be a mensch

Or, alternatively, how to exercise while away from home.

Today was a very good day to air the kiddies out. So I volunteered to take the boys out of the apartment and try to clear off the car. This is a photo (taken with my phone) of the street at the time, just to give you an idea. It was a gorgeous sunny day, with absolutely no wind. What a delight!


So the boys got to work, even before I got outside, with a snow brush/ice scraper and their hands. The only other tools we found to use were an ice pick and a sponja–the mop stick used in Israel (I have no idea if it’s used anywhere else; I’m sure it is) that is covered with a shmatta/rag. I started breaking up the ice at the end of the car. You can see by the photo how well the street had been plowed. They hadn’t even done the main streets and I’m really not sure how and when I’ll be able to get to Jerusalem for the next chapter of my adventures here in Israel.

But we did a good enough job with the car, so I turned our attention to the walkway to the apartment building. There is no one assigned for snow removal, so the pathway was not cleared and was pretty dangerous. The boys needed more time doing some heavy lifting, so I figured we’d tackle the walk. Another woman passed by us after cleaning her car off (with a pushbroom) and said to me, “I hate to say this, but a man should be doing that.” I knew what she meant. She meant that a grandmother visiting from out of town should not be taking care of the building. I quoted her from what Hillel says in the Ethics of the Fathers 2:6.

“In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.”

She apparently agreed, because she took the ice pick and started chopping at the ice (I had already cleared the first half of the walk closest to the street and to the sunlight). I took her broom and swept the snow out to the sidewalk, where it was melting at a fast rate.

By now, my coat was off; my fleece was off. And after a bit more of that, even my gloves were off.

I knew I was probably going to shvitz in Israel; I just never thought it would be from shoveling snow!

But all kidding aside, it was not a small thing to work together to accomplish a task, albeit an impossible one. Even with a lot of effort, we were not going to finish because the water dripping off the roof, and the overflowing gutters were surely going to freeze overnight back onto the pathway. I told my compadre to just make it as full of tracks as possible, so that people could have traction.

And of course, the men are mostly likely the ones who will be going out in the morning. The women will be home again with the children, since tomorrow will be the fifth day that they do not have school here.

Yes, still, happy to help.

And as Rabbi Tarfon says, further in that chapter in Pirkei Avot (2:21):

“It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task. Yet, you are not free to desist from it. “

The reality is that this is very freeing. We should do our best while knowing, in all honesty, that this will never ever be enough. But that is indeed enough.

After all, a woman’s work is never done.


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