Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Iyar 5766 - May 24, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Quantity or Quality?
by R. Chadshai

How does the quality of clothes which are produced in bulk, compare to that of designer clothes which are sewn exclusively for one or two customers? As a general rule, quantity comes at the expense of quality, but is this true in everyday life? Let the following examples speak for themselves.

If you should chance to visit Naomi, who got married about two years ago to a young Kollel man, you would be puzzled by the incongruity of the household furnishings. Most of the furniture is cheap and secondhand. There is a table which has seen better days, a purely functional bookshelf, and the barest minimum of kitchen furniture. On the other hand, the kitchen boasts a large, modern expensive fridge, which somehow seems to be looking scornfully at its surroundings.

There is a magnificent wardrobe in the bedroom, yet no dressing table or chest of drawers. The very expensive spring mattresses rest on secondhand beds. The baby's crib is of the very best quality, but it is the only piece of furniture in that room. The brand-new washing machine in the utility room, is the best one on the market; and so on.

Naomi takes pains to explain the many discrepancies in the house. She likes quality. When they invest in a piece of furniture or equipment, it has to be of the best. Till they have saved enough to buy the next item, she is prepared to make do with anything which serves the purpose. Thus she is using a single gas ring and a toaster oven until they get their permanent stove. This will take some time, as their income is low, but Naomi is willing to wait.

Tzivia is a veteran grandmother who refuses to buy cheap toys which break almost as soon as the child looks at them. Instead, when she comes to visit, she always brings some cakes or sweets. Once a year she will buy the children an expensive book or a pricey toy, which will last the family for a long time.

"What, you only bought one sheitel before the wedding? How could you?" "It was my own choice," answered the girl calmly, "My mother told me that I could buy two cheaper ones or one expensive one, and I chose the latter, of much better quality."

A woman complained that her six-year-old-son was driving her insane with his constant demands for attention. She had a few hours respite while he was at school, but the minute he came home, he started again. Her counselor advised her to give him quality time for himself; where she would either sit and play with him for quarter of an hour, or take him out for a while, just the two of them. The astonished woman protested that apparently she had not explained things properly. "I understood you perfectly," answered the mentor, "but this is attention you are offering of your own free will, without him demanding it. You will see the difference."

There was a girl of eight who was forever demanding, wheedling or begging for new clothes and toys. When she got what she wanted, she was never satisfied, and insisted on something else. Her mother was shopping one day, and saw a little pencil holder which she thought would help the girl improve her grip on the pencil. The child was overjoyed at the unexpected present, and was effusive in her gratitude.

The mother could not understand how this small item brought more joy and satisfaction than, for instance, the expensive writing desk they had bought her. However, the daughter felt that Mommy had been thinking of her as she went shopping and she did not get it because she had 'extorted' it out of her. It was a spontaneous present bought with love.

Many mothers will be surprised at the outcome of the following experiment. When your child goes to bed at night, try asking him if he remembers any particular thing you said to him that day. He will rack his brains and possibly come up with some small statement, although you have been speaking to him from the moment he woke up in the morning. "Get up/ get dressed / wash / brush your teeth / you'll be late / eat your breakfast / have you done your homework?

Yet at the end of the day, he will remember none of this. They are technical remarks, which leave no mark on the child, and are forgotten as soon as they are heard. However, words of explanation, encouragement and praise often leave indelible impressions on the child, and are remembered years later. In fact, many adults remember valuable lessons they learned as children when a parent just said a short sentence.

Two shidduchim were suggested to a family and after inquiries, the mother decided that both boys were equally good. Her husband told her to make a written list of each boy's good points. One list was quite a bit longer than the other when he looked at them; nevertheless, he chose the boy with the shorter list. "You see," he explained, "it's not just a question of the amount of good points: this boy's few points by far outweigh the ones of the other boy."

Sometimes when we are trying to get our priorities right, we have to weigh the pros and cons of each fact before us. We are admonished to be as careful of keeping a small mitzvah as carefully as we keep a larger one, as we do not know how much each is worth. When attempting to improve our character, the yetzer hora tries to persuade us to do it all in one go.

One at a time, is the way to go, quality, not quantity. Concentrating on improving one particular character trait, will have a far greater chance of success. One small gift at the right time, as in our example, was worth more than all the large expensive ones. In this case, it was the quality of thought, and not the gift itself. Neither tangible nor abstract things can be measured in value by the amount.


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