Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Adar 5762 - March 6, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family
The Boogies
by Yaffa Shepsel

It's that time of the year again, the unmentionable time when you're supposed to go about your unmerry way with a sigh, commiserating with each neighbor you meet on the stairway or by the grocer's, and reassuring one another that "everyone makes it to the finish line, the seder so let's just project ourselves that far and assume that we will make it too."

Is this the attitude we are supposed to have, that we are in bondage until we get to that calendar Festival of Freedom, the stereotyped fixation that Hashem has inflicted a month- long erev Pesach as a taste of slavery?

So many things are all in the mind, all in the attitude, and I think it's time we changed our view on the preparation period to regard it as a special privilege. This is the time of renewal, of pushing ourselves very far and taking some pride and giving lots of credit to Heavenly assistance. It's the time for overhaul, and who/what does not need an annual overhaul to clear cobwebs of all sorts. It's also the time of family bonding, if you approach it correctly, of tackling a big challenge and seeing it through, and taking permissible pride in a job well done while thanking Hashem for making it possible.

It is not a punishment from Above but a privilege beyond the duty.

Planning Ahead, Realistically

One of the first rules is not to compare your progress with that of your neighbors or sisters-in-law etc. You can take tips if you like but plan things your own way.

I'm a morning bird, for example, and comes `that time of the year,' I find myself getting up very early, accomplishing worlds, and collapsing at night earlier than my usual bedtime, only to wake up progressively earlier. It seems as if my biological clock readjusts itself to a 23-hour day cycle. So what do I do? I take advantage of those precious hours when I am full of vigor, and do those jobs that require full-steam-ahead energy. I see no point in staying up late if what has to be finished up will take me a quarter of the time the next morning. And when my biological clock has taken me to a ridiculous hour of waking up at 3 a.m., for example, I will re-readjust it by a short nap between and 7 a.m. Ultimately, Shabbos readjusts it anyway.

On the other hand, my married daughters tell me that if they as much as go into the kitchen for a five a.m. coffee, the whole house is up, arms-outstretched for their bottle or chocolate milk, and raring to help Ima. No go. She burns her candle at the other end. Another daughter takes a nap at eight p.m., gets up at eleven and does her stint until one or two.

Work when it suits you best. Don't work when it is counterproductive!

So much for the timing. How about the master plan?

I never start until after Purim and then work intensively. I divide everything in my head: a master plan which breaks the house into rooms, which I clean thoroughly from start to finish and post a "Clean for Pesach, Rabbanit Supervision" sign, and then that room is out of chometz bounds. I personally don't see the point in piecemeal work, leaving access to eating when the closets have already been done. A major effort and finish! One big room, one little room, one big room, one little room, leaving the living room for next- to-last and kitchen for last, of course, with forays into the kitchen all the time, a shelf here and there to boost the morale when I finally get to the kitchen and see that lots of it has already been done.

I divide each room into a grid in my mind and tackle the top level, working my way down, thoroughly and relentlessly, until the whole room is done, walls to floor. Floors will, of course, get another final scrubbing towards the end, with the final change of bed linen, but children must brush themselves off before entering a completed room, and the sign on the door is there as a reminder.

Atmosphere, Tempo

Play music, by all means, with a lively tempo. Hum along, keep the spirits up. Have frequent coffee breaks, pizza interludes, changes of pace. Chocolate is a great energy boost, no matter what Rabbi Zobin says! Alternate difficult tasks with easy ones, sitting jobs with energetic ones, chores you enjoy interspersed with those you enjoy less. But make a superhuman attempt to enjoy this whole process by keeping your good humor throughout.

This is the time to see how your children have grown, and what new tasks they can tackle this year. LET THEM CHOOSE THE JOBS THEY ENJOY and give them a free hand -- after explaining the purpose of the task (to clean for chometz and not necessarily dust) and giving them the proper tools and methods to get it done.

NEVER delegate or take on too much at one shot. One shelf and some praise, another shelf and some more praise without leaving loose ends. Your own mental grid should also take time/energy into account in a realistic projection of what you can accomplish in X amount of time.

TAKING BREAKS can include shopping, which should be a reward for an intensive or extensive job well done, completed. Look forward to these outings and take the kids along. Breaks should certainly include picnic lunches somewhere in the fresh air and sun, which does wonders to clear away cobwebs.

A planned break can include a family caucus on planning chol hamoed. Children can cut out or collect ideas of outings from newspapers or booklets (an excellent one is put out by the Shomrei Shabbos organization).

This is also the time to purchase new reading books for the family -- to be read on Pesach. Some families lock away their reading books, so make sure you stock up on new ones. The purchase can be a real reward for work well done.

Include the children in plans about the house: rearranging or buying furniture (you can go and buy used or have children shop for bargains in the paper), adding shelves, switching rooms, making new curtains, buying some new pictures, painting, contact-papering and other home decorating ideas.

Make a trip to your local plant nursery and give each child a flower-in-a-pot to care for. Buy yourself some indoor/outdoor plants to brighten up the house and window sills.

Enjoy this marvelous time of year for bonding, renewal, overhaul, mental and domestic. Make lots of jokes, have lots of fun. Get to know your kids better.

Don't miss out on all the opportunities. After all, next Pesach is over a full year away...


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