July 13, 2024
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July 13, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Wherever Your Mind Takes You

Minerva Moskowitz had a problem, and that problem was her children. Well, not exactly her children; she loved them very much. But certain behaviors from her children were currently driving her crazy. To Minerva, it seemed like her children were never really there. Well, not exactly never there; she could see them, talk to them and hug them. But it just seemed like the Moskowitz children never gave their full attention to their parents or to each other. Like many children, the kids were often staring at their devices, whether during dinner time, family time or this-is-not-time-to-stare-at-your-device time. Minerva often had to call her children’s names three or four times to get their attention, often resorting to throwing kitchen utensils or small vegetables when a child had earbuds in. (Unfortunately for her, the carrot toss was not yet an Olympic sport.)

Now, Minerva did have a few small victories. She managed to get her kids to put their devices away during dinner, and instituted a 10-minute device-free buffer after Havdalah. However, despite these achievements, Minerva still felt something was off. Yes, the phones were away for dinner, but it was hard getting anyone to sit for too long. She and her husband Reuben felt like they spent more time telling the kids to stay at the table or come back to the table than actually having conversations. And once that meal was over—woosh!—there went the kids, back to their own worlds. Something had to be done.

So, like all wonderful moms and dads do, the Moskowitz parents called a family meeting to discuss, no devices allowed. Monday evening, after a really quick dinner, they settled in to the couches in the den to have a little chat. Minerva and Reuben were clear about their message: “You guys need to be present.” It did take a few minutes to explain the difference between being physically in the room and being “present,” but the kids seemed to get it. Mom and Dad also presented a challenge: A successful week, and each child would receive a “present present.” Mom and Dad were happy with how the conversation went, but decided to reserve judgment for later on. “Let’s see if they actually follow through,” said Minerva.

After one week was up, a big debate broke out in the Moskowitz home; surely you can guess what it was about. The children, convinced of their success, approached their parents to ask when the family shopping trip for their present presents would be. Mom and Dad, however, did not agree. They explained to the kids what they had seen the past week. “Guys,” began Mr. Moskowitz, “you did a much better job being physically present and keeping focused. However, you might not have noticed how often you turned your heads and moved your eyes away from where you were supposed to be focusing.” The kids weren’t buying it. “You’re telling us that our heads have to stay straight and our eyes in one place! Are you training us to be robots or zombies? And how do you know what we are thinking based on the position of our eyes and heads?”

Minerva smiled. “Okay, okay; I get your argument. Here’s the deal. If I can prove that your focus is off just based on your eyes and heads, you get nothing and have to give up your devices for two days straight. But if I am wrong, you’ll each get $100 to spend on your prizes.” The kids were ecstatic. “Deal! Remember, you said you have to prove it. Not sure how you will be able to do that without reading our minds!” Little did they know that their mom had a bit of Torah magic up her sleeve.

In addition to being an award-winning librarian, Minerva Moskowitz was studying to be a Torah Magician. That’s right; she could perform a number of real Torah-related magical spells, including a few pieces of complex magic. Recently, Minerva learned a spell called “Eishet Lot’s Fate,” which she was about to unleash on her children. (Don’t worry, it isn’t as deadly as it sounds.) As her children sat down to dinner, Minerva fanned the pages of her Chumash, muttered “sodius sodomius” under her breath, and waited to see what happened.

It didn’t take long to see that Minerva had cast a successful spell. While the family sat talking about their days, a “ping!” was heard in the background. “Just ignore it,” Minerva directed. “Weren’t you guys supposed to turn off your devices anyway?” And then again, “ping! ping!” At this point, the oldest Moskowitz child, Sabrina, turned her back on the dinner table to look at her phone, which was notifying her of incoming texts from across the room. She quickly turned back toward the family, but it was too late—her face was now glowing with text messages scrolling across her forehead. The other children gasped as their sister ran to the bathroom. Sabrina’s siblings tried to follow but couldn’t. Her younger brother’s legs had turned to wheels, which caused him to crash into the counter, and her sister’s body had turned into a large pile of gooey slime. Fortunately, the kids had already experienced a few of their mom’s spells, so they weren’t completely freaked out.

After everyone settled down and Minerva returned her kids back to normal, she was able to explain. “While running away from Sodom, Lot’s wife was told not to look back. A number of reasons are suggested for why that was. Whatever the reason may have been, when she turned back, she was immediately transformed into a pile of salt/sulfur. This happened because by turning back to Sodom, she was saying, ‘I want to be there.’ So Hashem said, ‘You got it!’ As Sodom was destroyed with sulfur, so was Lot’s wife’s fate. Even if a person finds himself or herself in a particular place, it’s where you want to be that matters. If all you are thinking about is checking your messages, getting out to ride your bike, or running to watch the latest slime video, that is where you are. So kids, you might be at this table and even participating in a conversation, but if all you are thinking about is ‘When can I get out of here?’ you aren’t really present.”

Although the Moskowitz children learned the negative results of this lesson, there is an important positive message here as well. We often find ourselves in situations we don’t want to be in and at places in life we’d prefer not to be. Instead of focusing on the difficult spot in which you find yourself, focus your mind on where you want to be. With positive thinking and the right intentions, and of course Hashem’s help, many situations can be turned around.

By Yair Daar

 

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