Sunday, March 05, 2006
Different Strokes:

On shabbos afternoon, I headed toward the playground with my uber-hyper kids. After walking awhile, I looked down and saw my finger was bleeding. I stopped at a friend's home, but she wasn't there. So I saw these frum ladies, and I asked if either of them lived close by and if I could get a band-aid. One lady did, and kindly invited me in.

So she gave me the band-aid, while my kids got sucked in by her many birds. She also had - are you ready for this? - chinchillas. She went to take one out of the cage, so my kids could pet it. I didn't know what to say. I learned that one should not pet an animal on shabbos, unless the animal is yours (and comes up to you needing affection). And then there was the issue of putting the animal back in the cage, which I believe falls under the category of entrapment (also a shabbos no-no). I didn't want to be rude and tell my kids not to pet her fur-ball.

There was also the fact that chinchillas are not kosher. My kids DO encounter non-kosher animals, and we usually talk about how they are G-d's creations. Sometimes I'll launch into my "Noach and the teva" shpiel. They are so used to my routine, they'll tell me the animal isn't kosher before I even start. Our policy is; no non-kosher animals in the home, relaxed attitude about them outside. I decided long ago that if I got uptight, it would become an issue. Besides, my step-shvigger has dogs.

And then there was the warming tray she had. I take a class on the laws of shabbos with my Rav, and we just finished learning how electric warming trays are a problem. They get so hot, that using them could fall into the category of cooking - another forbidden thing on shabbos. Again, I didn't know what to say. Maybe her Rav had a different opinion on such a tray? And who am I to tell a complete stranger how to observe shabbos? I'm not a Rav - I'm just a Jewish woman striving to keep shabbos myself.

But there were little things that were just different. She had lots of stuffed animals all over the place - even pigs. And she had a TV, and lots of cartoons and videos. She had only two sons, aged 11 and 12. She said she had a third pregnancy, but when it ended in miscarriage she decided (!!!) not to have any more. Definitely a novelty.

Despite our differences in hashkafa, she was a wonderfully warm and friendly lady. We spent the rest of shabbos schmoozing, and we never did get to the playground. After all, who needs a playground when you have a zoo?

When her husband came home, she said to him, "Look, we have chassidic guests." I was embarrassed. She asked me if we were chassidim, so I told her we tried to be. But to be introduced like that, I don't know - I felt weird.

In my Brooklyn Ghetto there were basically only Lubavitchers. We were all - more or less - on the same wavelength. In chutz l'aretz, there are lots of flavors. Sephardim, Litvaks, Modern Orthodox, Young Israel, other Chassidim...

And chinchillas!


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My Photo Name: Fancy Schmancy Anxiety Maven
Location: Chutz l'aretz - Outside of Brooklyn

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