The winners of the sectioned-plate giveaway are announced at the bottom of the post, so if that’s all you’re here for, scroll on down!
It’s really amazing what you can get used to living without. Like the time our oven door was broken and I had to cook everything on the stovetop until it was fixed. I discovered the deliciousness of chicken prepared in a pot, which I may not have ever tried if I hadn’t been forced to do so.
Or like how we don’t have a microwave. For a couple years there was simply no space in my kitchen for one, so I dealt with it. Then, once we had space, the microwave only worked for a couple months before breaking. Of course.
Since I’d become used to warming things up in the oven or on the stovetop, we just never replaced it. The only time I long for a microwave is when my coffee has become cold (which, really, is quite often now that I think about it, but not enough of a reason to get another microwave).
Something which I’ve done without for about four-and-a-half years is a dishwasher. Well, a machine dishwasher. Obviously, I have been the dishwasher myself. With my hands.
When we bought the house, there was a dishwasher, but it was not kosher. When we asked our Rav, he recommended replacing the whole thing. So it became a very large drying rack for a time. (There are some opinions that you can make a dishwasher kosher by replacing the racks. It depends on the dishwasher, I think. Certainly ask your Local Orthodox Rabbi before acting).
I’d been washing my dishes by hand for long enough that I didn’t mind waiting a little longer for a dishwasher. There certainly were enough other things going on with the house to warrant waiting. Yes, there are (almost) always dirty dishes on my counter, and the washing takes up a good amount of my time, and I certainly excelled at procrastinating doing them. But all in all, I wasn’t resentful about it. It wasn’t crushing me under the burden of housework. It just was what it was. You can get used to an awful lot of things.
The end of an era
Last week, a dishwasher came, was installed and used.
Interestingly, I found I had developed a certain kind of pride about my ability to “rough it.” Yes, I know that I was in no way actually roughing anything, but I felt proud about the fact that I could do without a microwave, or even a dishwasher. That I could live simply.
There’s a mishnah in Pirkei Avos which extols living in simplicity. It states “the more possessions, the more worry (2:8).” And boy, have I found that to be true. I experienced that worry with my first sheitel, with new pairs of shoes (that first scuff is just so disheartening), with anything new, really.
While Judaism praises simplicity, it doesn’t require us to go live in a shack in the woods and pump our own water (thankfully). What it does mean, I think, is to take the materialism that we have and to use it for a purpose. So, not materialism for materialism’s sake. More like materialism for mitzvos‘ sake.
Now, I suspect the definition of healthy materialism is wildly subjective. Different people need different levels of physical comfort. There’s a famous story about the Chofetz Chaim, when a rich donor from another town came to the great rabbi’s house. While there, he noticed the extremely spare furnishings. The ensuing conversation went something like this:
Donor: “Where’s your furniture?”
Chofetz Chaim: “Where’s yours?”
Donor: “What do you mean? I’m just passing through here.”
Chofetz Chaim: “I’m just passing through as well.”
The lesson of the story, as I’ve been taught, is to acknowledge that we are merely passing through this world, and all the material possessions we acquire aren’t coming with us. It’s a perspective thing.
The Chofetz Chaim was perhaps the holiest man of his generation (it was a pretty amazing generation, really), so he could totally do the whole living with nothing thing. He was genuinely and wholly plugged into the spiritual reality of the world, and that’s amazing. We absolutely need people like that in the world, and I hope that I can continue to strive to be more connected spiritually.
So I should sell all my furniture?
Don’t do that. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to still want nice living room furniture. I think the important thing is keeping it in perspective and finding the authentic balance of eschewing and embracing materialism. But I hadn’t quite internalized that until very recently.
For the first time since college, pretty much, home decorating is actually something which could apply to me. Most of our furniture has been either been a hand-me-down, something I got in college, or something quick from Target (though I really do like some of their furniture). With a house, I found myself being thrust into a world of dining room sets, living room furniture and lawn care.
There are magazines, websites, stores. Basically, it’s a whole other world of marketing and consumerism that I hadn’t even realized existed. Kind of exciting and kind of scary. My initial reaction was “Stay away! Stay away! You must resist getting sucked into the black hole that is home decorating!!!!”
This was the point when I realized that I had been feeling proud, or even a little superior at the fact that I was still using a couch which was handed down to me from my parents after it was handed down to them by my father’s first cousin (thanks, Diane!).
Shortly after that realization, I was fortunate to have a conversation with a friend about the role of decorating in a Jewish home. It became clear that I hadn’t really thought about what level would be authentic for me. I grew up in a very nicely decorated house, simple but warm and inviting. My parents have a healthy attitude toward materialism, fortunately.
But I also deeply respect the families I’ve known who truly live simply and have likely never purchased a copy of Country Living. And while I am impressed at their ability to use their possessions solely for mitzvos, I realized that my own home will have to be what works for me and my family, and it may not look exactly like their home, and that’s totally okay.
And now for the winners!
This was such a fun giveaway and I so enjoyed reading everyone’s anecdotes! Here are the winners. I’ve already emailed you, so please respond within 48 hours with your address so I can get the plates out to you! Once I get all the addresses I will send out the plates.
- Rebecca who said: I was Vaearay surprised last week when my 2 in a week year old ate pickled brisket and LOVED it! But then again, he also liked plain salt. Lol.
- Penina who said: My oldest, who’s pretty picky, surprised us by asking for “green” (pesto) on her pasta. I had given her plain, as usual. We mixed some “green” in and she finished the whole plate, and even asked for seconds! My second LOVES spicy foods, even ones that border on too hot for me.
- Malky who said: My 2 year old actually likes snap peas? she likes to take the little green pieces out and eat then.
- Jennifer who said: My son ate salmon with dill rice the other day and had quite a big portion and i was KVELLING!
- Estee who said: My kids LOVE chicken and steak. We love using sectioned plates for dinner!
- Dina who said: Today, my little guy asked for a green bean that I was trimming and proceeded to eat it raw. I thought he would just throw it on the ground and walk away.
- Elisheva who said: One of my discriminating palates who subsists mostly on peanut butter, pretzels and grapes ate schnitzel on Shabbos!
- Tali who said: My 10-month-old eats just about anything (poo poo poo). Today I discovered his love for green olives!
- Chana Esther who said: My kids all love sushi.
May the dinnertime fun commence! And may the odds be ever in your favor!