Whenever I check my bank balance, I hold my breath, sure that this month it didn’t arrive. But month after month there it is—$10,000 even, waiting to be spent on milk and cereal, meat and fish, cleaning products, new shoes and sweaters, the electricity bill and tuition. The money is deposited in my account on the fourth of the month, steady as a paycheck.
But of course, it isn’t a paycheck, even though my husband thinks it is.
It wasn’t hard to get him to believe that. Tuvia is the sort of guy who’ll decide we should go away for Shabbos and figure that a bag of rolls and a package of turkey should do it, while I’m drawing up menus and planning how to fit everything we need in the car. I’m the practical one, and he’s the dreamer. And he dreams big, too, doing things like developing a new kiruv community on the outskirts of West Orange, New Jersey; opening up a girls’ school in Lakewood where everyone is welcome, no matter what; and setting up learning programs for fatherless sons every Motzaei Shabbos with a group of dedicated volunteers.
Unfortunately, he has also failed dramatically at all of these endeavors. And at the end of each disastrous venture, there I am, smiling sympathetically and biting back the words “I told you so.”
“Well, back to the drawing board,” Tuvia will say cheerfully after only a few days of sulking and nursing his wounds. Then he will throw himself back into learning full time in kollel, until an idea for his next project hits. He puts a lot of energy into his schemes, but not a lot of real-world know-how.
“Don’t get me wrong,” I had said to my older sister Leah one morning several months ago, after I’d had a terrible urge to unburden myself about my husband’s latest and largest disaster—a full-time kollel on Wall Street where the kollel guys would learn b’chavrusa with the many unaffiliated Jewish stock traders. He wanted the place to be beautiful enough to attract the jaded wealthy, with incentives like ever-present sushi platters and expensive Scotch flowing like water. The rent for the first month alone closed the project down before it even got off the ground.
“I thought he didn’t even want to be in business,” Leah had said, blowing on her coffee. “He always said he wanted to learn in kollel forever.”
“He does,” I explained, “but his father keeps pushing him to make a living.”
Leah smirked and took a long swallow from her mug.
“What?” I asked her.
She glanced at her watch. “I only have ten minutes to get back to work,” she said. Leah worked full time as a speech therapist. I, on the other hand, did some part-time editing for a local periodical at home when I felt like it, so I had more time on my hands.
“Then you’ll have to tell me why you smirked in ten minutes or less,” I said, causing her to wince. She then nodded firmly, as if she had made a decision.
“It doesn’t work that way, the way your husband wants it to work, in the real world,” she said. Her words sounded practiced, as if she’d thought about them for a really long time. “In the real world, unless you’re fully supported in total luxury by fabulously wealthy in-laws, you make a living because you have to. If you enjoy what you do, it’s a bonus, and if you don’t, you get to enjoy feeding your children.”