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Tuesday, August 16, 2022
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In today’s society, what with all these enormous kitchen appliances that serve essentially one function but need two people to get it into the cabinet, the litmus test to tell whether you really need any given item that you buy is to see how long it takes before you actually toivel it.

In our house, our kitchen-tool-buying process is as follows:

STEP 1: One of us either decides that we need something, or sees it for a decent price.

STEP 2: We bring it home and put it in a bag on top of our fridge so we’ll remember to bring it to the mikvah.

STEP 3: There is no Step 3.

STEP 4: When we clean for Pesach, we get up on a stepstool and remark, “What’s in this bag? Oh. Mikvah things. Ha ha.” And we put it away for Pesach. Then after Pesach, it comes back out and goes on top of the fridge.

STEP 5: There is no Step 5.

But this week I went, because I had a lot to toivel. First of all, we got a new toaster oven. Our previous one broke right before Pesach. The door wouldn’t stay closed, which wasn’t a huge deal, except that it was taking way longer to make toast that way. So we figured that since we didn’t need a toaster for Pesach—what were we gonna toast, anyway?—we’d send it to the company, and they’d send us a brand new one, with no chometz in it. Or they’d fix the old one, and we’d get it in the mail on Pesach itself and then panic and ask a shaylah. So we cleaned it, just in case, and sent it out. The toaster was only a few months old, after all. The toaster before that, which we’d had since we got married, was niftar this past Chanukah.

So we sent it back to the company, and they sent us a new one, which was slightly smaller than the one we’d sent them. We need it to hold 9-by-13-inch pans, but most toasters nowadays are built to hold pizza pans, which are 12 inches. And round.

So my wife called the company, and they said they don’t make the other kind anymore, which is strange, since we bought it four months ago. So my wife said that in that case, can we send back the toaster and get a refund instead, so we can buy one that could fit our pans? And the guy said, “Sorry, all we did was make the toaster; you didn’t buy it from us. You bought it from the store.” Because apparently they’re giving them to the store for free. Then he put us on hold and never came back. My wife is still on the phone, listening to music.

Actually, she’s not. We called back, got a different rep, and he agreed to send us the money, and we bought a new toaster. But I decided to push off toiveling the racks until we got a new crock pot because our crock pot broke last week. Same situation.

We’d had one for years, and around Chanukah, it stopped working. Apparently, if you buy all your appliances at the same time, they all die at the same time. My wife thinks we should check our mezuzos. So we bought a new crock pot—we decided to go one step bigger—and we used it happily for four months until it broke last week while we were doing dishes. Dish soap is very slippery.

So we called the crock pot company to buy a new insert, but the company said that—surprise!—they didn’t make that model anymore. But they did tell us that they’d send us another crock pot free of charge, and that this one would be even bigger. Bigger than we’d ever need. We can now have the neighborhood over for cholent.

Our new crock pot came on Friday afternoon, so I had to run out and toivel the insert and the toaster racks, plus my wife suddenly remembered all the stuff on top of the fridge that failed the litmus test, because it’s relatively soon after Pesach and it was still on her mind. There was:

- A new food scissor, because over time, I’d made our pareve one fleishig. To be fair, it’s really hard to open a package of cold cuts.

- Animal-shaped cookie cutters, because so far the situation has never come up that called for making cookies shaped like animals.

- Corn holders, so that, if your kids want to eat corn that’s too hot for them to hold but not too hot for them to eat, you can shove the holders into the ends, which you can’t do without getting a good grip on the corn itself, which, we just pointed out, is way too hot to hold. But it gets the kids to eat corn.

- A tiny fork and spoon that we’d bought for my son, Heshy, when he was a baby. Now he’s 6.

- A small receptacle that is wider than it is tall, but has a handle like a mug. I think it’s a dog food dish of some sort. We got this for shalach manos seven years ago, and I’d never found a reason to toivel a dog food dish for a dog we didn’t have.

Also present was Heshy, as well as a towel Heshy grabbed on the way out of the house, which was about the size of a washcloth.

But it was a lot of little pieces, so I had to be careful. I’m always afraid I’m going to drop something in. I do that careful thing where you let go and quickly grab it before it gets sucked down to the bottom, because, for some reason, there’s always an undertow. So I like toiveling items with handles that I can loosely loop my finger through, such as the dog food dish. The crock pot insert, for example, is a little harder. Basically, you put it on the water, and it floats away from you, like a boat, and you have to ask the guy on the other side to float it back over. And then you push it under and it fills up and gets slippery and really really heavy, and you’re afraid to let go, even for that split second.

Silverware is another issue. Our mikvah has a few silverware baskets, though about half the baskets, at any given point, are drifting around the bottom of the mikvah. But I had two pieces of silverware, so I didn’t bother.

And that’s how I lost the baby spoon.

I’d never dropped anything in before, so even though we didn’t really need it, I was determined to get it out. So I asked my son how he felt about getting wet. (“There’s your spoon; go get it.”)

This is why a father is supposed to teach his kid how to swim.

Fortunately, there were tools in case this happened. There was a pinchy grabby thing on a stick, although the mechanism was broken so it couldn’t pinch and grab anymore, and anyway you’d need to be very dexterous to pinch a baby spoon four feet down with your vision hampered by refraction. There was also a pool skimmer that I guess they use to pull out tiny labels, as well as beard hairs from people who leaned in to get things. (“Here, hold the back of my pants.”)

Eventually, I used the pool skimmer to drag the spoon up the wall, and then again when the other guy who was there dropped his spoon. And then my son noticed that there was a toy car in the water. I don’t know why someone put a toy car in there. I bet some kid had to go home crying, while his parents used this as a teachable moment. “See? I told you not to bring your car!”

Or maybe the kid had a reason. Some kids like playing with their food, and if you’re into making tunnels out of your mashed potatoes, you need to toivel your cars.

So we fished it out and put it in the Pile of Forsaken Items that included a lot of glassware and a disproportionate amount of cutlery. Because apparently, the second litmus test as to whether you really need something is: Do you need it enough to fish it out of the water? Judging by the pile, most people, especially if they’re wearing a hat and jacket and realize that the pinchy grabby thing doesn’t work, will just say, “Forget it; I’ll buy another one and toivel that. What’s another few years?”

By Mordechai M. Schmutter

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