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Sunday, June 08, 2008

A Little Fun: Our Children, Our Guarantors

On the even of Shavuot, I just want to wish my readers a Chag Sameach. I am hoping to put together some 'Orthonomic' thoughts on Pirkei Avot to share after the chag, but in the meantime, I thought I'd share some strange moments from our kitchen today which I have mentally filed under the timely theme of our children being our guarantors to Hashem in exchange for the gift of Torah.

What we find as parents is that children really do learn by osmosis. Sometimes we get so caught up in "teaching" that a busy week (like the week before any Yom Tov) we start questioning, have we done enough? Could we have gone through the megillah one more time? Could we have taught another song from the machzor? Perhaps we could have read one more story? And we forget that our kids are just learning by being.

Today I was reminded that, yes, our kids are learning despite me! Around lunchtime, I was making the most amazing looking Moroccan fish and cheese spirals. My son says to me, "Mommy, what are you making?" I showed him my list and talked a little bit about some of the foods and what Sephardi area they came from. He turns to me and asks, "Can Ashkenazim eat these foods?" At first I dismissed him with an "of course." Then I realized he was asking a really serious question. In our home, when we discuss halacha, we always discuss the predominate (Ashkenazi) halacha/minhagim that the kids will likely see around the neighborhood, and then the (various) Sephardi minhagim. He really did want to know if Ashkenazim could/would eat these foods and my husband pointed out that he is probably concerned because Pesach always brings these issues to the forefront and that was only 7 weeks ago. I explained that the Shavout food was acceptable by the community standard and that our guests would eat the food if they liked the taste. For the main course I am serving Moroccan fish with chickpeas, borekas, cheese spirals, rice with lentils and yogurt, and a spinach salad.

Fast forward 6 hours and I find him taking rubber bands and "locking" up all the meat cabinets. As a Sephardi lady, I do not count the omer. But, the boys have been counting the omer every night and are making that connection between Pesach and Shavout in a very concrete way. Last night as my husband was setting up havdalah, I mentioned how strange that the china only gets used for only one Chag, Rosh Hashana (plus all Shabbats, but that is not Chag). On Yom Kippur we don't eat. On Sukkot my husband insists on disposables. On Pesach we use Pesach dishes, and on Shavout we use our weekday dishes, which are thankfully very beautiful. I guess our son took the idea of putting away the meat "literally" and out of nowhere, he started locking up what we weren't using. We don't serve any meat meals because it just becomes a nightmare in the kitchen. Perhaps next year I will need to correct the perception that the meat needs locked up and will serve one meat meal, despite the challenge.

I always find the conclusions that little kids draw from the information they have received fascinating. Please share your stories!


Anonymous said...

My in laws always used (wasteful, expensive) disposable dishes in their sukkah as well. After we moved from our apartment to our home, I was able to build our own sukkah. I spent many hours building and decorating it. when I came home from shul Yomtov night and saw the table set with disposable dishes, and in place of my silver kiddush cup was a plastic cup, two "tea lights" instead of the silver candlesticks, I excused myself, and went up to my bedroom, where I promptly changed into sweatpants and a teeshirt. Ever since, the best china and silver adorn the sukkah table. The first year we were to make our own seder my wife asked whether I planned to come to the seder table in my sweats, I acknowledged her point, and we went to buy pesach china that very day

Leora said...

My five-year-old daughter told us several times she was going to stay up all night learning. Not surprisingly, she and I did fall asleep soon after supper, at about 10:30 pm. But my husband and middle son stayed up until 3 am, and my eldest son stayed up all night. She was very concerned the next day that my eldest son slept thru shul and thru lunch. She woke him first with:"it's time to go to shul!" and then "do you want to get up for lunch?"

ProfK said...

Stay married long enough and you discover that certain "minhagim" wax and wane. I religiously made carrot tzimmes for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and Sukkos until I woke up to the fact that no one in my family ate more than one carrot slice, if that. Changed to cut up raw carrot coins and everyone was just fine with that. And the kids learned that there is a difference between minhagim--not all have the same importance or value.

Re the good china just for Rosh Hashanah, I'm always reminded of the story that has gone around for ever. A woman was not setting the table with her good china because she was afraid that the little ones would break it and that taking it to the sukkah would break it. That china was reserved for "company" and very special occasions. One day at the table her youngest child was chewing with his mouth open and was using fingers instead of a fork. The mother said "Use your company manners at the table." The child answered "We're not company or you would be using your china."

Then there was the woman who used her good china every day. A friend asked her why. She answered "Why should I leave it in pristine condition for my husband's second wife?" The other woman gasped. "There will be no second wife!" "Precisely," said the woman. "And there won't be a second chance to use the china either. What are you saving it for?"

Julie said...

Recipe for the cheese spirals, please. I want to know what they are and how to make them.

SephardiLady said...

I will try to post in the comments section later tonight.

Anonymous said...

So true about the children learning by example. Though in our case we're the 'token' ashkenazim in a predominately sephardi community in Israel. My kids schools, etc all daven eidot-hamizrach (after all, most classes would have at most 2 or 3 ashkenazim out of 20+ kids - and often fewer).

Over time my kids (now almost 9 and 6) have figured out all sorts of distinctions between our minhagim and those of others, even when we never tried to actually explain them or point them out explicitely.

So at age 5 we had a crisis with our older son - because at school they sang shalom aleichem with a verse we didn't have at home and he was concerned that 'shabbat ha-malka might not stay with us ashkenazim'. Took a phone call to the rav of the gan at the time who assured my son the next week that if he was at our home for the meal, he too would sing 'like your family does', for all the minhagim are equally as valid.

We have, over time, adopted many sephardi melodies and even customs that we like. And i do love that my kids feel equally comfortable in both types of shuls/davening, etc. Hope your kids get to enjoy the same - though i know its probably far harder int he US to keep up the eidot ha-mizrach customs in such an overwhelmingly ashkenazi culture.


anonymous mom said...

"where I promptly changed into sweatpants and a teeshirt."

Were the sweats to make it more comfortable for you to wash those beautiful dishes? You wouldn't want the wife to be up late doing that after slaving over a hot stove to feed you and your guests in your beautiful Sukkah!

btw, we compromise by serving on dishes at night and disposable for day meals.

Ariella said...

just in defense of disposable -- I use them also on other Yomim tovim -- simply because there would be lots of dishes to wash after each meal, which doesn't exactly add to oneg Yom Tov. Also you cannot use the usual sponges -- only the mesh things. So while I still use real silverware and real bechers and even real glasses for some of the meals, I opted for plastic dishes up to the last meal. That way we only had to wash up the minimum of silverware. Dare I admit it? We even use plastic plates for Friday night because otherwise we would not have enough dishes for the Shabbos meal. Washing off in cold water does not really do the trick if there was anything other than a slice of melon on the plate. Not to say this reflects on the commentator, but some people are seriously confused if they use real dishes "lekavod Shabbos" and then are mechalel Shabbos by squeezing sponges and using hot water to wash them the same day. I've seen people do this.

SephardiLady said...

Ariella-Point noted. I've also seen more than one person use a sponge instead of mesh (I'm not that person, fortunately).

Our china is relatively inexpensive which was definitely a good choice because I've got lots of it and can make it through more than one meal without washing if need be. It is also dishwasher safe and so I usually just spend a few minutes after Shabbat loading the dishwasher and loosening up what might be a problem.