Pinky Rosenfeld, a friend with wisdom beyond his years, commented many years ago that the first bill a couple should pay every month is their tuition bill. He reasoned that of the typical bills one has every month, such as mortgage, auto, taxes, utilities and insurance, the education of one’s child is the most important investment and therefore deserves to be the first check written each month.
Pinky made that comment 35 years ago. Why would such a passing comment stay with me all these years?
Two reasons. First, tuition bills may be the most talked-about issue in the Orthodox Jewish community. Second, at the time Pinky made this comment, my wife and I were childless and we very much wished we had a tuition bill to pay.
One in seven couples suffers from infertility. These one-in-seven couples in our community do not have a tuition bill to pay. Every month they pay their mortgage, taxes, utilities, car lease and food bills, but there’s really only one bill they wish they could pay — tuition.
It’s no one’s fault that these one-in-seven couples don’t have children yet. Hashem, as we know, is the keeper of three keys: the key to life, to death, and the key to parnassah.
Without doubt, yeshivah tuition is expensive. Any young couple blessed with several children laments their tuition expense, beginning with preschool and continuing for what may feel like an eternal lifetime. Add the annual building fund and every couple must feel like they’re laying the cornerstone for a yeshivah every year.
Your online checkbook or pre-designated monthly credit card debits make you feel like your sons’ and daughters’ yeshivos are embedded in your life. You have a financial partner in addition to a marriage partner.
We can make all the marriage jokes we want. A couple’s marriage to their children’s yeshivos is pretty serious business.
And that was exactly the point that my friend Pinky was making: that our children’s education is of such paramount importance that we should not only pay their tuition on time, we should happily make it the first payment every month. The notion of paying a tuition bill happily takes a bit of getting used to for most struggling working families.
Yet my point here is not to debate the high cost of tuition or political gamesmanship for school vouchers or tuition tax credits. It is about the couple who long to pay a tuition bill.
Modern-day medicine and doctors are only the shluchim — messengers — for couples experiencing infertility. Hashem decides who will have children, and when.
Attend a meeting of one of the organizations providing support to thousands of such couples, and you will understand with clarity such couples’ daily emotional struggles and prayers.
It is said that when one is sick he should pray for another sick person even before he beseeches Hashem for a refuah for himself; that in the merit of praying for another person, his own prayers will be answered.
Six couples, when paying their children’s tuition, should bear in mind a seventh couple still desperately yearning for a child. That collective prayer can hopefully result in that seventh couple meriting the opportunity to pay a future yeshivah tuition.
My wife and I are, baruch Hashem, happy to pay yeshivah tuition.
My friend Pinky Rosenfeld was absolutely right.
David Mandel is Chief Executive Officer of OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services.