Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Tishrei 5766 - October 15, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Home and Family

Quality Time
by Bayla Gimmel

At the beginning of the school year, my daughter-in-law asked me to accompany my three-year-old granddaughter when she went to school for the first time. Each of the girls was supposed to come with her mommy but Faigy's mommy had just given birth that week and therefore was unable to attend. I was to be the fill-in.

When we came into the room, we saw that the teacher had prepared a strip of lanyard plastic for each girl and tied an "O"-shaped snack to one end. There was a bowl of various snacks in the middle of each small table. The snacks were different sizes, shapes and colors, but each had a hole in the middle. The girls could take a plastic strip, sit down at a table and string together cereal circles and other goodies. When the plastic strip was full of nosh or the girl tired of the activity, the mother could tie the ends together and make a necklace for her daughter (or granddaughter, in my case).

While the girls were busy, several mothers rushed over to the teacher to introduce themselves and share important information. I wasn't close enough to overhear any of the conversations (not that I would have eavesdropped intentionally) but I can imagine what might have been said. Perhaps one girl has a food allergy. Another might be left- handed. It is conceivable that a third has just been weaned away from her 11 a.m. nap but at that magical time might still put her thumb in her mouth and zonked out.

After the craft project was completed, we took the girls for a tour of the room, pointing out where the toys and puzzles were stored, where the washing sink was located and most important of all, where the bathrooms were. Time was short and we rushed from place to place.

Next, the girls were asked to sit down at the story corner with their mothers behind them. The teacher went around the circle, stopping in front of each girl. She then sang, "Boker Tov to . . . " and read that girl's name off her name tag, giving the girls the chance to hear each other's names. At the same time, the mother could correct any mistake in pronunciation if the student had an unusual name, or tell the teacher the nickname by which her daughter is usually called Each of the girls received a small candy and, on that happy note, everyone was dismissed.

I couldn't help noticing that although these young mothers were all members of the cell-phone generation, not one of them had whipped out a phone to make a single call. They wanted to maximize their time with the teacher and to make their daughters comfortable with their new school. Gabbing on the phone would just have to wait.

We are approaching the most joyous week of the year, when IY"H we will sit in the succah, and spend quality time with our families and our guests. The very best Guest will be the One who teaches Torah to all of Kllal Yisroel, the Ribbono Shel Olom. If the kindergarten mothers could give up their cell phones for an hour and a half in order to focus on the gannenet and her program, I believe we should all make maximum effort to leave the cell phones and cordless telephones in the house while we are dwelling in our sukkahs, basking in the Presence of the Shechina.

In this day and age, telephones have become an addiction. I was waiting at a bus stop in Geula early one afternoon just before Shavuos. There was an American seminary student sitting on one of the seats in the bus shelter, speaking into her cell phone. In order for her to hear herself over the din of the traffic, she was speaking quite loudly. It was impossible not to overhear her.

She was telling her friend that she was waiting for her chosson to meet her so they could do some shopping. There were various things they needed for the apartment they were furnishing for after their upcoming wedding. As she was speaking, a young man rushed up to her, a bit breathless. He had probably run most of the way from his yeshiva in order to maximize the time with his kallah.

She smiled at him and then did something absolutely amazing. She continued to talk to her friend over the phone — and not for just a few seconds. She spoke for at least five minutes!

The young man shifted uneasily from foot to foot. He stood near the bus stop and dodged passersby, some with arms full of packages and others pushing rapidly moving baby carriages. He tried various methods to get the young woman's attention. But to no avail. The phone call took first priority for the kallah and she was not about to end it a second before her friend on the other end was ready to hang up.

I suppose that if this is the way the kallah's mind works, it was just as well that her chosson found out about it before the wdding, but to me it seemed to border on the absurd. At any point in the protracted conversation, she could have said, "Well Yossi is here now. Gotta go." But that didn't happen. And why not? Because whether she realizes it or not, this young woman is addicted to her cell phone.

I would like to be able to tell you that she is the only one who suffers from this addiction, but that would not be the truth. I have seen toddlers at the park sitting on a swing, howling, "Push me!!!" while Mommy is wrapped up in her cell phone conversation.

I have seen married couples, riding the bus all the way into town, sitting side by side, she on her cell phone and he on his. Not a word has passed between them for the entire thirty minutes they have been on the bus, but both have talked non- stop.

Someone showed me a cute article about our technological era. Each short paragraph began with the words, "You know it is 2005 if . . . " One example is "You know it is 2005 if you e- mail the person at the next desk."

Another is "You know it is 2005 if you call your house on the cell phone as you are driving home from the supermarket to alert the children to meet you on the driveway, or in the garage, to carry the groceries into the house." Admittedly that may be a bit more polite than the, "Hey kids. Can you come out and get the bags?" that we older mommies used to call into the house from the doorway. However, it also shows how dependent people have become on cell phones and e- mails.

This Succos, let's invite lots of guests into our succah. Friends, relatives, neighbors and everyone who isn't fortunate enough to have one of their own. How about the widow next door and the young couple who just moved in and didn't have time to put up a succah?

But let's disinvite all of those small hand-held instruments whose names start with Nokia, Motorola, Panasonic and the like. Cell phones and cordless telephones are definitely not the ushpizin that we need when we are spending quality time in the succah.


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