Welcome back to “How Should I Know?” – the column that tries to help people with their problems the same way your toddler tries to help you in the kitchen by getting in your way and putting toys in the cupcake batter.

Dear Mordechai,

I want to know why my two-year-old puts her shoes on the wrong feet 100% of the time. Shouldn’t it statistically be 50/50?



Dear F.

She’s probably wondering the same thing about you.

First of all, to your daughter, the matter of which shoe goes on which foot seems 100% arbitrary.  It’s not like mittens, where there’s a separate area for your thumb toe.  And actually, who’s to say you’re right?  It’s not like shoes come with instructions.  At some point someone in your family decided which ones are the right feet and has been passing it on to their kids, and you happen to have been lucky that both your parents and your husband’s parents held the same way about shoes.

For the sake of researching this article, though, I put my shoes on what I consider the wrong feet, though not in public, because of shidduchim.  And the first thing my wife asked me when she came home was whether I was feeling okay. 

“Pretty much. Except for my feet.”

So I think that adults all put them on the same way because they just don’t want to have to deal with the constant annoying questions.  Whereas two-year-olds cannot get over talking about their shoes, and unfortunately, two days after you bought them, you pretty much stopped talking about them.  But she finds that when she puts them on the wrong feet, you not only comment on them, but you then take them off and put them on, which is all she wants to be doing all day anyway.  You’re rewarding misbehavior.

I also have my own theory, which is that small children usually have shoes with buckles or Velcro, and those close on the outside part of the foot.  Here’s an experiment: Imagine you’re a two-year-old with limited hand coordination, wearing buckle shoes on the wrong feet.  If you sit down on the floor and put the soles of your feet together, you can buckle both shoes.  But now imagine you put them on correctly.  How would you have to sit to reach both buckles?  And do you think a two-year-old can do that?

You don’t notice this, because you mostly wear tie shoes and slip-ons, but small children’s shoes fasten in a way that makes it easier for other people to put them on.  It’s kind of the same way that women have dresses that close in the back, because once upon a time other people got them dressed, whereas nowadays we realize that that’s very weird.  But you are going to occasionally find your two-year-old putting a dress on with the buttons in the front so she can close them whenever it is she figures out how to close buttons. 


Dear Mordechai,

Is there any way I can get the gabbai to give me an aliyah every once in a while?

Baruch Usher ben Binyamin Yosef



There are a few techniques you can try:

- Keep making simchas.  Have kids, throw them bar mitzvahs, marry them off, and if you’re really desperate, make up grandkids.  No one makes you prove grandkids.

- Don’t be the guy who makes long mi shebeirachs that include everyone in the shul individually.

- Stay in the forefront of the gabbai’s mind.  Stand uncomfortably close to him throughout leining, either at the top of the bimah with the kids or to the gabbai’s left, between him and the guy who just got an aliyah.  Look in his Chumash with him.  Be unforgettable.

- Gabboim like matanos.  So whenever he does give you an aliyah and you’re standing next to him afterwards, offer him a mint.

- Come late to shul and be in middle of Shemoneh Esrei just as the gabbai is looking around for someone to give an Aliyah to.  (Not recommended.)  You’ll be one of the only people already standing.

- Show up to shul on Yom Tov and buy all the aliyos. 

- Be the baal koreh.  That way he has to give you any aliyah that involves heavy amounts of curses.

- Keep showing up in disguises so he thinks you’re a guest, until your fake moustache plops off onto the Sefer Torah.  Then pick it up and kiss it like that was intentional.


Dear Mordechai,

What can I do to eliminate the constant annoying phone calls that I get offering me solar panels, lower interest rates, and the opportunity to have someone daven for me at an obscure kever somewhere in Europe?



Dear D.

What, you’re going to daven for yourself at an obscure kever somewhere in Europe?  You can’t get to every kever.  Sometimes it’s worth it to just pay someone else to do it. 

You don’t actually have to pick up the phone, you know.  We basically just do it to stop that annoying ringtone that we’re sick of. 

But ok, that’s an easy answer.  These places don’t stop calling.  If you knew who it was, you wouldn’t pick up, but their caller ID isn’t always completely honest. 

I like to call them on it.  Whenever the caller ID isn’t what the place advertises to be, I say, “How can I trust whatever you’re selling me when you can’t be honest on your caller ID?”   

Of course, some places aren’t out and out dishonest.  The caller ID says something like “Unavailable.” 

Wait.  If you’re unavailable, why are you calling me? 

“I’m not.  It’s a machine.” 

What I want to know is, “How come I never get calls from “Available”?” 

Maybe because that sounds like a shidduch thing.  Like if you’re single and desperate, you want to change your name on the caller ID to “Available”.

But what I’m trying to work toward here is that if most of these companies are going to call you using a machine, why don’t you have your machine pick up the calls?  What a shidduch!  Though chances are, their machine will get flustered and start speaking before the beep.

Dear Mordechai,

Why does the dentist say, “You should feel a slight pinch,” right before he jabs you with the needle? 



Dear V.

Actually, he wants you to think that he’s pinching you, like you were born yesterday and don’t know that needles are involved.  It’s not like you can see what he’s actually doing over there, because your nose is in the way. 

“I’m going to hold this needle next to your face, and then I’m coincidentally going to take that moment to pinch you, and then I’m going to put the needle down.”

No, it’s going to feel like I’m getting stabbed.  Are you pinching me with the hand that’s holding the needle?

You’d think that by this point they’d have developed the technology to do this in an easier way.  Okay, maybe it will still hurt, but definitely not as much.  Like maybe as much as a pinch.  So maybe he’s just lamenting that technology hasn’t advanced yet: 

“You should feel a pinch.  But you won’t; you’re going to feel a needle.  Possibly more than one.” 

You just don’t hear the end of that, because of the screaming.


Dear Mordechai,

If rice is not good for weight loss, how come everyone who’s on a diet eats rice cakes?  How does combining it with cake make it better?



Dear A.R.

Maybe it’s the psychology of making us think we’re eating cake when we’re not.

Actually, it’s mostly air.  It’s like eating Styrofoam packing peanuts.  But they don’t want to call it “peanut cakes” because of allergies.

And it makes sense, because what’s the point of packing peanuts?  I ordered a Chanukah present, not a hundred Styrofoam pieces that blow all over the house when my kids get excited that I hope are not made of actual peanuts or rice because there’s no way I’m going to find them all come Pesach because they’re now stuck to everyone’s sweaters and most vertical surfaces. 

The point of the Styrofoam is that it fills up the box so your item doesn’t rattle around inside, but it doesn’t actually make the box any heavier.  Isn’t that what you want it to do in your stomach?

That, and it squeaks when you rustle it.

Have a question for “How Should I Know?”  I’m not picking up the phone.  Just mail it to my house, wrapped in rice cakes.

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia, a monthly humor columnist, and has written six books, all published by Israel Book Shop.  He also does freelance writing for hire.  You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.