Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Adar 5766 - March 29, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

In Glass Houses We Don't Throw Stones
by Tzvia Ehrlich-Klein

About five weeks ago, my friend F. was suddenly awakened by the blasting sound of a pneumatic drill pounding away directly above her head. Eyes wide open, F. was literally shaken out of her bed. Why? Because her floors and bed were veritably vibrating from the tremendously loud noises coming from above. (Please note that this is not such an easy feat because F. lives in Israel, where the walls and ceilings of homes are not made of wood, but rather of very solid stone).

F. lives alone. She is a widow of approximately two years, a grandmother to almost a dozen grandchildren, and has no children living at home any longer. Being a religious women, and given the fact that her hearing is still functioning quite well, F. was sure that the war of Gog and Magog had begun.

Running to wash her hands and say the morning blessings, F. was surprised that these violent vibrations and incessant pounding drilling sounds were continuing for so long. She didn't understand why she wasn't hearing the blasts of the shofar already, announcing Moshiach's arrival. Somehow she had imagined it would come faster.

It didn't take F. too long to realize that she really wasn't that knowledgeable about the anticipated time span of the War of Gog and Magog, and so, trying to ignore the incessant banging and shaking all around her, she decided to continue on with her normal daily activities. F. settled down into her chair to finish davening.

With the completion, F.'s head was beginning to pound to the beat of the hammers from above. She also started coughing, as dust particles were floating all around her room, coating all of her furniture with a pale shade of grey. True, grey goes with everything, but still . . . what was going on?

After shouting into her telephone to her upstairs neighbor (in order to be heard above the noise), F. was astounded to hear that she herself actually had it good. It wasn't F.'s upstairs neighbors who were doing renovations, but the neighbor above her!

Yes, F. recognized that it is a blessing to be able to expand, update, and/or beautify one's apartment. But, concurrently, she did wish that people would remember that the mere fact of living in an apartment building means that other people are also living close by. And noise and dust do travel. Easily and efficiently.

This is not to bemoan apartment living. On the contrary, there are many benefits to living together in one building with other families. Ease of borrowing cups of sugar, etc. when one runs out of the needed ingredient during baking is just part of the story. There are also regular as well as emergency baby sitting options that pale in comparison to having to run out to the car, open and close the garage, and drive a few blocks to pick up a babysitter. Neighbors can provide help, an easy interchange of different ideas and mores, easy emotional support and friendly warmth on a daily basis, as well as human contact whenever needed or wanted.

And this is particularly important if a person happens to be living alone.

And F. was.

Living through the blaring noise and other disturbances of a neighbor doing renovations has made F. aware of some of the pitfalls, and some ways to avoid them. Or at least a few ideas on how to make the renovations work more bearable for those in the immediate vicinity.

Thus, a few suggestions for the next time that you or a friend are going to renovate:

1. Notify neighbors, either individually or via a posted notice, that renovations will be taking place shortly, and that you apologize beforehand for any inconvenience that this may cause.

2. Include the date that the renovations will begin, and the approximate amount of time in which they hopefully should be finished.

3. Make it clear in the note that the contractor has been directed to be sensitive to neighbors' sensibilities, and that the neighbors should therefore tell him of any problems that arise. Be sure to include your own phone number for any problems that he did not solve. [In addition to displaying common courtesy, this simple step will endear you to your neighbors.]

4. Instruct the builder to sweep the entrance to the building, the floor outside the apartment on which he is working, as well as the elevator, at the end of every work day, particularly on Fridays and erev chag. It is also preferable if you can get the builder to instruct his workers to use the stairs rather than the elevator: in addition to causing inconvenience to the tenants by tying up the elevator, they do break easily — which is a really big inconvenience (and irritation) to those currently living in the building.

5. Inform the workers not to blast their radios while working, as this can easily disturb the neighbors.

6. Ensure that all garbage, unused building materials, etc. are put directly into the garbage bins or neatly stacked behind them. Do not allow your workers to turn the entire area around the apartment building into their personal work site. It isn't. Remember that your neighbors are still living here, and having people visiting them.

7. Be sure that, whenever the workers are painting or doing cement work on a balcony or near an open window, they are careful that nothing will drip onto the apartment below. Someone should actually be sent downstairs to ensure that no damage was done. Fresh cement and/or paint comes off furniture, floors, etc. much easier when it hasn't been left to dry for a few days — and thus causes much less antagonism.

8. If the renovations are major, consider bringing each resident family a small bouquet of flowers Erev Shabbos in order to say "Sorry for the inconvenience." I actually heard of someone who did this, and the neighbors were all very impressed and forgiving of everything that went on.

What can you do when someone begins doing renovations in your apartment building?

1. Be sure to periodically check your walls and/or ceilings if they are adjacent to the apartment being worked on. It is inordinately better to find cracks and holes in your apartment before the contractor leaves, rather than afterwards.

2. Remember that your neighbor has no bad intentions, and certainly does not want to harm anyone. S/he is just attempting to improve his/her living quarters. Try to be happy for the person, and remember that HaShem rewards those who rejoice with their fellow Jews — and that what you are going through can be a kapporoh.

3. If the noise and dirt is really impossible — and I mean really, really unbearable — after you've notified the contractor and the owner a few times, ask the latter to please relocate you to alternate living quarters until the renovations are completed. I have a friend who did this, and it worked. It certainly can't hurt to try.


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