Woven Baskets?

August 23rd, 2010

Whew! If you look at my recent posts, you certainly get a sense of just how all over the place my life has been lately.

My friend, poetess, and fellow blogger, Havaya, quotes the Talmud in Bava Kama 92a on this week’s parsha (Ki Tavo) to make a fascinating point:

The Kohanim, she explains, would return the gold and silver trays of the wealthy bringing their first fruits to the Holy Temple, but would keep the woven baskets of the poor. This seems so counterintuitive!

Her explanation for the discrepancy is beautiful. I hope that you read it.

This reminds me of the time in our lives when my husband and I had to work hard to save money. It might have been romantic and cute to be broke had we been young 20-somethings in love. We weren’t. The causes were not our own, and were sad and frustrating.  We researched, turned it into a mission, and with the help of Hashem and our family we did what we needed to do to get to a better financial place.

Having said that, the thing that made me feel poor was not what we were living without. I had what I needed. I always have what Hashem knows I need, even if it isn’t always apparent to me.

I felt poor when I couldn’t give tzedakah. When I had to say no. I had to keep everything within a budget, we lived in a community where lots of people asked for charity, and a lot of the time we just couldn’t give.

Growing up, my father tried to say yes to every Jewish charity that asked him. ( This, of course, has a Tribble-like effect on the number of Jewish charities that will ask.)  He couldn’t give a lot to most, and he had to give less to each as a result, but he successfully instilled in his children the power of tzedakah.*  As my husband and I struggled at the time, it was very hard for me to say no.

Captain Kirk with Tribbles

Capt. Kirk with tribbles on Star Trek

I cannot begin to understand how the people of Israel blessed to live in the time of the Holy Temple felt about their first fruit offerings. But I would like to think that one of the reasons that the woven baskets were kept is so the poor people who had fewer opportunities to fulfill the mitzvah of giving could feel the value of their contribution.

Yashar Koach to Chaya for a beautiful piece and pause for thought about something more important than smartphones.

Day trip (with six kids.)

February 15th, 2010

I read that NYC’s “Gazillion Bubble Show” was coming to NJ’s State Theater in New Brunswick for a special “Family Fun Day” for President’s Day. The theater had a whole day of activities and shows planned, some reasonably priced and some free.

I have taken a true hiatus from day trips with my kids. The whining in the car, the whining when we leave, the inability to please so many people with any one activity, the money… the list of reasons goes on.  Child #7 was definitely the tipping point. But I have been feeling ready to jump back in. I thought that everyone except for dear stepson, who is a teenager, would enjoy. I thought it was a real find to grab a group rate price of $10 when NYC tix go for $40-60.  With that performance combined with the other free activities, it made for an unusually reasonable day, not too far away, and I have been thinking that maybe my kids are (or is it I who is?) ready.

True to my usual way of doing things, I had to turn it into a production. I wanted to get the group rate. A group is 10 people, and we were seven, so I didn’t think it would take much. Once I found out, however, that the tix were selling out really fast and I was already making plans, why not include some more? I also arranged to order kosher food from the town next door and have it delivered to the theater between shows! Of course food for six adults, two babies, two toddlers and eight kids isn’t really very simple, is it?

The day was NOT a complete success. Almost no one liked the bubble show. It was too young for the kids old enough to sit still, and too long for the kids young enough to appreciate  it. It is also really hard to see bubbles and appreciate them from far away. Duh. As you can imagine on a holiday day, with a bunch of activities that were free or inexpensive, it was CROWDED. I expected that. Doesn’t make it any more fun to deal with, though.

The day was also NOT a complete failure. This is some of  what I learned:

  • Pep talks – good ones – before going anywhere really do make a big difference.
  • Kids making a mess and eating in the car on the way to somewhere that is a long experience is worth it and a good idea.
  • If I am going to take my kids somewhere without another adult in my party, but with friends, then I need to speak with my friends ahead of time about the eventuality that they will end up helping me in one way or another. My friends were 100% okay with this  - this time. But I didn’t talk about it ahead of time, and I should have. I was lucky they were so cool, but I forget so easily how it just inevitably ends up that I have to be in at least two places at once.
  • Labeled bracelets, especially for the younger ones, with my number on them. My wise friend brought some and had extras. Thank G-d we didn’t need them, but they are great for peace of mind.
  • I will never buy nosebleed tickets to a performance with little ones again. It was just too much of an issue. They felt they could be noisy because they were so far from the performance, and they didn’t engage well. Not worth it. No matter what. This had never occurred to me before, and I am glad I will know better for next time.  I hope at least one person reads this and gets to learn this before doing it.
  • Always bring a notebook so kids can “journal” or take notes. In the case of one child, that turned the whole day around. This is often really successful.
  • Kids – my kids, anyway – bond when they have a family outing, whether it is an outing they enjoy or not. The experience bonds them; even if it is sometimes against me!
  • Bring something (small) to read, do, or daven from. Even if I am sure I will never have a chance to use it.
  • Nothing, but nothing, pleases everyone of all ages as well as the zoo.
  • My boys have outgrown outings that aren’t sports, active or “guy stuff”. They just aren’t interested. Next time I will let them go sledding into a creek with their Abba like the last time, and take the girls somewhere with me quiet and sedentary…. maybe only one of my girls.

The ten year old gave the day a 6.5 – that’s pretty good. She is very visual, and liked the bubbles better than the rest. My four year-old told me that the best parts of the day were hugging Elmo, and my reading her bedtime story. I think that just about sums it up. The next time I am thinking of taking them on a day trip, alone, I am going to reread this post.

Especially the part about the bedtime story.