Sunday, January 01, 2006

Parted at Parties

I know I haven’t updated in a while. I had every intention to… but with it being Chanuka and all the parties that entails… I didn’t really get around to it.

Chanuka is party time is family time…

My family, like every family consists of all sorts of people. The nice, the annoying; the bright and the dull; the smart as well as the – let’s just say not-so-smart. And although I so often wish I didn’t – I love them all.

Every year it’s the same – yet different. Of course, no one is going to object if the food resembles the one from a year prior – as a matter of fact, it’s practically expected for the food to be ‘traditional’! But everyone tends to expect a new ‘program’. These ‘programs’ usually consist of games or some other forms of entertainment that will keep the kids and adults occupied.

The kids are usually easily pleased with a small ‘grab-bag’ game of sorts. It is inevitable that one of the children will end up crying – claiming that they gave more than they got. Welcome to the REAL WORLD... And then, depending on the party and the crowd, we were sometimes able to keep the kids quiet for another hour or so – with a ‘kosher’ movie. For some that meant Sesame Street or Winnie the Pooh, others it was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and for others yet it could only be Uncle Moishe or the Torah Tots – at this particular party there were still others that felt that anything that involved looking at a computer screen should be off the list of possibilities. So be it. We came up with other ideas.

For the adults though, things weren’t so simple either. Of course we wanted an activity that was fun as well as funny – but I wasn’t counting on someone being concerned about keeping the interaction between the sexes to a minimal. Apparently there are some who feel that sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law are halachicly ‘fremdt’, and as such they aren’t really permitted to freely converse with each other. Obviously I wasn’t raised with that perspective and to the chagrin of those of a different persuasion - I rarely abide by it either. While I would never go out of my way to make anyone feel uncomfortable – I find that indeed, most don't have any objections. At least there is usually no obvious display of discomfort.

This Chanuka though, these ‘beliefs’ that are harbored by some, came into play. Only because I initially couldn’t come up with an activity that will have all entertained without requiring ‘interaction’. I was given the go-ahead on planning a game that will involve everyone laughing at the same jokes, apparently that was still permissible, but once there was a risk of the possibility of the conversation reaching across the table, then we should perhaps look into the idea of separate rooms. To be fair, this was the idea of only one sister-in-law, and an opinion that I felt that she was perhaps permitted to hold, only because that was how things are done by her parents. Nonetheless I found it surprising. If sisters or brothers –in-law aren’t ‘immediate’ family – then who was left?

I’ve come to realize that things have changed. And not in the way that I thought. I used to worry that we are losing sight of so many important traditions – but at the rate we’re going – what with us picking up so many new ones, we can all rest assured that Ultra-Orthodoxy ‘vet derleben Mashiach’en’.

We ended up having a grand time in spite of these new found halachos. Or maybe it was ‘because of’ them? Whom am I kidding? There was neither less teasing nor any lessening in cross-gender banter… We made fun of each other as much as we always did. Isn’t that what these events are about?

Actually – that and kvitlech. Which was fun – and I won! Not enough to make me feel badly for the ones who lost, but enough to make me feel good about my playing skills. As for those that did lose, I loved their good-natured, easy going attitude of ‘Hey it’s ok, it all stays in the family…’. Another important tradition observed.

In a family where we don’t openly express our love for one another, as talking about ‘love’ in any denomination is considered taboo, the love is palpable. From the sons who are precisely what their parents always dreamed for them to be – to the son who dances to his own tune... From the daughter who can switch places with her mother – and no one would notice the difference, to the one who attempts to assert her individuality every day, lest someone might (once again) compare her to her sister… We’re family, we’re one. And for better or for worse we’ll love each other - - ‘til death do us part.

As the clock will unabashedly reveal – this party was a late one. Which probably accounts for my tiredness, and subsequent lack of inhibitions, and my willingness to share these half-formulated thoughts. But isn’t that what blogging is all about? It isn’t? Oh well… for now – this will have to do.

13 Comments:

At January 01, 2006 5:57 AM, Blogger Mindy said...

We just had a family party too. Bli ayin hora my in laws' male contingent currently consists of 10 men over bar mitzvah age - our first minyan!!! KE"H!!! While we haven't moved to separate rooms, the parties are virtuall separate. We ladies played our own game, the men played their own dreidel, and we carried on separate conversations. The oldest grandchild, who turned bar mitzvah last Teves, duly sat with his backs turned to his aunts and cousins and 'aidelly' ignored the women the entire night. Amazing the inherent upbringing that post bar mitzvah, women are off limits even for casual conversation, even your own family. Last year I was still able to tease him!

Of course I could talk to my shver and of course none of the BILs would kill me if I addressed a comment their way, but by and large the SILs and BILs do not talk to each other. It's not even necessary - we've got plenty of women to jabber with.

On my mother's side, on the other hand, the family is REALLY SMALL. We've only got 3 married kids as opposed to 8, and the oldest grandchild is all of six. So we do play games together, and while the men tend to talk among themsleves and the ladies among themselves, there is no 'off limits' attitude in my side of the family, although no one banters or jokes around.

Okay this became a mini blog entry and why am I up at 5:56 am???

Happy new years ppl!

 
At January 01, 2006 1:08 PM, Blogger KiddushClubGuy said...

WHEW! YOU scared me ther for a moment. I though your were goig to play "pass the apple"

 
At January 01, 2006 8:58 PM, Blogger Semgirl said...

That was a really heartwarming, feel-good post. Thanks for sharing..

Have a very Happy Hanukah, whats left of it..

 
At January 02, 2006 9:35 AM, Blogger Pragmatician said...

Unfortunately I'm not such a gifted kvitler player, luckily the "Hey it’s ok, it all stays in the family" consolation works well for me.

 
At January 02, 2006 2:39 PM, Blogger Begreatfull said...

I Almost forgot how much fun it was to play kvitlech ;-) thanks for a nice post seems like you really enjoyed your chanukah. Happy new years

 
At January 02, 2006 3:40 PM, Blogger NohrMaal said...

Ich bin a heimisher...

Although many if not most of our family is Satmar, Bro-in-laws and Sis-in-laws do talk normally to each other.

My married children would be considered quite ultra and even chayukish [= ultra ultra] We had our Chanike [our way of pronouncing Chanuka] party @ our home with BH close to a dozen grandkids. fun togehter? yes! kvitlech? chas ve'shulem = no!

The phenom of ever greater seperation between the sexes is kind of new in the hasidic community. I think it comes from the ever growing fanatisim that even the Satmar Rav didnt' dream of.

Let any hasidic person ask their parants, bubbes and zeides if this was the costom between the sexes. I assure all readers that abselutly not.

A case in point; the present Satmar Rebbe's father died when he was a young man. His uncle Rebbe Yoiel took him in under his wings and lived in his home in the town of Satmar.

If you beleive that the Satmar Rav as a bocher and later as a married man didn't converse with his auntie the Satmar Rebetzin or with Roize the Rebbes daughter in a normal fashion then I have bridge to sell you.

 
At January 03, 2006 12:25 AM, Blogger Totally Content said...

nohrmaal - I've noticed so often the way the elderly generation has never had any difficulty shmoozing with their neighbors or distant relations, while for some reason OUR generation has taken this 'Separation of the Sexes' to an extreme. I wonder what the 'solution' would be - and indeed if there even is one...

What surprised me though, was your mentioning 'chas vesholom' regarding kvitlech. Now I know there are those that don't play the game - but I wasn't aware that it is such an extreme no-no. Every Chanuka we played it in school, and I can't recall a single incident where 'authorities' objected. Although I do remember a teacher being quite displeased when she heard a shriek halfway into her period - by a kid who just won 'Bank'.

Those were the days...

 
At January 03, 2006 12:46 AM, Blogger Semgirl said...

Om the new generation increasing fanaticism, its as obvious as the nose on your face. We are just replacing basic Jewish values that came natural to the alter dor with frummer shtick .

As for cards on Chanukah, just look in the English version of the Mishnah Brura , "this is a practice of the Ammi Haratzim and one should be as strong as a lion to nullify this custom of nonsense".

 
At January 03, 2006 6:27 AM, Blogger NohrMaal said...

Well the practice of playing kvitlech is from the viewpoint of halacha pure theivery.

According to the talmud those who play cards or gamble habitually are not kosher to be witneses.

The reason being that according to halacha the transfer of anything from money to things, requires 'smichas da'as' [= a willing mind].

A gambler -the talmud says- doesn't fork over the money with a willing mind. If he knew somehow ahead of time that his chance of winning is zero, nil, nadda, he would not bet. Therefore ultimatly the transfer of funds never had true 'smichas da'as' which makes it 'geneivah'[theft].

(There is my shtickle toire for the day. ;-)

So in my family its a no no.

Me and my wife 'had' to attened a company chanuka party and the boss and the cheverah were playing kvitlech, he offered my a $20 bill to have some fun... I joined for the first time in my life ... I played for about 15 minutes... at the end when we left I handed him back the gelt. He thought I was a sport, but I would not have any of it.


As for the seperation I don't think this is so in all families. I think this so only with the extreme of the extreme.

(Beleive me Reb Zalman lieb knows Sosha well from speaking a lot to her over the years. )

 
At January 04, 2006 12:48 PM, Blogger cafe_28 said...

Nohrmaal, if the halacha is so against playing kvitlech, why is it such an accepted thing? Is our society so messed up, that right becomes wrong, and wrong becomes right???

 
At January 04, 2006 5:16 PM, Blogger NohrMaal said...

I am kind of miffed with the comments here in my circles it is NOT so accepted.

But the Halacha is certainly there.

 
At January 05, 2006 6:03 PM, Blogger chuck said...

dear sheital:
as the the world slowly but surely turns into crap (read greater moral decline) chasidim have accepted more frumkiet to sorta balance it out
now im not sure its the right thing to do, but you cant just sit and watch the world slide into a more degenerate state and not, at the very least, try keeping afloat by pushing back

 
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