Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

23 Tammuz 5763 - July 23, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Tatty's Surprise
by Raizel Foner

I was in the States recently for three weeks with all of my children for my youngest brother's wedding. Yehuda, my husband, had decided not to come. Officially, the reason was because his passport had expired. In addition, since he never registered with the army, he wouldn't be able to leave the country. Years ago, he had tried to contact the army but they didn't have him on record and they advised him not to bother coming down; rather, he should wait until they contacted him. His status was and still is in limbo [one of the reasons why our writer is using a pseudonym?], and since he never had the time, patience, or driving ambition to sort things out, according to our understanding, he's stuck here.

The real reason he didn't join us was that, Boruch Hashem, he's a real masmid who would rather not take off any time from his beloved kollel and gemora. He was content to remain in Kiryat Sefer while I looked forward to my children getting to know their wonderful family and enjoy a family simcha. I called my husband periodically to check how things were and to make sure he was still managing without us.

The first two times, he seemed distracted and a little preoccupied, but the third time, he sounded positively expansive, exhilirated.

"I can't WAIT 'til you all come back home," Yehuda said with glee.

This was a bit out of character for my somewhat reserved husband.

"Oh, you miss us?" I asked.

"Well," he chortled, "I'm keeping busy. In fact," he chortled, "I have a surprise for you." More giggles.

Should I worry? Maybe it was something innocent like painting the apartment, fixing or replacing something, like the old sofa for a newer second-hand version. Why the sense of apprehension? I tried to enjoy the rest of my stay without obsessing over our return.

The flight back was about as uneventful as one can be with children. At one point, as I followed my toddler up and down the aisles, I said to the stewardess, "I think I'm working as hard as you." "Harder," one passenger commented dryly.


As we approached Kiryat Sefer, my husband's welcoming smile turned into a mysterious grin as if he were enjoying a private joke.

The apartment was a lot neater than I'd expected and I said so. "Is this the surprise?"

BIG SMILE! "Well, every so often, I've felt bad that I don't have the time to help more around the house," Yehuda began. "But while you were gone, I've hit on the solution."

"We're going to hire help?

"Oh, no! Even better!" he announced triumphantly. "I have TRAINED the laundry and dishes to CLEAN THEMSELVES!"

I looked at him in concern. Perhaps leaving him all alone hadn't been such a good idea...

Ignoring my sideways glances, Yehuda strode theatrically into the hallway. "Come and see a live demonstration!"


For half a minute, there was quiet. Then I saw the laundry hamper begin to shift. A shirt was wriggling out of the basket and was soon joined by several socks slithering across the floor. A dishtowel, a pair of pants and a shmatte... Things were hopping and crawling down the hallway, turning left into the bathroom and shimmying up into the washing machine on the laundry porch. Again there was quiet.

"That's amazing! How did you do that?"

"Behavior modification," he answered proudly. "Treats, outings. A shekel or two now and then. But mostly praise." He strode over to the washing machine and peered in. "Good job, crew!"


That night I kept dreaming about my husband taking the laundry on an outing to our local park, pushing socks on the swings and letting shirts glide down the slide. I hoped that none of our neighbors had noticed.

We all woke up late and were treated to Tatty preparing omelettes for breakfast. He'd already returned from shul and had stopped off at the grocery on the way home.

I started to clear off the table afterwards, but he stopped me.

"CLEAR OFF TIME!" Yehuda announced.

Before our very eyes, the disposable dishes rolled off the table, across the floor and into the garbage. The pieces of cutlery flopped onto the floor, heaved themselves towards the counters and helped one another up to the sink in chain fashion. Yehuda picked up the last fork off the floor, put the plug in the sink, and added a squirt of detergent and water. "They'll wash themselves," he declared confidently.

"WOW!" the children breathed, their eyes wide.

"Tatty learns a lot of Torah and that's how he does missim," three-year-old Ari said, nodding.

Tatty looked uncomfortable. As a spoon was scraping off a bit of stubborn egg from the frying pan, he tried to explain to the children how behavior modification worked.

"Tatty's a tzaddik and an onov, too," I heard six- year-old Sora whisper to her younger brother.

"I had a hard time getting the laundry to hang itself up on the lines," he said, changing the subject.

"Because wet laundry is harder to manage?"

He shook his head. "After the laundry was washed, I didn't want it slithering on the floor and getting dirty again. I couldn't get any of the clothes to fly for even the short distance to the lines. The only solution I could come up with was to put down a piece of linoleum near the machine for them to crawl on, and to pick it up afterwards so that it stayed clean."

We sat in silence for a few minutes, digesting this information while the silverware and cups finished rinsing themselves off. "Very nice!' Yehuda called out enthusiastically. Was it my imagination, or did the forks seem to gleam brighter?

"I'm really impressed," I complimented my husband. "Thank you so much!"


So now, we're the only apartment on Avnei Nezer, probably in all of Kiryat Sefer, where the dishes and laundry do themselves. Sometimes the socks even race each other...

I'm toying with the idea of visiting the States for my nephew's bar mitzva. Who knows what I'll find when I come back...

[Ed. Maybe if you left the kids behind this time, your husband could behavior-modify them, too?

Then, again, why leave home? You've got enough of the vacation left to try to do the job, yourself...]


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