Modern life is getting more and more complicated. Have you
noticed how many choices we are called upon to make each
I was in the local grocery store and a young girl was using
her cell phone to call home. "Ima, you asked me to buy tomato
paste for the spaghetti sauce. I'm standing in front of the
tomato paste. There are three different brands. One has
hechsher X, the other has the Badatz of Y and the
third is supervised by Rabbi Z. There is also a range in
price. Besides, they come in cans and packets. The cans come
in two different sizes. Oh, wait. Did you know that they now
have ready-made pizza sauce in four different flavors? Please
tell me what to buy."
You notice that in the above scenario, the mother had
presupposed that, of course, there was going to be tomato
paste at the market and that they were for sure going to have
spaghetti with tomato sauce for supper. Gone are the days
when we went to the store and bought whatever was available
and then planned our meals when we got home.
About a dozen years ago, we were visiting Israel as tourists.
My husband and I were walking through Meah Shearim and I saw
a bolt of beautiful material on the sidewalk in front of a
tiny fabric store. The selection of summer fabrics at that
store numbered in the single digits, and that was the only
store of its kind in the area.
The cloth that had caught my eye was a subtle blue print with
pastel flowers. Each flower had a thin line of gold outlining
one side. It was the metallic highlights sparkling in the
noonday sun that had caught my attention. In my mind's eye, I
could envision a Shabbos dress made from the cloth. I bought
a few meters of the fabric, brought it back to the States and
sure enough, it did make up as a lovely Shabbos dress which I
wore for many years.
When I returned to Israel two years later, I passed a woman
wearing a suit made out of `my' material. On that same visit,
I also saw a carriage cover fashioned from the same cloth.
I'm quite sure that at least one person must have made
curtains from it as well. And why? Because there weren't many
This summer, there are myriad choices of vacation spots,
restaurants and day trips. In my area, there are now four
people selling imported children's clothing, a few different
ladies offering sales and styling of sheitels and a
choice of three stores in which to purchase housewares.
There was a time that a political election involved two
parties. Not so now. We are fortunate if we can just keep
track of the religious parties that are running!
Recently, I have seen advertisements for at least half a
dozen new high-school level yeshivos. Each ad urges parents
to choose their institution over all of the others.
We have to ask ourselves: "Why are we suddenly being
bombarded with so many choices? What does the Ribono Shel
Olom want us to make out of all this?"
When we are learning any skill -- be it printing, drawing,
cooking or even housecleaning -- practice makes perfect. The
more times we endeavor to do a particular activity, the
better we get at it.
What is it that is looming on the horizon that will
necessitate that we all become experts at the fine art of
The Israeli government has cut down the amount of money that
it is making available to chareidi institutions. In the
current budget, kollelim, yeshivos and other schools
have been allotted smaller amounts for each student. In
addition, child allowances and other monies that chareidi
families have counted on for basic living expenses have been
The supply side of our household budgets has suddenly shrunk.
At the same time, the number of `things' that a person can
now elect to buy, be it in the field of housing, clothing,
transportation or something as basic as food, has grown and
multiplied year by year.
The standard of living has shot way up. In recent years,
families have bought apartments, appliances and furniture for
newly married children.
Meat appears on the dinner table during the week, and
youngsters have money to go down to the local store for candy
or an ice cream pop when it isn't Rosh Chodesh or another
special occasion. In most families, each child has received
new shoes every fall and new sandals in the spring.
That is not how our grandparents lived.
At some time in the near future, many yeshivishe
families may be called upon to make a very important choice:
Will we turn our backs on all of the tempting `things' and
cut our budgets down to the bare basics in order to stay in
learning, or will we leave kollel to go out to
That will not be an easy choice. For some, it will involve
input and commitment not just from the parents but from older
children as well. There will be many nights and some days
devoted to making this important decision.
Just remember. In making choices, as well as in any other
art, practice makes perfect. Just for now, let's try to make
this summer's exciting family outing a walking excursion to
the local park or playground, to save the treats for Shabbos
and Yom Tov, to scale down on our overall spending, and to
place spiritual goals above material ones!
With a little practice, we can become perfect!
[Two particular pleas from the editor: Scaling down on the
gifts exchanged between Chosson and Kalla. Does the mother-of-
the-chosson have to bring the whole forest to the
engagement party, only to have it wilt days later? At a cost
of hundreds of shekel? Ditto for all the other flower
arrangements from friends, etc.? Couldn't we begin a trend of
And vaulting the barrier in the clothing area. Shopping at
the wonderful gemachs in your area -- or out of it, if
you prefer. Making it a fun activity to take a bunch of
teenagers shopping, without the stigma, and saving tens of
dollars on a one-time basis, hundreds on a yearly one! To
break the ice, why not BRING a bag of clothing to donate for
the first time, and then give a look-see, or go shopping for
a neighbor who could use clothing for the children but can't
spare the time to get away. A perfect excuse, a perfect way
to spend personal tzedoka money, too, for someone