It was with great interest that I read Rabbi Berman’s excellent Op-Ed and the subsequent letter to the editor by Rabbi Shmuli Margulies of Mesilah.
There is no doubt that the points they raised are on target and very important. Much can and should be done to help many struggling individuals extricate themselves from their financial difficulties. Mesilah is a wonderful organization that fills an important need.
At the same time, it is important to recognize that in many cases, there is no real choice other than accepting tzedakah for special milestones (and sometimes for Yom Tov).&
The reality of life is that in many large families, both father and mother work long hours at relatively decent jobs. They manage to get through most months without debt, yet when it comes to making Pesach or marrying off a child, they need help. It is not a matter of managing their budget better; they are skimping and saving as much they possibly can. It is a matter of facing the reality that our most basic expenses – such as s’char limud, kosher food, clothing, and housing – have outpaced our average salaries.
Chazal teach us that Hashem has great love for poor people, and that poverty exists so that the well-to-do will be able to get – through giving tzedakah — the zechuyos they so desperately need.
By all means, let us try to help them in every way possible. But at the end of the day, in a crunch time, let’s remember that these individuals need cash, not just budgeting advice.