Life lessons from a wealthy, old Jewish widow

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One of my daughters has just bought a home. During the past few months she has looked at many homes. Many of them have been short sales, or foreclosed homes.
To me it was a visual lesson observing firsthand how many people still over commit themselves financially. For many of these people, they have experienced some unexpected circumstance, like a loss of a job, or a pile of medical bills, and the family finds themselves living with too much debt and not enough income-a recipe for financial disaster.

So, with my daughter’s house-buying situation fresh on my mind, I came upon a story about Gutle Rothschild. She was the wife of Mayer Amschel Rothschild. He was the father of the “Frankfurt five”. Five boys, who were groomed by their father, who became among the richest family in Europe during the early 19th century. They were the Rockefellers of their day.

What made Gutle Rothschild stand out to me is that this woman seemed content to live in a very rough, very congested neighborhood until her death at 95 years old. She “set her face firmly against ostentation” (a line from the book, “Rothschild” by Derek Wilson). Although, she would have been financially able to live out her life in the country, surrounded by all the luxuries her money could buy, she chose to live the “simple life of a typical pious Jewish widow – determined, warm-hearted and dictatorial” .

Gutle followed the careers of her sons with interest and pride, exchanging gifts, giving sage advice, always urging upon them the importance of holy and simple living. But never would she visit them to see for herself what great men they had become. Her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren always had to come to her, even though that meant leaving their carriages at the end of narrow Judengasse and picking their fastidious way along the grimy street” (another excerpt from “Rothschild”).

“Holy and simple living”–there is something refreshing about that vision for living my life.

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