In my weekly musar class, Rebbetzin Dina Schoonmaker spoke about the strong desire people have to be up on the latest current events, and the harm that “TMI” (Too Much Information) inflicts upon us. Before all of the advances of technology, people lived in their small villages or towns populated with a few hundred or thousand other people and knew what was happening with those around them. If somebody was sick (and it was public information), they knew. If somebody died, they knew. If somebody in the community lost their job, they knew.  If somebody was hurt in an accident, they knew. The village was a cohesive unit, with everyone sharing in the pain and difficulties of one another. But the villagers were blissfully unaware of what was happening on the other side of the world, or even in not-so-distant cities. News took a very long time to travel - if it traveled at all.  Those were the days.

I apologize.  Profusely.  I was not in control and couldn’t help myself.  But I have to come clean. If any of you decide to head out to Amazing Savings to buy some toys, you won’t be able to.  I bought them all.  I’m really sorry.  My husband and I came for a short visit to New York after a long hiatus due to COVID.  We were only in town for a few days with a very long to-do list.  It wasn’t really possible to do it all so we did activity triage and prioritized the goals we wished to accomplish.  Pretty much every hour was scheduled.  We took into account the locations of our visits, parking availability, as well as traffic trends when mapping out our schedule in order to maximize the short amount of time we had in town.  We spent a lot of time visiting family and friends.  We also went away overnight on a foliage trip, something I haven’t seen in the twenty-three years since I made aliyah, and still miss.  We also threw in a bit of shopping, but not much.  We had a short list of specific items we wanted to buy focused on those things.  We were quite disciplined. But with all of our planning and organizing, there was never a moment of doubt that Amazing Savings would be on our itinerary. 

When we finished the last of my candles, my husband and I decided that I would try lighting oil for Shabbos. My husband set the candles with oil and floating wicks and I was good to go.  After lighting my candles, I sat deeply engrossed in my Tehilim, totally oblivious to what was taking place in front of my eyes. My daughter came into the room and noticed that the flames were a bit intense. I looked up and saw she was right.  Something was definitely off.

It’s not always predictable where one short, incidental conversation can lead.  Several years ago, when my husband was in aveilus, I got a ride to a wedding with my neighbor and friend, Becky Perlowitz.  Morah Becky is a beloved ganenet and a prolific author of several wonderful children’s books.  On the way home, we somehow got to talking about her books and her experience of the publishing process.  I’ve written many articles for various magazines and newspapers, but in my life, I never considered writing a book. With one small exception.  When I was single, I thought that once married, I would write a book about my memorable dating horror stories adventures.  I was going to call it Have a Nice Life! and dedicate it to my dear husband who rescued me from all the craziness, but I never pursued the idea because I didn’t think anyone would actually believe the outlandish stories I would have written about. (Truthfully, I wouldn’t have believed them myself had they not happened to me. But they did happen and I consider myself very lucky to have escaped the whole dating situation in one piece.)  The conversation with Becky sparked my interest and inspired me to try my hand at writing a children’s book.  I was also motivated by the thought that b’ezrat Hashem I would one day be able read to my book to my future grandchildren.

The longer I live, the longer my list of questions grows. Besides issues with major ramifications I find difficult to understand but won’t even get into, there are the less significant things that also leave me scratching my head.  For example, why are political parties called just that when the word “party” is the last word that would describe what they actually do?  I don’t know.  Why do we sip coffee straight from a mug and eat soup out of a bowl with a spoon?  I don’t know.  Why are such unique yet similar and rhyming words associated with both the beginning and end of life (womb and tomb)?  I don’t know. Don’t get me wrong - I am not up all night pondering these questions.  I just wonder.

I’d like to share with you an incredible story that was told to me firsthand by Malkie*. Sometime last Elul, Malkie received a phone call from a friend telling her about a kallah in the neighborhood who was due to get married the following week. The kallah had absolutely no money to buy even the most basic essentials to start off her marriage.  She couldn’t even afford a pair of socks.  The chosson came from a complicated background and was likewise unable to contribute to setting up their home.  The couple was in desperate need of help, and with one week to go, there was no time to lose. Malkie considered posting a request for donations to the local n’shei (a group of women who join together with the goal of helping members of the community in matters big and small), but decided against it.  With all the help that the women constantly provided for each other, nobody ever asked for money.  That would be opening up a Pandora’s box that would never close.  Even though Malkie chose not to ask for funds, something niggled at the back of her mind and wouldn’t let her rest.  She really felt badly for the kallah and realized that Hashem had arranged for her to come upon this information for a reason.  She had to try to help her.