Monday, August 17, 2015


Part of preparing for a major surgery was to tell the kids that I would be away for a little while. Ora is pretty young so we didn't even tell why I would be away. (She is used to me being away for three days at a time for work.) We were a little more at a loss with how (and what) to tell David. He is a little older and would realize that it wasn't just a work trip. He can also be very sensitive in general--he cried all night when my grandmother died recently--and his own medical issues make him more aware of these in specific. But when we told him he didn't seem to be affected. He said, "O.k," and turned his head back to the Youtube clip he was watching when we interrupted him.

We thought David would take it a lot harder and Ora not so much, but it ended up being the reverse. Maybe David really was worried, etc. and he hid it because of his age, he's a boy or his general demeanor. We don't know.

Ora on the other hand was clearly affected. She said to every person she saw, "do you know my abba is in the hospital?" She also told Kinneret that she wanted to be sick so she could stay with me in the hospital. When they came to visit me for the first time three days after the surgery, David was more interested in which cable channels I had. Ora, on the other hand, was very clingy. A few days later I was transferred to a rehab facility. This, of course, was a good sign, but Ora is too young to understand the distinction between a hospital and rehab facility. To her nothing had changed the next time she visited me. I was still confined to a bed in a hospital-like room in a building with lots of nurses and people in white coats.

Upon returning home Ora remained very clingy. Her empathy was especially pronounced. For a while she ran over any time I dropped something on the floor or needed something I couldn't pick up myself. If I tried to bend down she would tell me I that shouldn't be doing this. Ora also repeatedly offered to hold my hand as I navigated steps.
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There was one point when David was younger that we were informed he could be suffering from a serious condition that would require drastic medical intervention. Repeat testing proved negative and he didn't undergo that intervention. He is still tested periodically to make sure the condition hasn't been lurking in the background.

His medical issues and their potential sequelae lurk in my consciousness from time to time, but I had never though considered my own mortality until this point. For a while I grappled with the possibility that he'd go before me, now nature had reverted to its natural course. Of course I'd give myself as a kapara for him and keep nature happy.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Cooking on Shabbos and Current Events

Ora is very curious. In general she is very talkative and specifically she asks lots of questions.

I recently started getting the Wall Street Journal delivered to the house every morning. While Ora and I wait for the bus to pick her up for camp, we wait outside on the steps and I scan the paper. After a few days she asked me what it is. I guess kids in this digital age don't know what a newspaper is. Anyway, I explained that it's a newspaper and that it tells us what is going on in the world.

"So what's going in the world," she asked.

I was taken aback for a moment and then tried to tell her. I looked once again at the headlines very quickly and tried to explain to her the gist of a few articles. It was interesting trying to explain current events to a five-year-old.

And so began a morning ritual. As we wait for the bus she points to articles in the newspaper and asks me what they are about. One day she was running late and we had to rush out the door because the bus was waiting for her. As I strapped the knapsack on her back she asked me to please tell her just one thing that is happening in the world.
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Yesterday Ora asked me if it is permissible to put uncooked food in the oven right before Shabbos and leave it in the oven to cook on Shabbos. She's asked why we do this and that, but she's never ever asked such a technical halachik question before.


Ora asked a girl in her bunk why she puts on her bathing suit first before removing her clothing. She explained that this is the tznius way to do it. Ora one-upped her and said that she herself is even more tznius because she gets dressed in the morning with a bathing suit already under her clothing.

It's funny because I didn't even realize she knew the concept of tznius. I doubt she had ever heard it before being in this camp.


For about a year or so I used to go with the kids to a local bakery every Friday to buy challah and pastries for Shabbat. On the way out I always gave them a few singles to give to the two beggars who habitually sat right outside the door. We no longer buy challah from a bakery, but sometimes I’ll drive by the bakery, double park, and let the kids jump out to give the beggars the singles.
I personally don’t regularly give to every (or even most) street beggars. I’m indifferent, cynical, untrusting, resentful, whatever. But I do want to impart to my children the importance of helping out those less fortunate than ourselves. What easier and more direct way is there to act out this principle than handing some money to a random street beggar? (Dropping coins into a pushka isn’t quite the same thing.) But I’m conflicted, because I don’t want my kids to become easy prey for those who take advantage of the charitable. I don’t have a resolution for my dilemma, but in the meantime, while they are still young, innocent and pure, I figure I’ll encourage them to express their charitable sides; when they get older I’ll tell them how the world really works (if they haven’t already figured it out).
I no longer have to “encourage” David to be charitable. At the age of ten he has grown to become one of the world’s leading philanthropists. He wants to give to every beggar on the street, every musician in the subway stations, etc. At a certain point I started to hesitate before giving him money, but relented after he’d plea, “but Abba, it’s a mitzvah.”
Now he is such a gvir that he doesn’t even ask me for money anymore. Last week we were waiting for the train and he asked—no, he said that he was going to give the violinist a dollar. I was about to say, “I don’t know,” but before the words could leave my mouth he had whipped a dollar out of his pocket and was walking over to the violinist. I smiled.
When we got off the subway we went into the supermarket to buy some things. While I was waiting on line to pay, I remembered that I had forgotten to put a challah in to the cart. I sent him to get it. He ran outside to get the challah—it was easier than walking back through the store—and returned with it a minute later. I finished paying and we left the store together to look for Kineret, who was shopping in another store. As we walked out he looked toward a wheelchair-bound beggar and the beggar smiled at him. David told me that when he ran out to get the challah, he gave the man a five-dollar bill.
The first thought in my mind was to kill him. The thought only lasted a second and I reminded myself that at this age it’s ok to be uninhibitedly charitable. But it was too late. In the course of that single second David noticed the disappointment/anger on my face. He grew upset himself and protested. “But it’s tzedaka. What would I do with it anyway? Buy more nosh? It was better that I give the money to him.” I smiled and told him that of course he is right.
Some parents dread the “sex talk.” I dread that too, but more so I dread the day I will have to sit him down and tell that he should be more careful with to whom he gives his money.