collecting)

Get rid of your microwave, cooking all of your own food is way cheaper

Buy a used car (I think new cars are a waste of money)

Tell your wife it’s time to work (unless she has small kids at home or kids in shidduchim)

Ways to prevent suicide:

Make aliyah then you’l be just as poor as everyone else

Put your kids in public school, it seems like a better idea than having them grow up with the shame of a father who offed himself, suicide will probably make your kids go off the derech faster than public school

Eat rice, lots of rice

Stop drinking cholov yisroel (trust me Rav Moshe was holier than you)

Hire a meshulach to collect for you – your story is good enough for one of those crumpled pieces of laminate they shove into your face at 11pm at night.

Go off the derech, if you are thinking of suicide, it’s pretty obvious that you don’t really believe in the lord and it seems that all of your problems stem from being orthodox and trying to keep up.

Move out of the New York area, it’s way cheaper and less stressful (the south and southwest are cheapest)

{ 52 comments… add one }
  • hvdla May 17, 2010, 4:27 PM

    I agree with many of Heshy’s suggestions. Limit meat to just shabbos. Beans, corn, eggs, milk, and some tuna can more cheaply (and healthily) replace meat during the week.
    There is no need for expensive camps you can’t afford. Find something cheaper (or even a job) for your kids during the summer.
    If this is possible, move out of the NY area. There are plenty of areas with Jewish communities that have cheaper living.

  • tesyaa May 17, 2010, 4:41 PM

    I like your wedding suggestions. After all, every Viennese table is alike and every tzniused-up gown looks exactly the same.

  • clevelander May 17, 2010, 4:44 PM

    There are with moving out of ny to save money; moving itself is expensive; New York is the easiest place to find a job; pay is less in other cities; any much more…

    • Heshy Fried May 17, 2010, 4:46 PM

      New York is definitely not the easiest place to find a job, only if you are using Jewish connections is it the easiest. The best job markets are in Dallas, Houston and Denver and all three have decent sized Jewish communities and very low costs of living.

    • Anonymous May 17, 2010, 4:52 PM

      NY isn’t the easiest place to find a job. Most places have lower rates of unemployment combined with much lower taxes and costs of living, such as Dallas, St. Louis, Houston, Indianapolis, Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, South Florida, Atlanta. Pretty much most places outside of NY, Chicago, and California.

      • Heshy Fried May 17, 2010, 4:54 PM

        Many people in the frum community are used to finding jobs through Jewish connections, those connections aren’t as strong in other places. Although some communities, I kn ow Minneapolis does this, will try and help you find a job and a house if you agree to move there. Many communities want to make it easy to adjust so they can grow their communities. I have already heard there are a lot more people getting out of the large communities due to the issues this man describes, it’s only time.

        • Sergey Kadinsky May 17, 2010, 10:26 PM

          What is this “Jewish job connections” you speak of? Nobody in my kehilla ever connected me to any job. I work 3 jobs, and still can’t afford to leave my parents’ home.

  • Zvi Lampert May 17, 2010, 4:56 PM

    “if youre contemplating suicide, wouldnt it be better to just stop being frum.”
    Giving up your religion to save money is basically selling your soul. The guy is hurting bad, and he’s struggling with these thoughts out of desperation, but obviously, the fact that he hasn’t ditched yeshiva and kashrus is that he’s committed to his religion.
    It is a sin to commit suicide, not to merely contemplate it.

    I do agree that in tough times people really need to learn to tighten their belts.

    • A. Nuran May 18, 2010, 12:50 AM

      It’s not a real choice between giving up religion and selling your soul. If you physically cannot observe to the level you want you cannot. If it’s a choice between homelessness, malnutrition and children taken away because you can’t support them on one hand and making concessions in the level of observance, now that’s real.

      You observe to the level which you can. Anything else would be nice but just isn’t going to happen.

      This means figuring out what is really important and what is simply done because everyone else is doing it. Food, clothing, shelter and medical care are vital. Summer camp is not. Resting on Shabbos is essential. Shabbos robes are not. Kosher witnesses, a ketubah, a chupa a bride and a groom are non-negotiable. Special wedding dresses and sit-down dinner for 300 are not.

      Teaching your children a trade and a love of learning are important. Full-time yeshiva study is a luxury he may simply not be able to provide for his kids.

      Kosher is one thing. Glatt and cholov yisroel are something else entirely. And if it’s a choice between kosher and not eating, eat treif and try to make enough money to afford kosher some day.

      Hating to make the choices is painful. Suicide is no solution.

      • Zvi Lampert May 18, 2010, 11:52 AM

        As a frum father of four who doesn’t make a hell of a lot of money, I can empathize with his dillemna (although I’ve never considered suicide, IMHO that aspect is more indicative of a weak coping mechanism than a desperate situation. I know many happy people who are worse off financially than him). You’re right that many frum people have no idea how to live frugally and that many expenses can be cut out. However, I do not consider yeshiva a luxury. In my value system, nothing is more important than giving my kids a solid Torah foundation as well as a great education (and yes, there are yeshivas that provide both). I would sell the shirt off my back to keep my kids in yeshiva.

        • A. Nuran May 20, 2010, 3:15 AM

          You and many others may have to make the choice between full-time private yeshiva tuition and basic food, clothing. medical care and shelter. It’s not a pretty choice. But it’s definitely one of the contingencies for which you may have to plan. Learning is a lifetime commitment. Most Jews throughout most of history only did it part of the time.

          If your children have been in an all-Torah institution how prepared are they for the academic subjects in a public school? Don’t say “They’re bright, and since they’ve learned Talmud extensively their minds will be limber and exercised for whatever bits and pieces they need.” That’s simply an unwillingness to deal with a problem realistically.

          Are their math, civics, writing, English reading comprehension, history and sciences up to scratch for their grade level? If not, they may need remedial work.

          This isn’t a matter of giving up a luxury. And it’s not a matter of failing to provide for your kids’ futures. If you instill a love of learning the subject in them and enthusiastically participate in their studies it will do more for their lifetime immersion in Torah than you can imagine. They will remember it as a precious memory, something which you personally valued and made time for. They might not get as many hours. But they’re more likely to treasure them and internalize the lessons.

  • Sara May 17, 2010, 4:57 PM

    Great advice Hesh.

    To the author of this post, hang in there. Money is not worth dying for.

  • Anonymous May 17, 2010, 5:21 PM

    2 words of advice for this author and the thousands of people in similar situations:
    1. Remain hopeful about the future
    2. Move to a smaller but better and more affordable Jewish community in a place like Texas or Pittsburgh.

    • Sergey Kadinsky May 17, 2010, 10:28 PM

      When I lived in Albany, the low rents made my jaw drop. When I visited Pittsburgh, I was also impressed.

      As a New Yorker, I would miss having 20 kosher restaurants near my home, but living in a smaller community will force me to learn how to cook, instead of being a spoiled NYC dweller.

      • Mark May 17, 2010, 10:41 PM

        I would miss having 20 kosher restaurants near my home

        Truly poor people don’t eat in restaurants.

        • Sergey Kadinsky May 17, 2010, 11:46 PM

          And kosher supermarkets?

          • Mark May 18, 2010, 12:07 AM

            A regular supermarket is generally sufficient for everything except meat.

  • Realistically Religious May 17, 2010, 5:29 PM

    Here is another suggestion : stop popping out babies year after year if you know that you are not in the position of supporting a large family. Do something else with your spare time like read a novel or watch a movie. You can’t live on principles and ideals when reality is hurting.

    • Anonymous May 17, 2010, 6:28 PM

      Amen. If people would live by one simple rule: have as many children as you can afford, the world would be a much better place.

      In that same spirit, live within your means. If you cannot afford to pay for a wedding or Bar Mitzvah straight out, you cannot afford it.
      Suck up your pride, cut the invitation list, and make a small affair as your grandparents did.

      • Heshy Fried May 18, 2010, 1:55 AM

        I am sure during many of our grandparents times bar mitzvah celebrations did not exist, my old man tells me about the times when the kid got called to the torah on a monday morning – the shul drank some l’chaims and ate kichel and that was that. Also the bat mitzvah appears to be a new invention to make girls feel special – funny how the bat mitzvah is something of a feminist thing that the frummies adopted.

        • Anonymous May 18, 2010, 8:21 AM

          Absolutely. I was referring to the current culture of lavish Bar Mitzvah’s, but yes, some Smirnoff and babka should do if you cannot afford the blowout affair. The problem is that young kids have been conditioned to believe that they are entitled to the things that were once the exclusive domain of the rich. Even worse, their parents feel obligated to become indebted in the name of fitting in and being like everyone else.

    • Idiot May 23, 2010, 8:11 PM

      Or Homeschool.

      Believe it or not, if you homeschool your kids, people treat you as though you went off the derech.

  • Anonymous May 17, 2010, 6:06 PM

    While on the topic of “meshulachim” – here’s a joke I recently heard:

    What type of “shidduch crisis” is there?! Every other minute in Shul, you hear “hachnosas Kallah, hachnosas Kallah..” announcements on all sides..

  • le7 May 17, 2010, 7:06 PM

    How does one decide how many kids they can afford? There are ways to cut your budget down and live more cheaply. Can you only afford two kids if you want to live life to the standard you’re used to?

    I like some of your suggestions Hesh. But he’s got a point, the thought of paying tuition makes me sweat… for one kid alone.

    • aml May 17, 2010, 7:52 PM

      So find a good public school and teach Judaism at home. Find a few families brave enough to dot it with you, and then you’ll have a little community. Go on, be brave.

    • A. Nuran May 18, 2010, 12:55 AM

      You may not be able to afford the standard of living you were used to no matter what. If you can’t afford to raise six kids or even three, then you have to limit your family to the number you can. Most working and middle class Gentile families can’t afford more than two or three kids, and that’s without the special expenses of a frum lifestyle.

      If you instill a love of learning in your children they will learn. If all you can teach them is what a group of parents can get together and teach, then that’s where they’ll start.

    • Idiot May 23, 2010, 8:13 PM

      Homeschool and save $60,000 a year on tuition.

      • Mahla September 30, 2010, 8:56 AM

        I almost wonder if many frum families might ~save~ money if the lower-earning parent in a two-income household quit his or her job & homeschooled the kids vs. paying yeshiva tuition.

  • Anonymous May 17, 2010, 8:08 PM

    if your frum why are you paying taxes? you should be claiming welfare for your 14 kids. Satire right? 😉

  • balebusta May 17, 2010, 9:29 PM

    my aunt and uncle used to live in rockland county with three kids and a big fancy house…the kids were in day school and about 6 years ago my uncles business started to not go well….they re-grouped and moved to the south about 3 years ago….the kids are now at a public school (surrounded by many many xtians) but go to hebrew school etc…they still keep strict kosher and observe all the holidays and have a much more relaxed lifestyle — changing locations, getting rid of the crazy expensive rockland county home and super over-priced day schools is allowing them to give their kids a better life

  • YY May 17, 2010, 9:41 PM

    I just listened to a CD, Healthy Eating, by R’ Lazer Brody, the other day, and one of the things he said is to eat meat only once a week. Actually, R’ Brody and R’ Shalom Arush (of breslev.co.il) have written a ton about financial difficulties and lowering your expenses and getting out of debt and so on. See this:


    I don’t agree with Hesh at all that this man is not serious. Tons of people are depressed enough to contemplate suicide over finances. And I’m afraid lots of people believe in G-d and observe mitzvot but don’t have emunah and bitachon, and just can’t stand their life.

    Things that will really help:

    -Get enough sleep, no matter what. Not getting enough sleep, especially over time, makes people feel like crap. Even to the point of being suicidal. Often I think that’s what post-partum depression is about.

    -Get everyone on the cheapest cellphone plan possibly, tracfone or whatever. Do other things to reduce expenses, as other people have described.

    -Spend time every day talking to Hashem, preferably a long period like an hour, begging him to help you feel better, grow in emunah, and find a solution for your problems. Read about how the Chofetz Chaim and the Ben Ish Chai and many non-Chassidic figures did this — this is not just a Breslov practice.

    -Listen to some R’ Lazer Brody CDs!

  • Anonymous May 17, 2010, 11:59 PM

    Stop effin having so many kids then. Have as many as you can afford and if you feel Halacha obligates you to have 10 kids then stfu about not being able to afford them. And if you think this is a problem now, just wait 15-20 yrs. when everyone will be in kollel, with 14 kids and no one working who can support them. That should be fun…

  • Batya from Shiloh May 18, 2010, 12:27 AM

    For many, bad health prevents suicide, makes it unnecessary.

    You can have a nice, adequate private home in a yishuv in Israel, send your kid to a local Israeli religious school and get out of the American frum rat race.

  • CCMSM May 18, 2010, 1:00 AM

    I’m from the five towns. Do what everyone here does when they’re broke – make aliyah.

    Free tuition and free/almost-free health insurance saves you more than half of your expenses. plus the govt gives you some benefits that helps out in the beginning.

    It’s a no brainer.

    • Anonymous May 18, 2010, 1:44 AM

      yeah well if you want to be a parasite on the state you better do it while you can because it is only a matter of time before they cut you off 🙂

  • Adam May 18, 2010, 5:15 AM

    Umm, where does it say that he has ten kids?

  • Anonymous May 18, 2010, 9:15 AM

    Just one correction – Rav Moshe kept Cholov Yisroel, and he never suggested that it was in any way unimportant

  • Frumsatire Fan May 18, 2010, 10:11 AM

    My advice would be: identify things you can live without, and cut expenses in those areas. F. ex., as many people pointed out, no meat during the week (I’d go further and say become a vegetarian, you can make Shabbos food special without meat). I don’t have a cellphone, and I’m (almost) a normal, functioning person. I don’t have a TV either, and I’ve found that in TV-less families children learn to keep themselves entertained, interact, and play together – which not only will do them much good in the long run as individuals and as siblings, but also may cut costs regarding things like camp.

  • Phil May 18, 2010, 12:43 PM

    Suicide won’t put food on you kids table once you’re gone.

    Our “social net” in Canada is quite good at keeping lower income Jews here, the more kids you have the more your benefits are.

    Still, when frum people here go broke, they usually make aliyah, the incentives as you have more yeshiva aged kids are very attractive.

  • Anonymous May 18, 2010, 1:39 PM

    Phil, how many frum people go broke in canada? the cost of living in canada doesnt come close to that of the tri state area, and rent and tuition just are not that damaging especially in Quebec where you can send three children to school for the price of one compared to the new york schools

    • Phil May 18, 2010, 3:40 PM


      I know many frum people living below the poverty line, even with all our social programs. $50,000 is considered a good annual salary here, many “unqualified” people earn a lot less. In most instances, the spouses are working too.

      3 families in our neighborhood went broke and made aliyah since last summer.

  • Hershel May 18, 2010, 6:38 PM

    How about strongly advising your kids (and for yourself) to ONLY have 2 kids. If you want to go off the derech but stay in the community “USE BIRTH CONTROL”. There is no better way of rebelling. And it’s much easier to rebel or go OTD with less childeren.

    And to anyone who has at least 2 kids “DON”T HAVE ANYMORE “.

    With 2 or kids (or less) there is a good possibility of having a 2 income household. No one is going to question you or your wife why you are you not creating a litter . And if they give you too many problems (they won’t), you will at least have the finances to move to a more modern or non-religious neighborhood.

  • Ariella Kadosh Weiser May 19, 2010, 1:55 PM

    Is anyone else concerned that he is choosing CAMP over medically necessary dentistry? That shocked me.

    • A. Nuran May 20, 2010, 3:19 AM

      Shocked is putting it mildly. “Appalled”, “Horrified” and “What the Hell is This Guy Thinking?” are a little closer to the mark.

      To be kind, I think stress and pressure to conform have unhinged this man’s mind a little bit. That’s not an insult. It can happen to good, strong people.

  • Idiot May 23, 2010, 8:10 PM

    Tell your wife and daughters to stop buying new clothes every year. In all the frum families, the women and girls are always fashionably dressed.

    The fashion designers want us to buy new clothes every year. Have you ever seen a frum woman wearing clothes that are at least two years old? No, unless she is a grandmother.

  • Chris_B May 25, 2010, 12:10 PM

    This post got linked on reddit by someone who claims to be an OTD ex-lubavicher

  • bubu May 26, 2010, 1:08 PM

    If you are feeling suicidal, read out for psychological help before you do anything else. As someone else said, if you commit suicide, no one’s going to put food on the table.

    Cutting down on cell phone expenses (i.e., getting rid of all but one cell phone, and even that…), meat expenses, clothing expenses (thrift store exist for a reason!), buying food in bulk, and homeschooling all sound like good ideas.

    I don’t know if your wife would be interested in working, but if she would, that’s something else to look into.

  • Sophie June 25, 2010, 12:40 PM

    Throwing a kosher wedding can be economically and emotionally draining. Being a Recession bride myself, I was able to throw my own dream Orthodox Jewish Wedding while cutting costs by over 30 percent. I offer advice on how you can significantly save money too: http://www.orthodoxjewishwedding.blogspot.com/

    Mazel Tov, and I hope this helps!

  • Anon August 22, 2010, 9:00 AM

    Make aliya and nearly all your expenses are gone, you receive a grant from Nefesh B”Nefesh, alot of people don’t have much money, so there’s much less social pressure, there’s a gemach for just about everything, and you’re children’s learning will be on a much higher level.

    In the meantime, cut down on your “regular expenses”. And presuming you already have some clothes to wear dentistry trumps new clothes. In fact it’s one of the few things that can’t wait.

    • Mark August 22, 2010, 10:56 AM

      Make aliya and nearly all your expenses are gone

      This is a complete lie and is very misleading. Lifnei eiver lo titen michshol!!!

  • shoshanna September 29, 2010, 10:06 PM

    Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
    Somewhere along in the bitterness
    And I would have stayed up with you all night
    Had I known how to save a life

    Let him know that you know best
    Cause after all you do know best
    Try to slip past his defense
    Without granting innocence
    Lay down a list of what is wrong
    The things you’ve told him all along
    And pray to God he hears you……and pray to G-d he hears you.
    The Fray Suicide is a quick and lethal killer, stay up all night if it saves your brother’s life. Find someone to stay up with you if your about to take your life. Nothing is more important than saving a life.

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