My Wife Kept an Inheritance a Secret

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

I don’t know what to do. While my wife and I have always had a roof over our head, there are times we have only been able to afford soup and crackers for supper. I work for a non-profit, a job I love, and my wife is a teacher. Despite our work, we struggle to make ends meet.

Recently, I have been thinking that I might need to look for different, more remunerative work. Imagine my shock when I accidentally came across some mail addressed to my wife that disclosed that she had inherited a sum of money worth about four years of our income. She has never mentioned a word about this to me! I feel betrayed and don’t know how to move forward.

Thank you,

Steve P.

Dear Steve,

Let us say in advance that our answer is not going to resonate easily with a 2024 mindset. You see, we know that a man and a woman make perfect marriage partners precisely because they are so different from one another. Therefore, before we discuss your situation, we are going to ask you to flip your question around. What would we say to a wife who wrote in a similar question about her husband?

Our answer to her would be that there is a serious breach of trust and a problem that needs to be tackled. Yet, that is not our answer to you.

As always, there are huge blank spots in the information you gave us. Leaving aside the slightly disturbing details embedded in your, “…I accidentally came across some mail addressed to my wife that disclosed…,” for the purpose of your question, we’d be more interested in knowing how long you have been married? Do you have children? Are you not having children because of financial fears? You wrote that you love your work, but does your wife love hers? Did you marry with the stated assumption that both of you were to be equally responsible for bringing in income? These are all pertinent questions.

Of course, there is the possibility that your wife is planning on leaving you and this is her safety nest-egg. You did not mention the state of your marriage before you read her letter. However, if you believe that you have a basically solid marriage, we have another suggestion that brings us to our non-2024 answer.


Not only should you not say anything to your wife, but rather than feeling betrayed you should take this as a wake-up call that, in a sense, you have betrayed her. A man is responsible for making sure that his wife feels economically secure. That security allows her to be a calm and productive woman, wife, and mother. The Jewish marriage contract, a document usually read aloud in a proper Jewish wedding ceremony, is a one-sided commitment. The man pledges to support his wife. Since this contract is in Aramaic very few attendees know that this is what is being said, but it is as far from a romantic love epistle as possible. Your wife failed to tell you of her inheritance because she feared that it would be dissipated on necessities rather than used as an opportunity for something out of the ordinary. Perhaps she suspects that it would hamper your budding sense of ambition and needing to do better economically.

We explain in more detail in our book The Holistic You, why this unequal yoke describes reality rather than prescribes reality. You may have both married being unaware of this fact of life. Nonetheless, on a deep and perhaps unstated level, your wife doesn’t trust you to care for her financially, and that is a problem that you need to correct. Acquire the skills you need and stop doing work you love. Find work that will bring in more income and learn to love it. You’ll know that you have succeeded when one fine day at breakfast, your wife says, “By the way honey, I have a wonderful little surprise I’ve been keeping for you…remember my rich old Aunt Agatha who passed away two years ago, well…”

Time to man up,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

This Ask the Rabbi is dedicated in memory of Eynav Elkayam Levy, age 32, who was murdered by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, 2023.

And with prayers for the safe return of her husband, Or Levy, age 33, or at least the discovery of his body, so that their son, a two-year-old and both Or and Eynav’s parents will know if Or is alive or dead. May all the hostages be returned.


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