Thursday, March 24, 2011


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Shemini/Parah

19 Adar II 5771/March 25, 2011

In a Washington Post article titled “Expecting the expenses”, dated December 9, 2007, journalist Michael Rosenwald calculated that it will likely cost him $340,552 to raise his child until age 17. When you figure that the average American family has two children that means the average family (often with one parent) must generate over $600,000 in order to raise their two children into late adolescence.

A more conservative estimate by the New York Times (June 25, 2010) approximates that the average middle-class family will need to shell out $222,000 to raise a child to age 18.

Even assuming the lower amount, those numbers would be vastly higher for any Torah-observant family. The New York Times’ estimate does not take into account the costs of Shabbos, Yom Tov, or Kosher food. The point of the Washington Post article was to encourage parents to begin saving money for their children’s college tuition and expenses later down the road. What would the author say if he saw the bills we annually pay for Yeshiva/Bais Yaakov tuitions?

In the Torah-observant world it is not uncommon for families to have upwards of five children. Based on the aforementioned numbers a non-observant family of five children would need to generate at least one million dollars just until the children turn eighteen. That number increases significantly when we add the cost for being Torah observant, and that is without even beginning to discuss cost of weddings (and for many, supporting children in kollel).

Granted, we are blessed with many wealthy families, but the average Torah observant family lives with constant financial strains and concerns. So exactly from where are our families pulling together an average of two million dollars to bring up our children, pay for doctor bills, mortgage on a house, the cost of a car(s), not to mention tuition, Shabbos, and Yom Tov?

There is a legendary anecdote that King Louis XIV once asked Blaise Pascal, the seventeenth century French philosopher, to give him proof of the supernatural. Pascal tersely yet poignantly replied, “Why, the Jews, your majesty - the Jews.”

Our very existence debunks the theory of Survival of the Fittest. By all laws of sociology we should have perished long ago. Our survival makes no sense and cannot be explained by historical or natural law. But truthfully the miracle of the Jewish people goes well beyond our physical survival. The fact that throughout the exile we have been able to preserve our heritage is an incredible miracle unto itself.

Our community undoubtedly has reason for concern. There is a financial crisis and a ‘tuition squeeze’ for which we still must ponder a solution. Nevertheless, we should not overlook the miraculous fact that, against the odds, we continue to grow and flourish in all areas.

In one sense we may be living refutation of ‘Survival of the Fittest’. But in a deeper sense we are living proof that G-d ensures that those who are truly deserving of the accolade ‘Fittest’ will not only survive, but also thrive.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum