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It All Began with a Doormat!

April 29, 2012 | by Emuna Braverman

Getting trapped in the never-ending materialistic cycle.

My children have a book entitled It All Began with a Doormat! Once the fictional family purchases a new doormat, they notice how shabby the old door knob now appears. So they need to buy a new one. With a new mat and knob, the door itself now seems old and unattractive, thereby requiring a new paint job. Once they paint the door…you know the drill.

We find ourselves currently in the middle of a similar experience that I’m calling It All Began with a Leaky Roof. No, we are not redoing our whole house like the characters in the children’s story, but there are definitely similarities. Since some of our plants were actually lifting the roof tiles, we needed a gardener. The leak destroyed the living room ceiling which then required new paint. Once the living room was painted…well, you get the picture.

Only we are stopping here…we really are. If only to preserve my sanity (and our ability to continue to buy groceries). Every morning at 7:30 a.m., the doorbell rings and men who I do not know come marching into my home to sand or spackle or add primer. They finally leave just as we sit down to dinner.

But even the sacrifice of my privacy (which is very precious to me) I can endure for a few days.

What really makes me completely nuts is the time drain. I know there’s a piece of Talmud that says that “A beautiful wife and a beautiful home broaden a man’s mind.” In fact, I’ve used it a time or two to secure the purchase of a few new items! And I admit to enjoying a fresh, attractive home myself, but I just can’t bear to spend any time on it. I don’t want to agonize over the right shade of white, off-white, egg shell or ecru. I don’t want to remove furniture and pictures and dishes, only to have to return them to their spots (where did this one go again?) a few days later. I resent the time involved.

It reaches the point where I find myself paying them to just leave! I am tempted to just send them out the door despite the spots missed, despite the sloppy job, despite the lack of clean-up.

We are taught that someone who embraces the yoke of Torah is removed from the burden of worldly affairs. I guess I still have some work to do in the embracing department! Or maybe it means that if I really immersed myself in the spiritual, the physical would be less important to me…although I think that even our sages of Ethics of the Fathers would draw the line at that bucket catching water in the living room!

Everything in moderation. No point in investing in a home and then letting it fall apart. And yet, I certainly don’t want to obsess over all the areas that need work – that could be a full-time job in this 83 year-old house!

So I’m gritting my teeth and trying to ignore the chaos. I’ve moved my learning and praying to another room – away from the dust. I’m grateful to have a home, even one that needs so much work (does anyone know of a good plumber?!). And I’m grateful for my renewed appreciation of life’s more meaningful uses of time. Perhaps that’s why this happened. I know I was unfocused and taking everything for granted. I had slipped into a little post-Passover malaise and a little coasting. But no more.

I’m feeling more excited about learning and teaching and working on my relationship with the Almighty, less interested in my material surroundings. And It All Began with a Leaky Roof.


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