A brief PSA (Public Service Announcement): I want to begin by sharing a thought from one of my favorite Torah Anytime speakers, Rebbetzin Esther Baila Schwarz. She said that whenever we host our children and grandchildren, we should realize how fortunate we are to be together with our family. We can make a conscious choice during the few days they are with us; we can choose to focus on the mess and feel frazzled and frustrated, or we can choose to let the tidying up and the organizing wait until after they have left and be in the moment enjoying time with our family members. Our kids are mentally transporting themselves back to the days when Mommy used to take care of everything. Isn’t that what we, occasionally, want as well? Each visit lasts a relatively short time, and if we are able to take things as they come, watch our speech and avoid arguments, we can summon up feelings of delight and joy that will be contagious. Our families will look forward to each visit.
Going from sticky situations within families to sticky situations within our sukkahs, let’s discuss our honey pots. (See what I did there?) These days there is such a huge selection of honey pots and bowls that I never see a repeat of the same style from one sukkah to the next. What a variety! They can be purchased at Judaica stores or secular gift boutiques or, of course, online. No matter the style and no matter whether you pour out honey or use a honey dripper to dispense the honey, they all get sticky. I have been asked for a good hack to keep the honey dispenser and the table clean and clear of gluey blobs. This year, I have been very machmir (strict) with my honey pot, forcing it to remain on a slim, oval tray lying between it and the table. My husband is very careful to hold the challah over the tray or over our challah basket every time he drizzles the honey for hamotzi (the blessing on the challah). In this way, the tablecloth in our sukkah does not get sticky. We wash the tray and the outside of our honey pot after Yom Tov and Shabbat and start again.
My social media expert, SJ Tanenbaum, of GenLink Marketing Services, asked me for a suggestion I could give my readers and clients to put on their to-do list this time of year. I wanted to come up with a WOW! of an idea that would not be found on every other list of fall organizing projects. The idea that came to me may not be worth a “WOW!,” but it is a valuable suggestion. Right after the chagim end, I empty and count the coins in my tzedaka boxes and designate where the money will be allocated. The unusual story behind how I developed the practice of donating the contents of my tzedaka boxes at this time of year is worth relating. About five or six years ago, shortly after all the chagim were over, a pleasant but mysterious elderly man knocked at my door. He was dressed in an old, tattered suit, white shirt and a big smile. I couldn’t understand him but I think he spoke a mixture of Hebrew and Yiddish. The first year he came my son helped translate his message. He held out a tzedaka box from one of my favorite Jewish causes, and I believe there is no such thing as a coincidence. Feeling he was trustworthy, I brought him my tzedaka box and he deftly transferred the coins into his peckela (sack) and offered me the box he had been holding. He bestowed countless blessings upon the family and although I had no idea what he was saying, I thanked him over and over. I did not think about this holy man for the rest of the year until one misty, dim, October afternoon, the same man, probably wearing the same suit, startled me as he emerged from out of the woodsy area between my house and the neighboring park. His timing was uncannily spot-on, as he arrived in my driveway moments before I would have driven away. I remember thinking, “This tzedaka collector either has a talent for planning his once-a-year visits or, based on his sudden appearance from out of the bushes, wrapped in a gray mist, he isn’t actually a tzedaka collector. More likely he might be Eliyahu Hanavi! Okay, maybe a disciple of a disciple of Eliyahu Hanavi.” Again, he smilingly requested something of me as he spoke words I could not understand. The man was very patient, and communicated in clever ways to make himself understood. I brought him my tzedaka box, and again he emptied its contents into his peckela, blessed me, my family, my house and maybe even my dog. After he left, I realized, while I appreciated that he gave me copious blessings, maybe I should have come up with my own specific requests for blessings. Maybe his were very general, I reasoned, and would miss the mark. Unlike the story of the person who spent months planning how to catch a leprechaun in order to take possession of his pot of gold and become rich, I planned for months what blessings to request when my Mr. Eliyahu Hanavi returned with his peckela, and I handed him my coin box. Throughout that next year I would caringly place coins into my tzedaka box feeling the weight of the box grow into a sum worthy of the blessings I would be requesting. In short, I was preparing my “pot of gold.”
When my Mr. Eliyahu Hanavi arrived the next year, he rang the front doorbell. That was a bit of a letdown. Nevertheless, he had brought his peckela, and when the transfer was done, I made my requests for brachot (blessings) and he concurred. After he blessed me, I blessed him and he appreciatively went on his way. The next day I was leaving my local, kosher grocery store, and I nearly came face-to-face with the same man! Seeing him on his way into a grocery store took away the otherworldliness about him. That was the last time I ever saw him. I have to confess that I am totally hoping Mr. E. H. will show up next week, somewhere between the newly constructed bridge on my street and my house.
I hope everyone had a chag sameach and I wish everyone a year of excellent health, prosperity and calm. Drama and excitement are so overrated.
Ellen Smith is Central Jersey’s Kosher Organizer and tzniut wardrobe stylist. For over 14 years, Ellen has helped people restore order and create calm in their homes and souls. Ellen believes “Clutter Clogs, but Harmony Heals.” See Ellen’s work on Instagram @ideclutterbyEllen. Contact Ellen for a complimentary phone consultation at [email protected].