Thursday, July 14, 2005

Lakewood, NJ- "Ihr HaKedoysha" ? Part 1

In high school, the rule was that if you did not intend to marry a learning boy and move to Lakewood, you have no Bitachon, and no love for Torah. A guy who works and is "Koveya Itim"? Chas V'Shalom.

"Why does he need to work? Have Bitachon in Hashem that you will have what you need..."
Now I understand that there ARE people who sincerely choose to live like that. I am amazed by them. I am enamoured by them. I also think it takes a lot for them. A lot, that unfortunately many do not have, especially in the generation of excess Hashem has given us.

People have grown accustomed to luxurious lifestyles without even realizing it. However, Lakewood was always known to be the pristine area where Torah truly reigns, and there is no pressure to keep up with Joneses. After all, the original Lakewood people came with just their love for learning Torah and bitachon in Hashem. Their wives weren't desperate for the best custom sheitel, or obsessed with buying $50 outfits for their children that they will outgrow in 3 months. Lakewood was the opposite of the materialism associated with Flatbush and Boro Park. They purposely secluded themselves from the influence of the media, showing no interest in TV and movies, and focused on living a lifetsyle devoted to serving Hashem. That's the ideal. Unless I'm really naive, that's how I think it was in the beginning.

But times have changed. In my high school class, Baruch Hashem, many of the girls parents are extremely well off. So a few of them got married and moved to Lakewood as the cookie cutter dictates. Daddy/Totty bought them a house (or pays rent), plunked a new car in the driveway, and the boy was off to Yeshiva. Talk about Mesiras Nefesh. Put everything, including Bennetton's latest styles, Bloomie's fall collection, and of course that $500 suit you just HAD TO HAVE, on Daddy's credit card, while your husband is in Yeshiva. Poor baby. I'd bet that SOME, not all, of these kids would make their husbands run out to work if their parents decided to stop pumping the cash.

Now look at it the other way, the girls whose parents can't afford to support a whole other family besides their own, (Gee, who doesn't have $50,000 a year to spare??) and their kids still want to marry a guy who will sit in Yeshiva. That's real. They know what they're up for. They know it's not going to be a party. If they want to buy a car, it will a simple one, and they will have to earn it. Those kids have all my respect. They are also accustomed to a simpler lifestyle, which will help them in the long run.

Anyway, when I hear about these people moving to Lakewood, I don't have to hear from everyone else that "Lakewood is the new Flatbush," I can use my own imagination. What does this do to those who once enjoyed a no-pressure environment. Tell them to control themselves from feeling overtaken and perhaps jealous of how easily everything comes to them? It's not that simple. New mansions are built day and after day. The newlywed wives bring their vanity into the once unconcerned neighborhood, and begin competition betweeen one another. These girls also watch TV, watch movies, blah, blah, blah...and talk about clothing and shoes and clothing and shoes.

Of course, nobody expects Lakewood to be a slum, because that would be a chillul Hashem, and tell people that if you learn, and trust Hashem, you get a broken down Shack, Chas V'Shalom. Modest houses, people. They're there.

Now, those of you who think I am judging, I have seen these people in action. I gathered the guts to sit at their table once or twice, and was bored out of my mind. This is what I see. This is what I know. And it's extremely unfair to the innocent Ohavei Torah that started Lakewood.

I guess it's like a white shirt. Bound to get dirty.

22 Comments:

At 7/15/2005 5:41 AM, Blogger Semgirl said...

Michelle..

In all fairness you have to realize, that Lakewood is merely becoming a suburban BP, because real-estate prices are going thru the roof in Brooklyn and Monsey, that many cant afford to live there.Lakewood is still more affordable, for how long I dont know. So the materialistic elemets in BP/Flat that you speak of are just overwheming the original B-Torah population.

 
At 7/15/2005 5:45 AM, Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

Hi Michelle,
As someone living in Lakewood your post strikes a chord with me. I've seen it metamorphisize over the years and although it does disturb me somewhat there really is nothing one can do about it. However Lakewood has a big enough coccon for those that still want to live the pressure free simple lifestyle..

David

 
At 7/16/2005 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To semgirl:

That's fine, except for the fact that it's the rich people who can afford to live in Brooklyn that are moving to Lakewood and bringing all the materialism with them.

 
At 7/17/2005 8:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

$50 outfits for their children? Try 150- that a bit closer to it...
(or, tell me where in lakewood i can buy decent stuff for 50 bucks)

 
At 7/17/2005 9:14 PM, Blogger The Yankee Despiser said...

I've read the last few posts that talk about materialism, and I'd like to suggest a different take. If Hashem gave these people money, they have every right to spend it however they see fit. To you and me, these things might be a waste of money, but it's all relative - a person in Eretz Yisroel who lives in a small apartment with four kids likely thinks that if you have three kids and you own a whole house, that's a waste money, so it's all relative. Therefore, who decides where to draw the line?

The problem that I have with the materialism - and I'm in total agreement with Michelle - is how it affects the have-nots. Rising property values make rents higher for the people who could barely afford it - that's a fair gripe. But as far as spending $150 on a kid's outfit, if they can afford it, why not? If you had a bazillion dollars, wouldn't you do the same? Very possibly.... And again, if you get an outfit for $20, why didn't you get one for $10?

Same with the maids - if these parents want the maids to raise the kids, let them. I've seen parents do a horrific job raising kids, so who said a maid is worse? To raise good kids, you need real mazal. There are no guarantees. Granted, you can do things to increase your odds, but ultimately, you need siyata dishmaya.

If you're hanging out with rich people all day and you don't like it, maybe it's time to find a new crowd. There are plenty of lower class folk - people who don't have a pot to pee in - and there are some great people in that group. Otherwise, if you choose to associate with them and they annoy you, you have no one to blame but yourself.

 
At 7/18/2005 6:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, yankee despiser, what do you think of the recent attempt at wedding takanos? You would say that if somebody wants to blow a million bucks on a wedding, then let them. But what about the people who can't afford it and, for whatever reason that is for a whole other discussion, they feel the need to keep up with the joneses? Doesn't it make sense to try to make sure that everyone, including the gazillionaires, tone down a little?

 
At 7/18/2005 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wondering, what is with all the Part 1? are there ever going to be a part 2?

 
At 7/18/2005 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michelle-I have to disagree with you on one thing. You speak as if someone whose rich father supports them is not "really" learning. Only someone who comes from a struggling family is "real." While they not be moseir nefesh, the rich ones may very well be doing it for the right reasons. Just because it comes easier to them, doesn't mean it's not just as real. That's not to excuse them for the level of materialism they introduced, but that could be because of their parents...

Are we to say that if your parents are rich and can support you in style, then you shouldn't learn? Are we saying that their learning is wrong? I think not. It is a great thing that learning has become "in style." The materialism that came with it as a byproduct is another story. But, should we forbid rich people from learning torah because of a negative side effect?

 
At 7/18/2005 11:34 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

To the last anonymous, I knew it would be a matter of time before I received a comment like that. It's understandable. I get that response often in my day-to-day discussion about this. Yes, it is the materialistic aspect of it that bothers me. Listen, they could be supported, but ideally (and I say that because it's unrealistic) nobody should be able to tell.
I know a family who Baruch Hashem does extremely well for themselves, and they have a son-in-law in Kollel...probably being supported, but this family---the only reason I know of their wealth is because we are close friends with them. They do not drive luxury vehicles, they do not live in a showy house--it's very nice and well decorated, but not ostentatious. When you see these people on the street, they're not the type you can spot the $$ ten miles away. So they have my respect, because I tell you now that their daughter is not racking up bills in Bloomies, despite the fact that her parents are supporting her.
Generally, parents could also support but allow them to assert some independence even though they could afford to do more. Pay their rent--(you don't want them to be homeless) but let them learn what the real world is all about. It's about time, don't you think?

 
At 7/19/2005 8:14 AM, Blogger EN said...

Michelle,
Those girls who are rich and meterialistic supoprt the entire Lakewood. They marry a yeshiva bachur who has no money and then they do what their husband wants in terms of Hashkafa and send their children to the most yeshivish schools. It doesn't matter their reason for moving to Lakewood. Let them bring their meterialism. It will only be lowered when they send their kids to the schools and they need to support their husbands. Torah requires money. These girls are doing the biggest mitzvah. Girls who do it by themeselves and don't come from a rich family are to be commended but Lakewood wasn't only built from them. It was built by the rich as well. Everyone gains, rich daddy gets honor, the daughter get honor and the Torah lives on. Mesiras nefesh is required for torah but it can't buy Hidur Mitzvah.

 
At 7/19/2005 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WHOA!! en, what world are you living in? When was the last time a rich girl married a poor guy? I know many many rich girls, and not one married a guy below their level of wealth. Yes, they do support Lakewood, but let's not overdo it here.

 
At 7/19/2005 7:09 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

To the last Anonymous, thanks for answering for me :-).
I will also add that I believe that extreme materialism and vanity are in contradiction to the Torah, so it's not so "pashut".

 
At 7/19/2005 7:52 PM, Blogger EN said...

anon-I don't know what world you are living in. A true rich girl in money and good deeds will marry a poor yeshivah bachur because it is the right thing to do. I know of many such cases. Are you from the yeshivish velt? Of course they are not obligated to do so.

Michelle-how was that an answer? And it is poshut. Wealth and Torah are not a contradiction. Rebbi Hakadosh was the richest man and he was the greatest Tanna. I'm sure you know the Gemarah how he held up his ten fingers and said he never had enjoyment from this world. He also never was missing radishes and cabbage(?) from his table even though they were seasonal foods.I still remain certain that the true rich girls whose parents support Torah are doing it becuase it is the right thing to do. They are not required by Jewish Law to lower their expectations and their status of wealth and meterialism.

 
At 7/20/2005 6:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's Anon here in response to en. Yes I am from the "yeshivishe velt" and no I have yet to see a rich girl marry a poor guy. I guess we're from different parts of the yeshivishe velt. And, since when is marrying a poor guy the "right thing to do"? And, yes, wealth and Torah are not a contradiction. But, it takes a Rebbi to not have enjoyment from this world. It is not so "pashut" when it comes to us common folk. What about the Chofetz Chaim who had a simple bench and table and THAT's IT! We are travellers in this world and let's not forget that!

 
At 7/20/2005 8:36 PM, Blogger EN said...

"And, since when is marrying a poor guy the "right thing to do"?"

The reason I would call it the right thing to do is because rich people don't need more money. They have enough to share. By marrying a poor boy they get a share in his Torah and he gets sustinance and doesn't have to go to work and lose time from learning. If two rich people marry, the wealth is just compounded and it goes to waste. Pretty basic math if you ask me.

 
At 7/21/2005 6:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

En-and what about the rest of my post?

 
At 7/21/2005 8:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

and since when do we get married based on "pretty basic math"?!?!?!?

 
At 7/21/2005 9:17 AM, Blogger EN said...

Well maybe never if you are a girl(joke), but logically it makes sense if the only factor to disregard a shidduch was a rich boy or poor boy, a rich girl shouldn't turn down such a shidduch because socially it doesn't look good that the other person is poor. She should overcome that embarrasment and do it for the sake of Torah. To give a chance to a potential Torah scholar who otherwise wouldn't be able to spend his days learning.

Regarding the rest of your comment, the fact the Chofetz Chayim didn't enjoy this world doesn't mean we are on his Madrega. We have our own needs. A "TRUE" rich bas yisrael, will be a Rebbe Hakodosh. She will understand wealth is to glorify Torah and she should use the wealth she has to make Torah presentable. This involves showing she is important by marrying a Talmid Chacham, since many girls want to marry a working boy for his money because they are not willing to work on having less meterialism. A husband should not take advantage of his wife's wealth but Torah must be glorified. Poorness is not a sign of glory. A woman is metrialistic, that is her nature. That include looks, money, and making things beautiful, that is the purpose of woman in this world. The outside should be a cover, a hidur mitzvah if you will, for the beautiful inside. Wealth does not contradict a beautiful inside. There is no reason to judge others by saying they are overtly meterialistic, there is no purpose.

 
At 7/21/2005 9:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

En-first of all it is glaringly obvious that you are a guy (and not a very learned one-c'mon-"woman is metrialistic [try materialistic], that is her nature. That include looks, money, and making things beautiful, that is the purpose of woman in this world" gimmee a break)

Your logic is way misguided. You say that we cannot live like the Chofetz Chaim because we are not on his level. But we can live like Rebbi?!?! Are we on his level? NO!!!! You just chose the way of life you like and rationalize it. Don't kid yourself.

 
At 7/21/2005 12:09 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

EN-- I don't know where you come up with this stuff. Women are not supposed to be materialistic. If they are supposed to be concerned with how they look, it is for their husbands in the privacy of their own bedroom, not every Tom, Dick and Harry in the street. (No pun intended. Hehe).

About the rich marrying the poor, I don't believe it is as common as you claim, since most tend to marry around the same level. How many rich people do you know that are willing to risk their "reputation" (Phoooey) on allowing their child to marry "down"? Be realistic.

Also, rich people lead different lifestyles from the poor or the average. Why do you think high school politics are 75% based on $$? There are the haves, and the have-nots, and many of the haves are not willing to associate with the "untouchables."

So I'll need some more proof.
Re the Chofetz Chaim and the other Gedolim, I believe it was Rav Yehudah HaNasi that was very rich, as was Shlomo HaMelech...obvioulsy rich people are not Reshaim by any means, but these Gedolim knew how to handle their money. The fact that the Chofetz Chaim would close his store once he made a certain amount of money in a day blows my mind. He had so much Bitachon, and was so satisfied with living a simple life. We all know that had he kept the shop open longer, he could have made more money, but he chose not to!

Name me one person nowadays with a mansion, luxury vehicle and all that, and is truly happy with what he has. Some of these people have enough money to get by the rest of their lives, but continue to work and invest, and focus almost all their energy on making more and more money.

I rest my case.

 
At 8/14/2005 4:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ummm, wealthy girls marry poor yeshiva guys all the time. In the yeshiva world, a good guy is status. You must not be familiar with the culture.

"A woman is metrialistic, that is her nature. That include looks, money, and making things beautiful, that is the purpose of woman in this world."

wow this is sick. a woman's purpose is materialism? that is her nature? this is sickness, not judaism.

 
At 1/04/2006 9:09 AM, Anonymous Chani said...

En, no offense, but are you nuts or just off your rocker? Anonymous & Michelle, thank you for putting him in his place, I was getting ready to go throw up.I did raise my eyebrows when I read the part about the $50 outfits-I was under the impression that they were a bit more pricy. I wonder where I could've gotten that impression to start with? My father has said many times that Lakewood today is not what R' Aharon or even R' Shneur had in mind & that they probably wouldn't recognize it in its present form.

 

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