“Look at Me! Look at My Money!”


money1By S. Friedman, Matzav.com

If you’ve read articles decrying the unrestrained spending of money in increasingly flamboyant fashion, here is another one; and unapologetically so. 

I once heard the following from Rav Yissochor Frand on a recorded shuir:  Why would someone have a ten thousand dollar watch when any old watch can tell time just the same?  Because for certain people, at times when they’re not in their opulent homes or driving their fancy cars, they need some way to convey to others that they are indeed very wealthy.

I believe that is the modus operandi for many of the “New Guard” of gevirim.  When I was growing up, the comfortable people (as we were taught to politely refer to our monetarily blessed brethren) would drive nice cars, live in nice sized houses, and would take a family vacation to Miami and perhaps Eretz Yisroel once a year.  If they made a simcha, it would be more upscale than others, as it was a matter of hosting an affair of what they felt was within their means and what was within the boundaries of good taste.

Some called for some restraint when making weddings, as it added to the already intense pressure of the financial challenges facing frum families in today’s day and age.  This worked to some extent, helping alleviate pressure of keeping up with the Joneses.  It seemed a matter of raising the sensitivities of people who didn’t realize that while they were just trying to be gracious hosts, they inadvertently raised the bar for others.

What I’m trying to say is that while ostentatious spending has long been an issue between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” I believe previous incarnations of the phenomenon resulted from much more innocent intentions.  People who had more than enough money wanted to enjoy it somewhat, and didn’t realize that there were unspoken limitations to what can be considered appropriate as opposed to flaunting it.  A common rejoinder was, “Well, he gives a lot of tzedakah.”  Truth is, if driving an expensive car is synonymous with giving large donations, it just means a person wants to feel like a g’vir and almost all of us can swallow that.

But what happens when $50,000 weddings become $100,000 Bar Mitzvahs?  The 6 bedroom home becomes a multi-million dollar mansion?  When the leased Lexus becomes a new $75,000+ car?  When the children are expecting vacations to ski resorts and designer clothing?  Etc…

There isn’t a gray area for many people as to what is considered refined and elegant and what can only be thought of as showy, flashy, and plain old fashioned nauseating.  They know good and well when they spend six figures on a ridiculous themed Bar Mitzvah that people will be talking about how wealthy the family is.  The more extravagant and excessive, the longer the masses will talk.

It may be condemnation, but I won’t sugarcoat it.  There is a conscious decision by people to bring attention to their wealth.  By way of their home, dress, vehicles, simcha celebrations, etc… they are loudly declaring, “Look at me!  Look at my Money!”

The “regular” people are most assuredly looking, and talking, but what the big spenders don’t realize is what the people are saying.  After the initial delight of experiencing a novelty (“I got a ride in a Bentley!” or “They served everyone 16oz steaks – as an appetizer!”), the feeling of repulsion begins to set in.  They “tsk tsk” and remark how out of touch some of these rich folks seem to be.  People realize that in contrast, the well to-do that practice restraint in regards to showing off their wealth are the ones we really admire.

Lavishly spending money with seemingly no other purpose than to impress others and draw attention to one’s self is surely shallow and quite simply, it is embarrassing.  It is uninhibited indulgence to taivos.  I believe it is akin to seeing someone eating a stuffed hero sandwich while walking on the street with all the trimmings dripping all over them.  They are a glutton who is a slave to their desires, and the mere fact that their addictions are open for all to see does not deter them.  They know that everyone can see that they are seemingly powerless to exert self-control, and yet they continue to make public slobs of themselves.

They may be decked out in the fanciest and costliest attire, drive their pristine automobiles, and speak with the utmost sophistication, but make no mistake.  Those that can’t help themselves but to abundantly spend in a public manner for all to see are the same out of control as any other addict.  The fact that so many of us are currently suffering financial hardships just goes to show how callous they are, or conversely how overwhelming their craving to impress everyone is.

The spending of money in such frivolous unrestrained fashion most assuredly calls attention to those engaging in their ego fueled quest to be considered the best, richest, fanciest etc… However, instead of merely being looked at in response for their immense craving for attention, they are actually being looked down at.

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. A little sharp, but unfortunately, true. Scrutiny

    Another aspect to those of us showing off, in whatever capacity it may be, is causing others to be jealous of us. When others are jealous, they can instill an eyn hora, which causes us to be judged again and more scrutinously in shomayim. None of us need that.

  2. Whats even worse than gevirim who spend money to announce “LOOk at Me! Look at my money!” Are the regular people who spend money they dont have to announce “LOOk at Me! Look at my money” Yet for some reason, we rarely hear critiscim of that.

  3. #2, that is very very very true. Well, now we’re hearing it from you. You should comment on it, and try and write up about it, or have someone else do so. Its something that bothers me terribly.

  4. Unfortunatly, these type of giverim, who you are describing also consider themselves “askanim”. They think they can manipulate policy. They push, behind the scene’s their own agenda which in many cases is very frightening.

  5. Dear Moshe,

    What you are saying is very true in a free and democratic country. However, like the mosque at ground zero, just because someone has the right to do something, does not mean that it is appropriate. We do not have the right to tell others what to do with their money. However, we can make these people aware of other values at play. We can educate and inform these ostentatious spenders of the messages that they are sending to their children and the rest of society.

  6. As a kashrus mashgiach in hotels, I can say with certainty that this is just the tip of the iceberg. I recently was part of a kashrus team of a bar mitzvah that EASILY surpassed the $1,000,000!! And it was not the only one of that caliber I have worked at.

    On the other hand, I can not complain – I got parnassah from it!

  7. Its their money they can do what they want with it. How do you know that they dont give up to twenty percent of their money to tzedakah? Doesnt the Gemara say that one should not give more than twenty percent of their income to tzedakah? If they are capable of spending their money that way, let them. It will help the economy!

  8. agree with number 6

    #4 hashem gave it to them and even if they want to enjoy it…why make a 100,000 wedding?/ hashem def is not happy with thier use of their money when frum families don’t have basicfood or clothing!

  9. I dont think Gevirim are being treated fairly. They have enormous pressures of business and Tzedoko and are expected to be available for everybody at all times. So they go a bit overboard sometimes with their spending it gives them that bit of pleasure to balance it out. Of course moderation is the name of the game but the article smells a little like envy. Dont judge anyone including gevirim they are also human and usually get their wealth without asking for it. I heard it said once that the Nisayon of wealth is greater than poverty I know because i have been there… both!!

  10. I don’t think you stressed enough the angle of keeping up with the Cohens. In some circles, people would be embarassed if they just make a simple or even moderately lavish Simcha. The peer pressure can be great in those circles. That, too, is very sad. Even sadder still are those who try to keep up with the Cohens, but can’t afford it and go int debt.
    However, the question remains: Are the wealthy, who can afford the lifestyle, responsible for the immature members of society who feel they have to do the same even if they can’t afford it?

  11. who cares if they earned? The writer isn’t arguing what people with money have the RIGHT to do with it. He’s just exposing them for what is tasteless. You have the right to act like a showy jerk if you want- this article is just spelling it out for everyone what it REALLY is.

  12. It’s plain old not “torahdik” to spend so much money. We’re not supposed to be so addicted to olom hazeh. Nothing to do with the right of these people to spend their money or if they give tzedakah. If you put on tefilin that doesn’t mean you can’t be guilty of talking loshon hara too.
    We don’t tolerate a lack of tznious in our communities, so coming out against this lifestyle is also like that.

  13. If only they’d take 10 or 20% of that money and sponsor a chasunah or bar mitzvah for those who cannot afford even an austere, bare-bones simcha, then they’d have reason to feel pride. Flaunting their glut does nothing to increase their honor in the eyes of the world.

  14. I made my last bar mitzvah for under 2000.00.
    Nobody looked at me down.
    I had no invitations,just a kiddush in Shul,but when someone else make a nice splash, I do enjoy it and wish him mazel tov with all my heart.
    We must learn to be happy with other peoples simcha.

  15. the ways of these kind of people come mostly from GA’AVA (pride)& low Self-esteem-sadly- when a person goes in this direction he is telling Hashem that all this extravagance spent unwisely is my money. this is where the bad point of AYIN HO’RAH comes in. when Hashem sometimes Rachmana L’tzlan has to change someones life around bec. he does not know how to spend it in the right ways. Spending your money in the right way means spending it with HUMILITY, keeping a low profile of your name & remembering that everything comes from Hashem.

    Today most of us are on the level of thinking that this envelope or pushka of Maaser money is Hashems. BUT we forget that EVERY PENNY IS HASHEMS & we are just the agents to deliver the money to others (rather to tzedaka or to workers). we forget that all this money a person has can Chas v”shalom be gone in an instant (rather by robber or a massive forclosure bill)

    Who is the one that is ready to be an Employer? Why should he deserve to be an employer more then a employee? The one that his money & business won’t effect his relationship with Hashem he is still going to daven in a minyan every day & have a learning ??? every day. While an employee only works from 9:00AM to 5:00PM this time of work is his fence between him & Hashem telling him its time to go Daven & learn. But the person that realizes this does not need this fence as a reminder to go daven & learn, Hashem sees he gives ???? he Daven & learns everyday why shouldn’t he be a multi millionaire he knows how to spend it right & appreciates that i picked him to be an employer more then an employee.

  16. i dont undertand who is this writer that has decided what anyone can spend their money on
    as long as the person making the lavish affair did not steal from you its none of your business

    in our shule we recently wanted to make takonos for simchas however our rov felt that instead of dictating a one size fits all
    we torah jews need to live with the understanding that there are those with more than us and less than us and we have to learn to live within our means that will not happen by telling the haves to act like the have nots one has to work on themselves

  17. In answer to Chavi. “If only they’d take 10 or 20% of that money and sponsor a chasunah or bar mitzvah for those who cannot afford even an austere, bare-bones simcha, then they’d have reason to feel pride” You know what?.. many Ashirim do just that and at those lavish Chasunas they make they give enough Tzedoko out at the Chasuna itself sometimes as much as their own Chasuna cost maybe even more. Less us stop judging other people and yes lets all trim down a bit and above all follow the Rabonim’s gudelines.

  18. Unfortunately the letter writer is correct the ashirim are giving tzedaka but are they giving tzedaka properly. Many give tzedaka but then show off their wealth in a most ostantatious manner negating all their tzedaka.

  19. Leave the well-to-do alone! Have you ever noticed at a vort how many of the poorer out-of-town marrieds come in??!! that’s more outrageous than a gvir spending x on a simcha! How dare you cry poverty when you, too, say “look at my money” (that i don’t have, but mooched off someone, from maaser, of course, to come in for this…)

  20. its no wonder crime is up in NYC and other neighborhoods where frum yidden live. If a goy drives through and sees all the fancy houses being built and all the fancy cars in the driveway they say to themselves their is no economic downturn by the jews, this is where the money is. Instaed of trying to hold back during these very tough times we are all guilty of showing off our wealth to the goyim may it be our cleaning ladies, our gardeners the delivery boy and even the garbbage men who see all the waste that we are guilty of.

  21. I once noticed a gvir expanding his home and a twinge of envy came out since he seemed to have life handed to him on a silver platter after marrying a gvir’s daughter. Well, in the midst of remodeling he got sick and nebach passed away. Ever since then I decided when a gvir does something lavish, I say Hashem should give him koach and let him enjoy it in good health. Chas v’sholom none of us want to cast an ayin hora on any of them.
    I heard at a shiur that we should be happy with others for the good as much as for the bad. So if you are truly happy for the gvir that he can afford the lavish wedding, Hashem will bless you. If all you can do is envy them, the rich man chas v’sholom could suffer and nothing good will come out of it from you either.

    Let us each be sameach b’chelkeinu. Of course we admire gvirim who live simpler but unless you’ve been wealthy, you will never know the nisyonos they go through. It’s easy to talk when you are not tested.
    I agree with Yossie (#20)!
    I think we all live above our means so the gvirim have to do so much extra just to look different.
    I know someone who drives a Lexus but can’t afford health insurance so you don’t even know who’s rich or poor anymore.

  22. i too was recently at a bar mitzvah that easily surpassed 100,000 mark, i wonder if it was the same? the ostentation made me truly nauseous and to be honest i would not have minded if there was at least steak for the main course because i have found that at these affairs there is usually very little real food served and i come away hungry.
    someone who has never attended such an affair can not imagine the level of luxus exhibited at these events. although the gevirim might be entitled to spend their money as they see fit every part of the yiddeshe nehsama should be yelling about how wrong this is. while there are yidden that can’t sleep at night because they are worrying about how to cover their bills suchs displays should be abhorent to everyone! A bar mitzvah is a serious occasion and the affair should reflect that instead of being a hollywood production.

  23. some people tend to miss the “nekuda”thats being expressed here.How could someone decide how much someone else is giving tzedaka,it sounds crazy.the point is its just not right thing to do,and there is no gain at all in making such lavish simchos.
    klal yisroel should just relax

  24. not to fargin anyone their wealth, but I believe when people spend in gashmius beyond the norm, it is a sign of shallow midos. If one were truly selfish they would try to pick up the many zechusim that are there for the taking. How many schools closed this season for lack of funds? The differential between ostentation and a under the radar lifestyle could have kept a mosad open, and one who moser nefesh for a particular issue, that mitzvah is promised to always belong to his progeny. (MR shmos 2:8) That is where selfishness belongs, and chinuch needs are just the one example.

  25. I’ve been thinking for a long time that although I cant say how a gvir should spend on vacations luxuries …. but I think I can clearly say that when people waste money (millions annually) to go to meron uman lizensk… it would seem to be a davar pashut that they would get alot further by hakodosh baruch hu if they stayed home and davened bizchus R’Shimon and the others …. and take the money they would spend and give it to all the terrible tzaros campaigns… 3 bochrim in japan included it woudnt have happened if people would realize that we daven to hashem not reb meilich only b’zchuso and you can do that right at home

  26. just to mosef on what i said earlier i am no tzaddik and also barely half my expenses income but when i see someone collecting it hurts to turn away i say to myself surely i have more than him(unless he’s smoking) and i feel i must give him thats how all of us in klal yisroel should feel it should hurt us to see someone collecting chanses are you have more than him if you arent collecting