I was in the States recently for three weeks with all of my
children for my youngest brother's wedding. Yehuda, my
husband, had decided not to come. Officially, the reason was
because his passport had expired. In addition, since he never
registered with the army, he wouldn't be able to leave the
country. Years ago, he had tried to contact the army but they
didn't have him on record and they advised him not to bother
coming down; rather, he should wait until they contacted him.
His status was and still is in limbo [one of the reasons why
our writer is using a pseudonym?], and since he never had the
time, patience, or driving ambition to sort things out,
according to our understanding, he's stuck here.
The real reason he didn't join us was that, Boruch Hashem,
he's a real masmid who would rather not take off any
time from his beloved kollel and gemora. He was
content to remain in Kiryat Sefer while I looked forward to
my children getting to know their wonderful family and enjoy
a family simcha. I called my husband periodically to
check how things were and to make sure he was still managing
The first two times, he seemed distracted and a little
preoccupied, but the third time, he sounded positively
"I can't WAIT 'til you all come back home," Yehuda said with
This was a bit out of character for my somewhat reserved
"Oh, you miss us?" I asked.
"Well," he chortled, "I'm keeping busy. In fact," he
chortled, "I have a surprise for you." More giggles.
Should I worry? Maybe it was something innocent like painting
the apartment, fixing or replacing something, like the old
sofa for a newer second-hand version. Why the sense of
apprehension? I tried to enjoy the rest of my stay without
obsessing over our return.
The flight back was about as uneventful as one can be with
children. At one point, as I followed my toddler up and down
the aisles, I said to the stewardess, "I think I'm working as
hard as you." "Harder," one passenger commented dryly.
As we approached Kiryat Sefer, my husband's welcoming smile
turned into a mysterious grin as if he were enjoying a
The apartment was a lot neater than I'd expected and I said
so. "Is this the surprise?"
BIG SMILE! "Well, every so often, I've felt bad that I don't
have the time to help more around the house," Yehuda began.
"But while you were gone, I've hit on the solution."
"We're going to hire help?
"Oh, no! Even better!" he announced triumphantly. "I have
TRAINED the laundry and dishes to CLEAN THEMSELVES!"
I looked at him in concern. Perhaps leaving him all alone
hadn't been such a good idea...
Ignoring my sideways glances, Yehuda strode theatrically into
the hallway. "Come and see a live demonstration!"
For half a minute, there was quiet. Then I saw the laundry
hamper begin to shift. A shirt was wriggling out of the
basket and was soon joined by several socks slithering across
the floor. A dishtowel, a pair of pants and a
shmatte... Things were hopping and crawling down the
hallway, turning left into the bathroom and shimmying up into
the washing machine on the laundry porch. Again there was
"That's amazing! How did you do that?"
"Behavior modification," he answered proudly. "Treats,
outings. A shekel or two now and then. But mostly praise." He
strode over to the washing machine and peered in. "Good job,
That night I kept dreaming about my husband taking the
laundry on an outing to our local park, pushing socks on the
swings and letting shirts glide down the slide. I hoped that
none of our neighbors had noticed.
We all woke up late and were treated to Tatty preparing
omelettes for breakfast. He'd already returned from shul and
had stopped off at the grocery on the way home.
I started to clear off the table afterwards, but he stopped
"CLEAR OFF TIME!" Yehuda announced.
Before our very eyes, the disposable dishes rolled off the
table, across the floor and into the garbage. The pieces of
cutlery flopped onto the floor, heaved themselves towards the
counters and helped one another up to the sink in chain
fashion. Yehuda picked up the last fork off the floor, put
the plug in the sink, and added a squirt of detergent and
water. "They'll wash themselves," he declared confidently.
"WOW!" the children breathed, their eyes wide.
"Tatty learns a lot of Torah and that's how he does
missim," three-year-old Ari said, nodding.
Tatty looked uncomfortable. As a spoon was scraping off a bit
of stubborn egg from the frying pan, he tried to explain to
the children how behavior modification worked.
"Tatty's a tzaddik and an onov, too," I heard
six- year-old Sora whisper to her younger brother.
"I had a hard time getting the laundry to hang itself up on
the lines," he said, changing the subject.
"Because wet laundry is harder to manage?"
He shook his head. "After the laundry was washed, I didn't
want it slithering on the floor and getting dirty again. I
couldn't get any of the clothes to fly for even the short
distance to the lines. The only solution I could come up with
was to put down a piece of linoleum near the machine for them
to crawl on, and to pick it up afterwards so that it stayed
We sat in silence for a few minutes, digesting this
information while the silverware and cups finished rinsing
themselves off. "Very nice!' Yehuda called out
enthusiastically. Was it my imagination, or did the forks
seem to gleam brighter?
"I'm really impressed," I complimented my husband. "Thank you
So now, we're the only apartment on Avnei Nezer, probably in
all of Kiryat Sefer, where the dishes and laundry do
themselves. Sometimes the socks even race each other...
I'm toying with the idea of visiting the States for my
nephew's bar mitzva. Who knows what I'll find when I come
[Ed. Maybe if you left the kids behind this time, your
husband could behavior-modify them, too?
Then, again, why leave home? You've got enough of the
vacation left to try to do the job, yourself...]