Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Av 5763 - August 5, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Practice Makes Perfect
by Bayla Gimmel

Modern life is getting more and more complicated. Have you noticed how many choices we are called upon to make each day?

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 other choices.

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 making choices?

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 reduced.

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 work?

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 practical things?

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 else.]


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