Is Bigger Better?

In his column “An American in Yerushalayim” (Dec. 20), Mr. Fuchs regaled us with a description of his visit to the United States. I was taken aback by the attitude. He mentions his children’s reaction to “the big houses, the nice cars, the gadgets and toys; they notice it all and want it, too.” My question is, why? Later he laments, “We stayed in people’s basements that were bigger than our apartment and our neighbor’s combined! My little ‘put-put’ clunker (“taranta” in Hebrew) cannot compare to the massive Suburban that we rented (at a very discounted price). My kids assume that everything in America is bigger and better.”

I don’t know where Mr. Fuchs stayed, but I am sure it was a family very involved in the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim, as they invited him to stay in a beautifully appointed basement, nothing like the ones “most people” have. If the “taranta” car is good enough to use in Israel, why rent a Suburban? Again, “most people” I know use very generic mini-vans for their families.

The clue is in the observation: “And I understand them very well.” Is it possible, Mr. Fuchs, that you understand them because you also would rather upgrade your circumstances, even in Eretz Yisrael? Living in Eretz Yisrael is a zechus and it comes with hardship. The biggest nisayon is really being happy with what you have so that your children absorb that feeling. Happy children may be excited by what they see in the United States but that shouldn’t cause them to jump ship into the sea of gashmiyus.

He ends with a brachah for his children: “I hope that the warm confines of kedushah will shelter them through life,” as long as kedushah is their priority.

Name Withheld

Dov Fuchs responds:

Thank you for your interest in the article I penned about my family’s trip to the States. The values that you write of (mistapek b’muat and sameach b’chelko) are ones I strive to live by and implement in my own life, both as a person and as a parent. Yet, when children (and some adults) are exposed to anything new and different, especially if it is appealing and enticing, they can find the exposure to be challenging. This does not mean to say that they regret or abandon their cherished values. Rather, it is the age-old nisayon of gashmiyus that rears its head.

Indeed, I wish that I and my children were immune to this. Unfortunately, however hard we try to live with these values, “America” and its “bigger and better” mentality is very much “in your face.” Of course, I wish that when in a candy store, or when watching other children unwrapping their sweets and treats, they wouldn’t be enticed to buy and taste, too. That is a madreigah to truly aspire to.

I am blessed with the merit of living in Eretz Yisrael and achieving that goal is, as you wrote, definitely one of the hardships that I am happy to go through in order to remain in these holy confines. I pray that kedushah will always remain our priority, even in the face of glimmer and glamour. And that was precisely the intent that I tried to portray in the article!&