Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Teves 5766 - January 25, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

With All of Me
by Sara Glaser, author of Lifesaver's Guide

Chapter Eight

Part I

"I developed a five-course program in home management. Everything was taught from a Torah perspective."


I see our Creator's 'hand,' so to speak, in all that has happened to me. He guides me in particular directions. For example, I was born to a mother, of blessed memory, who was a great balabusta (homemaker). Her cooking and baking were well known and in demand. Of her housekeeping, people would say, "you could eat off her floors." She was a whiz at stretching a dime into a dollar.

She was the best homemaking teacher I had, in or out of school. Not only because she was so knowledgeable about the practical aspects of managing a home, but also, and equally important, because she knew how, and was willing, and had the patience, to pass this knowledge on to me.

I often went shopping with Momma. Two pairs of hands made it much easier to carry many heavy bags on and off trolley cars. In the 1930s and 40s, there were separate stores for each type of food sold. Momma had her favorite vendor for fruit and vegetables, for butter, cheese and eggs, fish, and chickens.

In our butcher store, live chickens walked around on the floor of the shop together with the customers, who would pick them up to be examined. When the right chicken was chosen, it would be given to the shochet. Momma would always watch carefully during this procedure to make sure he showed her that the inside was O.K. I could never look while this was being done.

The fish man sold mainly live and freshly killed fish. Some swam in a large tank of water. The customer would choose the one she wanted, and it would be killed and cut up, or be taken from the tank and wrapped, alive, with lots of ice chips, and many layers of paper. It was then put in a plastic bag. I never carried that bag home because every time the fish squiggled, the whole bag jerked and moved.

When we would get home, one of the first things Momma did was fill the bathtub with water and put the fish in it. This way she kept it fresh right up until she cooked it the next day for our Friday night dinner. Of course that meant that nobody bathed Thursday nights. I did not mind because I looked forward to playing with the fish. I would sit on the edge of the tub, and with a broomstick, gently stir up the water, and watch it swim.

The next morning, Momma would put the fish on a big wooden board. With one or two hammer blows to its head, she killed it. I always tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade her not to do it. I never ate the fish. How could you eat a friend?

Since I was interested in just about everything to do with her shopping, I asked many questions, such as why she chose certain foods and not others. Momma would stop what she was doing, if she could, or as soon as possible after I asked a question, and answer me. She never got tired of what were probably endless questions.

I often received on-the-spot demonstrations or explanations, such as in the fish store. She would lift the fish's gill to see if it was a bright red, and had the smell of the ocean, and see if its eyes were clear. These were some signs of freshness.

My training was such, that when I was nine or ten years old, and Momma was ill and confined to bed, I shopped for, prepared, and cleaned up (properly), from a three-course meal. And although I never liked the cleaning aspect of homemaking, I knew how, from personal experience, to clean an entire house well by the age of twelve.

Another indication of Hashem's leading me along a certain path, was when I applied for college admission. I wanted to study literature, but the woman I had chosen as my mentor, 'just happened' to be the head of the home economics department in the high school I attended. She strongly advised I change to home economics. So there I was, headed for a career I would never have thought of before, partly because I couldn't say no to an authority figure, especially my mentor, and partly because she presented it as being challenging.

Once again, I saw His 'hand' appear when I wanted to earn my master's degree in literature, rather than in home economics. Unfortunately, I did not find teaching home economics to high school girls as challenging as I would have preferred. I was informed that even though both majors, home economics and literature, were given in the same school of education, I first had to get a Bachelor's degree before being allowed to apply for a graduate degree in literature.

As a wife and mother, I could not afford to invest the additional years, or the money, in doing this, so I earned a Master's degree in home economics, which allowed me to continue working as a high school teacher. Hashem was consistently guiding me along a specific path.

My combined experiences as a homemaker, teacher, and volunteer in various types of organizations showed me that running a home efficiently and effectively, and running a business, have much in common. They both deal with multiple problems in many areas that are comparable to one another, and that need to be resolved. My experience as a management analyst for a number of years enhanced my homemaking skills, and my homemaking skills helped me sharpen my business skills.

Soon after moving to the warm, religious community of Kamenitz, a small part of Neve Yaakov in northeast Jerusalem, a number of my women neighbors who were feeling overwhelmed and frustrated asked if I would help them improve their homemaking skills.

I was past sixty, and planned on spending my 'retirement years' doing two things I enjoyed very much, learning Torah and being a volunteer. I was surprised by my neighbors' request, especially since it dealt with a subject I had left far behind me several decades before. But I met with them and listened for over two hours to what they had to say.

I was moved by what I heard, and wanted very much to help them. I prayed to Hashem for assistance. I had not taught home economics for over thirty years, and then it was to high school girls, not married women, and I did not have a single book on the subject. But Hashem heard my prayer (and prepared me!).

For three weeks, day and night, I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. It was as if Hashem was pouring the information into my head, and I was recording it. I used up and kept buying more and more legal-size pads of paper, and batches of pencils, which were worn down to stubs. I rarely got to bed before three in the morning.

All I thought about was that I wanted to help these women, and that this was a mission being offered to me by Hashem. It was my choice to accept it and do the best I could to help these women become more efficient, effective, and happier homemakers, or I could choose to decline and continue using most of my time learning Torah and how to read Hebrew.

It did not take me long to reach a decision. I realized that Hashem was giving me a fantastic opportunity to do a very special mitzvah. I would have the opportunity to promote sholom bayis while simultaneously strengthening Klal Yisroel.

I developed a five-course program in home management. Everything was taught from a Torah perspective. The focus was on prioritizing, planning ahead, and maximizing one's efficiency and effectiveness when spending one's time, energy, and money, while trying to accomplish what needs to be done, and what one wants to do, while working with the financial and physical resources and limitations one has. Sessions were approximately an hour and one-half, and were conducted weekly. The entire program took students about five and one-half months to complete.

The most essential ingredient was how to manage, and use, one's time wisely, in spite of unexpected interruptions, and complications. Coping skills were provided to show how time for oneself, could be had every day, as well as how to be flexible, make changes, and handle emergencies, in carrying out their time charts.

MONEY MANAGEMENT addressed how to deal with day-to-day financial activities (shopping, banking, record keeping, etc.), differentiating between needs and wants, how to make, and keep, a realistic, stress-free budget, and many money- saving tips when planning to spend money.

FOOD MANAGEMENT included nutrition, menu planning, how to compare similar items when choosing what to buy, shopping tips, how to store raw, cooked, frozen, perishable, and packaged food, and tips on food preparation.

SPACE AND STORAGE MANAGEMENT showed how to maximize the space one has, how best to store everything in an organized and efficient manner, and the principles of home decorating.

CLEANING MANAGEMENT included suggestions on what to clean, where, when, and how, helpful tools and products to use, how to make Passover cleaning easier, and how to keep one's home clutter-free and neat with a minimum of time and effort.

As important, if not more, as learning the 'tools of the trade' to make one more efficient and effective, is the attitude one has. One can be knowledgeable, but if one is not interested, or is lazy, or does not appreciate how important her work is, then that knowledge lies dormant, or is underutilized, and in reality, is wasted. All the skills and know-how we possess will not get the task done if our attitude is such that we don't care to start, to finish, to do it well, or to do it on time.

Our attitude about ourselves, and others, the work we do, and the experiences we have, can determine whether we live happy, productive lives, or be sad, self-pitying, angry, and, or, feel like a failure. Our attitude also affects those around us, especially our families.

Homemaking in today's society is portrayed as something one does out of necessity, rather than by choice, and that does not require intelligence and creativity. Those involved full- time are often thought of as not too bright. These views are at odds with Jewish values.

[Note: Soroh Glaser's Lifesaver's Guide or "Chochmas Noshim" in Hebrew is available at bookstores or call her at 02-5879549]


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