Thursday, March 23, 2006

Escaping Collectors

Last year, my parents sent me with Mishloach Manot to one of the very fancy houses nearby. Yeah, like finding a tree in a forest. I didn't have a choice, so I approached their door clutching some 99cent basket wrapped in cellophane, hoping to possibly get some Purim gelt out of the whole thing.

On the door, a sign reads, "The checkbook is not home."

Now, of course the countless collectors that go there are in for the money. And I don't blame them for being fed up and frustrated about it. Who knows which ones are real, and they're pushy and sometimes just plain rude. There are other people, however, who are there to do what Mishloach Manot does--form a connection.

This year, my mom took note of the people who said they were "running away" on Purim, so she doesn't get stuck with extras this year. These occupants of ostentatious mansions complained to my mother that it just gets too busy on Purim, and they must escape it. (Another proof of people viewing Yomim Tovim as burdens)

I'm sure you've heard, "You make your bed, you have to lie in it." Well, for this crowd, "Your maid makes your bed, so now you can lie in it." You built/bought a mansion, you have to pay the price. You're gonna be bombarded with collectors. It comes with the territory. I'm not saying these people don't give a lot of Tzedaka. I'm sure they do. I don't doubt that most of them are generous in their donations. I never looked in their checkbooks, and don't care to. Although the wives' credit card bills might seem entertaining.

Everyone has the right to build whatever they want. BUT, if you have a 2 million dollar house in Brooklyn, you have no right to complain about collectors. If you run away, you're avoiding the consequence of your own actions. I know it's tempting, but hey-you did it to yourself. And the big Ba'alei Tzedaka who live in nice, large houses, (not ostentatious ones) are also frustrated, but they have a right to complain. They're not asking for it. They didn't get on the list because of the monstrosity that took 3 years to build. They got onto the list simply by doing the Mitzvah of Tzedaka.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Thoughts on Mishloach Manot

There are people out there who consider this Mitzvah, among many others, a burden. Technincally, the Mitzvah is to one person, and not just anyone you've come in contact with over the last 20 years, but we all have to be very careful about whom we offend around here. Especially when you have children "on the market."

But anyway, all these people buy ready made. Come on. That's such a freakin cop-out. You're afraid you won't be able to make it fancy enough? Some Hamentaschen with a Grape Juice is fine. But here, it's just about impressing the next person, and competing with the place they ordered it from. At least order it from a Tzedaka organization. Oh, now you're all gonna attack me with, "The candy stores deserve to make a living too..." Fine. Whatever. Nobody's stopping to buy those because of my post anyway, so lay off me.

Oh, and by the way, those cards that people send in the mail? No thanks. Give the Tzedaka, and bring me a freakin' orange and cookie on a paper plate, (if you live nearby) I don't care. Don't get me wrong, I think it's very nice of them to think of me, and even take the time out to write my name on the card (if they do that much) , but it just doesn't do it for me. Either you're really busy with work, (so explain it to me, and I won't care either way), or just don't give me anything--if we're on that level, chances are, I didn't prepare anything for you either.

My mom knows someone for about 3-4 years now. They see each other a few times a week. My mom, the warm person that she is, felt she wanted to give this woman Mishloach Manot to show friendship. After all, isn't that what this is all about? My mom must have said something like, "Oh, you'll see it on Purim..."while describing it to her. So here ya go, the woman knows beforehand that my mam plans to come to her on Purim with this nice gesture, but she told my mom , "Oh I hate this stuff. I just make a few for my neighbors, and that's it. Don't bother coming over or anything." My opinion? (Maybe I'm biased because it's my mom, and I know she only means well) Just let my mom show up, and give her one. Ordering an extra one won't kill you. She doesn't have to know that you usually don't give anyone else. Someone wants to be nice to you. To show you that you're "friends." If my mom would have shown up on Purim, not knowing the woman's policy, then she can gently explain it, (without a tableful Mishloach Manot peeking out from behind her) or give her a spare that anyone with half a brain would have.

I went to a kid yesterday, and she said, "Let me put something together," which is a Euphamism for, "Let me get rid of the stuff I don't want, and give you back one so I don't look stupid." I told her straight up, "I know, you probably weren't expecting me, don't worry about it." That was the end of that. Am I offended? No. I don't care. So what, she didn't make one for me. It's not like she had a table of 20 of them, and didn't want to give me from there. No, THAT's insulting.

Yeah, so about the Recycling. Don't be stupid. Don't tell me you're gonna recycle. If you're gonna recycle, I don't care, either. Just tell me you'll be right back, and hand me something that looks like it was sitting on the table waiting for me. By telling me the classic, "Let me put something together," you're really showing I'm an afterthought. Someone else once told me, "Oh, I'm really sorry, I don't have anything prepared for you," and I was cool with it. Also, it's not like she had a million others waiting to be distributed. I respected her for her honesty. I gave her mine, and I left. Someone else handed me something, looked nice and put together and all, and I had no idea it was recycled. Until she opened her mouth and told me, "I really wasn't expecting you, so I just threw this together now," Gee Thanks.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Teach Your Children Well- Part 1-Da Boyz

My younger brother attends one of the typical Yeshivas in the community. Recently, my mother was unavailable to fulfill her carpool duties, and I willingly filled in. In the car, the boys recounted their day. I was astonished at some of the stories they discussed- like when a kid threw something that accidentally hit the teacher. Or when the teacher called the kids idiots, and they just talked back. Although the kids in the car behaved well, tremendous lack of Derech Eretz for the faculty was made extremely apparent to me through their stories, which part of me wanted to not believe.

I immediately felt compassion for these teachers, prepared or not, intelligent or not, qualified or not, from what they endure daily. Not only are they making these teachers' lives miserable, the frustration must spread to their families as well. Another important factor is Chillul Hashem, which is possible to commit with Jews and Non-Jews alike. However, when I hear that they have non-Jewish teachers, I am afraid of what image they have constructed of Jews from their hurrendous experience working in Yeshivas.

After I dropped the kids off, I turned to my brother and asked, "Do they teach, like, Middos, or Derech Eretz in your school at all?" "No," He replied, practically falling into the trap I didn't even know I had laid, "We don't have time- we're too busy learning Gemara, Chumash, Navi..." I wasn't surprised by his response, but I realized that my question should have been rhetorical.

I don't know about you, but last I checked, "Derech Eretz KADMA L'Torah." It comes even before learning Gemara!! But in our image-oriented society, nobody asks, "Is the boy a Ba'al Derech Eretz?" Nope, it's, "Does the boy learn well? How much Shas can he memorize? How well can he read Rashi?" While Torah and Gemara are of extreme importance, I think the system is lacking tremendously in this area. Torah teaches us Mitzvos, and Gemara teaches us Halachos, and ways to think. However, that is not their sole purpose. They are there also to teach us Derech Eretz and common sensical Middos.

So if they are sitting learning these Kadosh texts all day, and still behaving in such a contradictory manner, something is lacking in the method. They should be acquiring Derech Eretz in the process. If they are not, then set aside time to emphasize their importance from early on. More importantly, set examples. Teach the children. Chinuch at home is important as well, but when they spend the majority of their waking hours in school, it is imperative that they are taught Middos and Derech Eretz there.

I hate to break it to you, but kicking the kid out, or making the kid write over the Mishna will not stop him from acting up again. The time normally wasted to gain control over the rowdy class will be time well spent teaching positives, instead of penalizing negatives.

Disclaimer: I know I am neither a parent nor teacher, and I do not run a school. However, I do believe that if Middos were emphasized throughout the schooling years--meaning, AFTER Pre 1A, the kids today would behave better, and with more respect. I'm not offering anything new-just my views on the topic, and my disdain on the people that allow these kids to grow up and treat teachers worse than their cleaning ladies.