May 27, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

So you’re sending your son away to dorm, finally, but it didn’t occur to you that you’re going to have to change your school supplies list from things like 72 pencils, five different color folders, and that pre-hardened glue that the stores are selling as “glue sticks.” So here’s a list that might be helpful, depending on how you define the word “helpful.”

Food—yes, the yeshiva provides food, but they don’t provide food to eat between the times that they serve food. So what’s even the point? Also, a lot of times the yeshiva serves food that your child doesn’t like, such as yeshiva food.

Money—for more food. Now you might say, “Why do I want to give him money for food? I can buy him food myself for a much better price!” The answer is that any food that you give him he’s going to finish on the first day, and then he’s going to be stuck without food OR money for the rest of the month. Money is just time-release food, procrastinated by laziness and the fact that most stores aren’t open at two in the morning.

Whatever he’s going to be selling to the other bochurim—every guy has something. It’s like a shuk, with incredibly exorbitant prices, and haggling is allowed. Some people say that yeshiva might not adequately prepare you for the real world, but everyone’s selling something over there.

Thirty identical shirts—label every single one, because everyone else will have the same 30 identical shirts, and sometimes people share closets.

Suit jacket—a suit jacket has many uses. He can wear it to davening, he can wear it when he’s chilly but doesn’t want to seem less macho because sweaters are for grandmothers, and he can wear it to secular studies to show that he doesn’t care.

Entire 20-volume travel Shas that he won in a raffle—if he’s not going to travel with the entire Shas, what’s the point?

One big volume of the Gemara that he’s learning that year—but not one that you already have that belonged to his brother that has writing in the margins. He wants to put his own “taitch” words in the margins, in case his brother’s taitch words were wrong or, more likely, completely indecipherable.

“Rebbe, can we learn a different perek? This perek is all turned up at the edges.”

“No, sorry. I only know this perek.”

Pens—like in camp, so they can write home. Just kidding; yeshivas don’t make the kids write home. Though they totally should. This is a missed opportunity that is only occurring to me now, after 13 years as a high-school writing teacher. In fact, if you want the parents to see how their kids are really doing in school, make the students write the report cards.

Alarm clock—there’s no P.A. system to wake everyone up, and I have no idea why. There’s just a vekker with a washing cup. If your son wants to avoid getting drenched in the morning, he needs to set his alarm a few minutes earlier, and maybe go drench the vekker.

A fan that clips onto something—this will give his pillow a perpetual cool side, and also give him a pretty good idea of which direction his yarmulke went overnight.

Flashlight—or one of those candles on a little base with a snuffer, if it’s a really old-school school. Your son can use this to get around the dorm, search for chametz (both right before Pesach and otherwise), and even use it in the shower when someone turns the lights off on him, which happens a lot. A candle won’t work for that last thing.

Boots—to put on when he walks the 10 feet from the dorm to the main building, over snow that is already trodden down by everyone else. He can also use them to store his washing cup, or, if they’re galoshes, as a washing cup.

Sewing kit he has no idea how to use—or if he does, this can be his parnassah! He can be the school Bubby! He might think it’s embarrassing, but if someone can bind, someone can sew. It’s the same thing. Maybe they can share tools! Except for the drill. And the lighter. And the duct tape.

Schluff koppel—Should be Breslov-inspired. Or have one of those pom poms that flops over that he has to keep blowing out of his face when he talks in the hallways after lights out.

Menorah—this comes in handy come Chanukah, and also to carry around the hallways if he doesn’t have a flashlight.

Toothpaste—you only need one tube for the whole year, probably. Any money that your kid costs you in food, he’s going to save you in toothpaste.

Toothbrush—obviously. Maybe you can also get a toothbrush case of some sort, unless you think all the bochurim should just keep them on racks in the bathroom and remember whose is whose.

“Mine is the blue one.”

“Mine is the blue one!”

I suggest you buy him a pink one.

Shower slippers—the same athlete’s foot has been passed back and forth around the yeshiva since your father went there. Should make “flip…flip…flip” sounds when he walks.

Bathrobe—you might have to get this new, because no kid I know has a bathrobe until he starts dorming. When I first started dorming, in 12th grade, my father lent me his bathrobe. He never saw it again.

Hand towel—to wear over his shoulder when he walks to the bathroom.

Deodorant—do not get this confused with glue stick.

Air freshener—I don’t want to talk about this.

Linens—two sets, if you want him to even consider changing his sheets. He still won’t change them, but occasionally he’ll remark to his friends, “My mother gave me two sheets, which is weird. I don’t have two beds.”


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

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