Monday, March 11, 2013

Kochava on the hidden price of observance

I was going to write a post about the cost of trying to be more observant--for a variety of reasons, observing Pesach is going to cost us even more of a fortune this year than in previous years--but I see that Kochava has beaten me to it.  Yes, some of her points apply even to non-Orthodox Jews who are reasonably observant.


Anonymous Miami Al said...

Honestly, most of that is a function of her growing from a single person with limited income and no expenses to a married person planning an upper middle class lifestyle that she can't afford.

There are real costs involved here, but some of this is utter nonsense. There is no reason to wear a sheitel over a stovetop, etc. Even if you accept the chumrah of covering your hair in your home, my wife loaded up on Scarves at Target ($2/scarf) or Walmart ($1/scarf). If you choose the leniency of a sheitel for work, there is no obligation to wear one when cooking.

But the kids stuff really falls into "raising an upper middle class child is expensive," not "raising a religious kid is expensive." For the lower middle class religious family, religious education is stiflingly expensive, for the upper middle class, that she's aspiring to, the less expensive religious schools are not dramatically more expensive than a full suite of after school and summer enrichment programs that upper middle class secular Jews utilize. It is more expensive, but not dramatically more.

Mikvah night may cost money, but it's by far the cheapest "date night" a married couple will engage in, since it doesn't involve babysitting or going out...

Regarding hotels, if you are uncomfortable utilizing a shinui to activate the magnetic card reader, I've never found a problem having a hotel accommodate me with having a janitor or other employee use the key for us. I've also never had problems getting a lower floor to limit the number of stairs involved, the hospitality industry deals with all sorts of areas, Shomer Shabbat is not that complicated.

The higher food costs are easily reduced by looking at your grocery bill and finding less expensive meals.

If you can't afford to attend pricey synagogue functions... don't... you can absolutely have friends without attending dozens of events. In terms of synagogue events, again, cheapest date nights ever, certainly less than a date night dinner out.

Many recently observant fall into this trap, because they see these expenses but don't think about what they entail. Do they think that upper middle class families just sit around watching TV all weekend? Sporting events, activities, museum fees, etc., all cost money, and filling up two days is much more difficult than filling up one.

Pesach does NOT have to be super expensive. Matzah is considered the bread of the poor. There is no obligation to eat a $300 meal at 10:00 PM when everyone is exhausted. You can serve a reasonably light meal and finish the seder, the purpose of the seder is to teach the story of Passover to our children, not self cater a 7 course meal.

Tue Mar 12, 01:11:00 PM 2013  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Eating a lot of vegetarian meals, and either splitting one dish or taking home leftovers, do help keep kosher-food costs down.

Miami Al, if you know a shinui for using a magnetic card reader, please pass it along. We could use one.

Seders are hopeless--half of us are brainwashed to *eat* a huge meal, and the other half are brainwashed to *cook* one.

Tue Mar 12, 06:53:00 PM 2013  
Anonymous Miami Al said...

Growing up, my mom did these rediculous meals. After gefilte fish, chicken soup with matzah balls and eggs in salt water, the kids all wandered off. A reasonable chopped salad, a side of quinoa, a few vegetables, and a reasonable main dish and you're really fine.

I think the ridiculous Pesach Seder meals are counter productive, to be honest.

The PURPOSE of the Seder is to teach your kids the story of Passover AND demonstrate why Passover is different.

We try to keep the meal as close as possible to a "normal" Shabbat/Yom Tov meal. The main thing you want to communicate, to young children, is that instead of our luxurious Challah we eat every week, this time we eat Matzah. The secondary thing to teach our kids, for Ashkenazim, is that we aren't eating Kitniyot as custom.

If you serve a meal totally out of left field, all of that is lost in the noise.

Our normal "nice" Shabbat meal (as in, we actually had time to do it right) is: Challah, Chicken Soup, Rice, an Entree, and two vegetable sides.

Out Pesach meal is: Matzah, Chicken Soup, Quinoa, an Entree, and two vegetable sides.

As a result, my kids are learning, AT THE MEAL, that it is Yom Tov, but we aren't eating Chometz and Kitniyot.

Wed Mar 13, 11:41:00 AM 2013  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Nice menu, and nice "lesson."

Wed Mar 13, 12:03:00 PM 2013  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Personally, I'd add back in the hard-boiled eggs in salt water. Not only is it an established minhag/custom, it's also good for "Ma Nishtana/Why is this night different?" purposes, to get kids to ask why. Then you can have fun with your explanation(s), such as (a) the egg represents the Shalosh R'galim/Pilgrimage Festival sacrifice, and/or (b) the egg is a symbol of spring, when many baby animals are born and/or (c) any other explanation that you, your wife, or any other guests might have up your/their sleeves.

Wed Mar 13, 12:09:00 PM 2013  
Anonymous Miami Al said...

Sorry, I didn't include it in the write-up. "Egg Soup" is always a hit with the kids, and always a part of the Seder meals, and such a hit, it's normally part of Shabbat and second days dinners as well. :)

But my point stands, this woman is talking about ridiculous luxuries as a "requirement" for her religion, and they simply aren't requirements, they are luxuries.

Thu Mar 14, 09:52:00 AM 2013  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Egg Soup." :) I like it.

Thu Mar 14, 11:28:00 AM 2013  
Anonymous Woodrow/Conservadox said...

The Pesach issue is easy. Just make a huge meal and eat leftovers for a week. May all your problems be this easy.

Another thought- if you are already a homeowning family, you might actually save money by moving to frum areas, since they are rarely the richest (esp. outside the most expensive cities like NYC). Estate home suburbia is not an option if you want to walk to shul; in fact, I have a relative who delayed moving to a frum neighborhood for over a decade, because they just couldn't bear to move to such a downscale area.

Thu Mar 28, 12:43:00 PM 2013  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Woodrow/Conservadox, I'm happy to report that our seder host sent us home with leftovers. Yum!

Re housing, unfortunately, we own a NY apartment, not a suburban estate house. I've done some research online, and it appears that moving from our current 2-bedroom in a non-Jewish neighborhood to a 1-bedroom in a Jewish neighborhood would probably cause our monthly housing cost to rise by roughly $500 or more.

Thu Mar 28, 02:56:00 PM 2013  

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