Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

16 Tammuz 5766 - July 12, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Home and Family

The Master Babysitter
by Bayla Gimmel

You all know the famous story of the Roman noblewoman who asked the rabbi what G-d has been doing since the creation of the world and the rabbi answered that the Ribbono Shel Olom has been making marriages.

Well, guess what? I have amazing news. Hashem has, as it were, taken on a new part-time job! He is busy babysitting on my block in the afternoons. I came to this conclusion the other day when I went to the grocery at about 5 o'clock. If, G-d forbid, Hashem weren't babysitting, there could have been a number of tragedies just in that one timeslot of perhaps fifteen minutes.

Several cars came zooming down the block, but the cars had to share the street with children. I can't say that the drivers were particularly good about sharing. Some slowed down a little bit but most just hit the accelerator and went their merry way. Among the children in the street were bike riders of all ages, none wearing helmets, girls jumping rope and boys playing ball and shooting marbles. The children were totally oblivious to the traffic.

We have an eiruv in our neighborhood, and therefore children go out into the street with their toys and play there on Shabbos afternoons. If you ask the mothers why they let their toddlers play in the street on Shabbos, they will tell you that the children know the difference between Shabbos and a weekday. Their toddler would never go in the street on a regular day.

This year we had Shavuos on a Friday, followed by Shabbos, and the little ones had two afternoons running when they could, and did, go in the street. Some of these toddlers may actually identify the time they can play in the street by when they are wearing Shabbos clothes. Others are less perceptive and think that when everyone else is in the street it is okay for them to go there too.

On the afternoon in question, there were many youngsters in the street. Several yards ahead of where I was walking, I saw a little girl, who couldn't have been over eighteen months old, pushing her toy stroller across the street. And she was not accompanied by anyone other than her dolly. It was very definitely not Shabbos, but the toddler didn't seem to know that she couldn't join everyone else in the street.

It is possible that one of the rope jumpers, ball players or marble shooters was supposed to be watching this very young girl. However, it was the One Above who sent a passing pedestrian to grab "mommy" and dolly out of the street.

But the best incident was yet to come. When I got to the shopping center, there was a fairly large group of boys from age six to about ten crowded into the alley between a market and the wall around the shopping center.

I looked in to see what the attraction was, and I almost fainted. One of the Arab workers was busy taking apart and bundling the cartons that had been used to bring merchandise to the market. There he was, slitting open the heavy cardboard boxes with a box cutter, known in Israel as a Japanese knife.

For any of you who were under a rock on the infamous September 11, 2001, a box cutter is a super-sharp small razor- sharp blade that slides into and out of a sheath. It is made for doing exactly the work the Arab in the alley was involved in, but as we all know from the World Trade Center tragedy, box cutters are also lethal weapons.

I wouldn't want any of my children or grandchildren bothering an Arab who was holding a knife of that sort or any other weapon for that matter. But there was this large crowd of boys doing exactly that.

My Hebrew is poor, my pronunciation is atrocious and I have a terrible knack of putting the accent on the wrong syllable. Therefore, I am not the one to talk to neighborhood boys. If I try to tell them they are doing the wrong thing, they are so busy rolling on the floor laughing at the way I speak that they completely miss the message.

I rushed up to one of the Israeli shopkeepers who was taking a smoking break on the sidewalk and explained the situation to him. He went over to the alley, called out one of the older boys and spoke to him. The boy in turn went back to tell the others. B"H, the boys listened and left the Arab alone. The shopkeeper must have put the warning in strong terms because, fortunately, the boys left the alley altogether.

I don't usually go to the grocery at that time. I am sure that the Master Babysitter sent me there that afternoon just for one purpose, and He also sent the shopkeeper out to the sidewalk right then to serve as my spokesperson. Together we were able to diffuse a volatile situation.

Please don't tell me that the Arab valued his job and wouldn't have endangered it to go after someone with his knife. Because of another incident, I know differently. Shortly after this new market opened, there were four Arab workers unloading a truck and another Arab pushing merchandise up the ramp to the store.

The one on the ramp called out something in Arabic to one of the men unloading the truck. It was no doubt less than complimentary. It took all three of his co-workers to restrain the insulted Arab, who had whipped out a knife and was going after the insulter, job or no job.

I know that there are many reasons why the mothers were not with the children playing in the street or supervising the boys in the alley.

In late afternoon, some women are busy making supper, bathing the baby, or making the house look presentable for when their husbands came home. Some mothers have to earn a living and are doing computer work from home offices, and others are in town in a brick and mortar office.

But I am still uncomfortable with the situation. We all have to be very, very grateful to the Master Babysitter who is on duty on my street and maybe also on yours. After all, Hashem is the only One who can be everywhere at once. And it's a lucky thing, because there are a lot of neighborhoods and a lot of streets and a blessed lot of children out there every day.

We aren't supposed to rely on miracles. There are parks and playgrounds that are more child-friendly than streets and shopping centers. There are teenagers who would love to earn a few shekels every afternoon for babysitting. Also, mothers can get together and form teams. They can take turns with some being in the house while others are watching groups of children playing outside.

If all else fails, children have been known to grow up playing with toys in the house while Mom makes supper nearby. I know that it takes twice as long to cook that way, but sometimes it is the lesser of two evils. We get by with the children underfoot on rainy winter days. Maybe we can handle it in the summer also. Especially if we take the kids to the park to run off their energy before we start supper.

We can do our part to help safeguard the children that have been entrusted to our care. Hashem has given us these precious souls. Why can't we show Him that we can do more to help watch them?


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