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Dear Jido,

My son just went to a birthday party with fifteen of his classmates from his second-grade class. It was an amazing production with two clowns, a magician, rides, and a dog act. Not to mention raffles, door prizes, and a banquet. I kid you not.

We had sent birthday invitations to this boy and a few other classmates. We had planned a small party and a sleepover at our home. Now, I’m feeling inadequate and I’m concerned that my vision of my son’s birthday party will be a cause of embarrassment to him. What should we do?

Signed, Party Pressure

Dear Under Pressure,

Birthday party, bat mitzvah, bar mitzvah, sweet sixteen, engagement party, wedding,
brit milah, pidyon, winter vacation. It’s all the same. There are those who can afford to do things in a big way, those who can’t – but do it anyway, and those who are satisfied with the simple and practical. We all know the saying – who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot.

There is no reason that you should feel embarrassed or less than proud if you make your son an enjoyable, unpretentious birthday party for him and his friends. Yes, some things have gotten out of hand, and sometimes we have grown to “expect” bigger things. But not everyone is going to hire a caterer for a seven-year-old.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, said many years ago – “If Hashem has blessed a person with great wealth then he is entitledto enjoy it. But, he warned, if everyone is driving a Lexus (that was THE luxury car at the time), he should not drive a Bentley.”

We have many “Bentley” drivers in our beautiful community, but we should not be jealous of them or look to better them. And, Baruch Hashem, we have even more “Lexus” drivers.
Should we feel badly if we drive the Camry or the Pilot? I think not. That is what fits our lifestyle. We would be untrue to ourselves (and to our pockets) if we tried to live a life that was not us.

Explain to your son, and internalize for yourself, that there are priorities in life. Money is usually hard-earned and valuable, and should be spent on things that are most important. There are the necessities, like food, clothing, shelter, charity, and education. There are the nice things in life like vacations, camp, and a beautiful home. And what is left over after that should be used to bring the most happiness to the greatest amount of people.

Happy birthday, young man!