June 15, 2024
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June 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

So we have two parakeets.

Mind you, we don’t own the parakeets. We’re hosting them for Yom Tov. We have parakeets the same way we’re having my in-laws. They make noise, hog the newspaper, and I have to keep putting out food.

Note: This article was written before Sukkos.

The birds actually belong to my neighbors. We’re watching them because my neighbors are going to Eretz Yisrael for Sukkos to visit their son, who just had a new baby, so he’s totally up to putting up his parents for two weeks. And they have to leave their birds here, in the States, because it’s complicated to fly with birds. Ironically. Kids they let you bring directly onto the plane, but that’s where they draw the line.

It turns out that if you have birds, then whenever you go away for Yom Tov, you have to go around your whole neighborhood trying to find someone who’s willing to take responsibility for your birds and the Shabbos and Yom Tov questions that come with them, which this person has never actually had a reason to look up yet. Whereas if you own fish, you just leave, and then when you’re on the plane, you go, “Oh, no! I forgot about the fish!” and then you come home and you buy new fish. Though usually, they’re still alive. You can go for a while without food, as long as you have water. If you forget to put water in your fish bowl, you arguably shouldn’t have fish.

So I jumped on the opportunity, and not just because I have a column to write that doesn’t think of topics on its own. It’s also because my wife doesn’t really want to own pets, because she says we already have kids, and we’re not doing great with those. But we do occasionally have a pet for a short amount of time, just for the experience, until our kids get bored of it. So two weeks sounded like a nice amount of time to have birds. Particularly since my in-laws were coming for Yom Tov, and they have a bird at home, for which they had to find a bird-sitter. So we could make them feel right at home. And maybe get some tips, given as loving advice.

Our neighbors did give us some Shabbos instructions about the birds, but they didn’t cover all these Yomim Tovim that would come up. For example, they brought the birds right before Yom Kippur, so they could go to the airport as soon as the fast was over, and we wanted to know, “Do pets have to fast on Yom Kippur? Should we take the food out of the cage? I mean, I know that your animal is supposed to rest on Shabbos, and it’s supposed to keep Pesach. too. And get drunk on Purim, I’m assuming. But does it have to fast? I mean, it’s not a bar mitzvah.”

So my feeling was that we should just put the food in the cage, and if the birds eat it, that’s their aveirah. On Yom Kippur. See if they last the year. But is that lifnei iver? I mean, animals don’t have a calendar. Though they do have a newspaper in their cage with the date on it. So really it’s on them.

There’s also a whole bedtime routine that they told us to do, which there isn’t when you’re taking care of, say, goldfish. According to our neighbors, every night we’re supposed to cover the cage with a towel so the birds know it’s nighttime, and as we’re doing so, we’re supposed to say, “Good night, Sheifeleh! Good night, Zeeskeit!” Because they understand the words “Good night,” and they also know their Yiddish names, as well as which one of them is Sheifeleh and which one is Zeeskeit. We’re also supposed to sing “Shema” and “Hamalach Hagoel,” although we were not told how much of Shema we’re supposed to say, so I’ve been going until “Emes.” (More for me than for them.) Plus “Hamapil.” But they say that birds need a nighttime routine so they know it’s coming. Because in the wild, there’s a song that plays before the sun goes down. This is totally normal. My mother-in-law, for example, sings a song called, “Good Night, Carlie,” to her bird every night, except when I’m around, in which case I have to sing it.

“♫Good night, Charlie… ♫”

“Charlie’s dead. This one’s Harry.”

Does the bird know its name? Is it now going to stay awake all night, wondering, “Who’s Charlie?”

The other hassle of birds, I would say, is that they make a lot of noise. Way more than fish. I would say that Sheifeleh and Zeeskeit probably spend like half their day bickering. And when the phone rings, they make extra noise. Which is annoying, because after the phone rings, I have to conduct a phone call, and it sounds like I’m at the zoo. (“I’m sorry, did I call you on your Chol Hamoed trip?”) They’re like little kids. Who, I should point out, also don’t know it’s time to go to sleep unless you cover them and sing a song.

But the funny thing is that as long as there’s a towel over the cage, they don’t make a peep. Or a chirp. In fact, there was one day that I forgot to take the towel off before I went to shul, and there was no noise until I came home. So now I’m considering putting the towel over them during phone calls, so I could have quiet. But then I would have to do the whole Shema-and-Hamapil thing every time the phone rings, while the phone is ringing, before I can pick up. And then I wouldn’t be allowed to talk.

I have two weeks to figure this out.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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