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Dear Jido,

My son just went to a birthday party with fifteen of his classmates from his second-grade class. It was an amazing production with two clowns, a magician, rides, and a dog act. Not to mention raffles, door prizes, and a banquet. I kid you not.

We had sent birthday invitations to this boy and a few other classmates. We had planned a small party and a sleepover at our home. Now, I’m feeling inadequate and I’m concerned that my vision of my son’s birthday party will be a cause of embarrassment to him. What should we do?

Signed, Party Pressure

Dear Under Pressure,

Birthday party, bat mitzvah, bar mitzvah, sweet sixteen, engagement party, wedding,
brit milahpidyon, winter vacation. It’s all the same. There are those who can afford to do things in a big way, those who can’t – but do it anyway, and those who are satisfied with the simple and practical. We all know the saying – who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot.

There is no reason that you should feel embarrassed or less than proud if you make your son an enjoyable, unpretentious birthday party for him and his friends. Yes, some things have gotten out of hand, and sometimes we have grown to “expect” bigger things. But not everyone is going to hire a caterer for a seven-year-old.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, said many years ago – “If Hashem has blessed a person with great wealth then he is entitledto enjoy it. But, he warned, if everyone is driving a Lexus (that was THE luxury car at the time), he should not drive a Bentley.”

We have many “Bentley” drivers in our beautiful community, but we should not be jealous of them or look to better them. And, Baruch Hashem, we have even more “Lexus” drivers.
Should we feel badly if we drive the Camry or the Pilot? I think not. That is what fits our lifestyle. We would be untrue to ourselves (and to our pockets) if we tried to live a life that was not us.

Explain to your son, and internalize for yourself, that there are priorities in life. Money is usually hard-earned and valuable, and should be spent on things that are most important. There are the necessities, like food, clothing, shelter, charity, and education. There are the nice things in life like vacations, camp, and a beautiful home. And what is left over after that should be used to bring the most happiness to the greatest amount of people.

Happy birthday, young man!
Jido

 

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Dear Jido,

Though it’s nice that many synagogues serve seuda shelisheet on Shabbat afternoons, so many people don’t adhere to basic etiquette when this food is placed in front of them. I’m not even talking about people who take excessive amounts of one particular item, so that there is little or nothing left over for anyone else. What bothers me most are people who treat the communal serving plates as their own, by double dipping or forking food directly from the plate into their mouths. Aside from being uncivilized, this is a highly unsanitary practice that could (and often does) lead to the spread of illness. What can you suggest responsible people do to correct this problem?

Signed,

A Germ-ee

Dear Fellow Germ-ee,

I’m with you! Nothing worse than digging into the tuna salad when it’s already been mixed with someone else’s avocado. Something should be done to educate the people about how unhealthy this is. In fact, the Shulhan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, has an entire section on what you would call “Table Manners.” It includes such no-no’s as drinking from someone else’s cup, leaving your utensils in the serving bowl, and taking food out of turn.

Proper behavior at the table is something that must first be taught in the home, starting when children are young. Adults, too, are sometimes not even aware that they are doing something that is impolite, unsanitary, and halachically wrong.

Many years back, the Hafetz Hayim took it upon himself to teach the world about the perils of lashon hara. Almost every refrigerator in town nowadays has a picture of the Hafetz Hayim on it, or a black and red message that reads:
“If You Have Nothing Good To Say, Say Nothing.” Short of asking every pulpit Rabbi to begin classes on Siman 109, why not mount a small campaign of your own? You could prepare little easel messages to be placed on seuda shelisheet tables across the community that say, “Eating Directly from the Serving Plates Can be Hazardous to One’s Health.” You can even print on them
Donated by a Germ-ee.

Sincerely,

Jido

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