I’m a Real Person!

“Hi, this is Avital. As you know, Brocha and Chaim had a baby (Dovid) two weeks ago. I’m organizing meals for them for the month. Can you do next Monday?”

I stared at the phone, affronted. I mean, I was just some random single girl who’d moved in a few months ago. Why was she calling me?

Then I shook my perspective and waited for it to resettle. I was an independent woman with an income who could cook and was a friend of the family. Why shouldn’t she call me?

“Sure, no problem. I’d love to! Put me down.”

I hung up grinning. I (not my mother) was going to be making dinner for a pair of new parents. How cool is that? I’m a real person!

18 thoughts on “I’m a Real Person!

  1. I never understood why single people should be left out of the meal-delivery loop. They have no husband and kids to cook for, right? So they should be the obvious choice to approach! They’re the only ones who have the time and energy to do chessed!

    My sister-in-law was saying how that if she cooks a meal for someone else, her kids end up having pizza. So if one family is ending up with takeout, does it matter which family is?

  2. In my experience, if you volunteer for such things (yes, even in NYC), the volunteer-coordinators are happy to have you help out. They just won’t think of you on their own. I made meals for new parents for about three years as a single person, although I grant that this was in a (grad) student community with a higher proportion of singles than the average shul.

  3. Bad4:
    Excellent chessed opportunity; hopefully it won’t be long before someone else will be doing the same for you!! Only thing is: isn’t chessed like this specifically GOOD for shidduchim?

  4. Very cool. We got a chance to do that once or twice while we were in the Heights (lots of newborns and new parents there). Kol Hakavod for helping out and feeling great about it – not just the chesed part, but the “real personness” as well.

  5. A month of meals? Was that a joke? Are these people poor or sick or something? Do they not know there’s a Jewish value in not taking unneeded gifts? What’s the big deal for them to buy a few pizzas, make a little pasta or scrambled eggs? Is this chesed or simple greediness of people who enjoy taking from others? If they’ve invited you for meals, and you decided you wanted to give them the gift of a meal, that’s one thing. but these people have some messenger running around shnorring meals for them? this is really messed up. Bad4, I bless you that you will meet your intended, have lots of children, and be able to buy them pizza or scramble them a few eggs or defrost the lasagne you prepared in advance of the expected birth…

  6. Haha. Your qualifications for being a real person are very high. My idea of personhood begins at conception. Yes, that is for all you pro-baby murderers out there.

  7. Susie – I can see that you’re unfamiliar with the practice. The parents don’t send someone to schnor meals for them. Someone in the community arranges it. It’s not optional for the receivers. One person told me that after she broke her leg she got a month of meals too. She pointed out that she was perfectly capable of hobbling to the pizza shop, but they kept delivering anyway.

  8. Bad4, as a mom of 5 kids living in a young frum community (the third one since I had my first baby), I can ASSURE you I am exceedingly familiar with this practice. I think it started out-of-town at a time when there were not many take-out options and not thousands of frozen-dinner products in the local supermarket. “Someone” in the community, as you call the shnorrer, pressures people into doing this (2 weeks ago one called me. Mind you, I have a baby too – though he’s not tiny, and we managed to give the other kids supper after he was born without taking charity. I said to the lady who called, Sorry, but I am starting a new job this week and I am planning to give my own kids pizza and scrambled eggs, and I can’t make supper for Mrs. X. She said, Oh, how about cooking for her for Shabbes? Not to mention that I never met the woman calling me and I’m not even friends with the new mother! I think The shnorrer lady embarrassed Mrs. X by demanding from her a list of who to call: Who are your friends? Who can I ask? What, only two friends? Who else can I call?)
    After I had babies, people asked me if I wanted food or wanted someone to arrange food. A simple, No, thanks so much, we’re okay (and it’s not like I didn’t know this was gonna happen – I stocked my freezer so I could whip out my own casseroles) makes the givers go away. just like some “shidduch rules” people might think are about religion, the making-meals rules is a new invention – I promise our Bubbies didn’t get a month of meals from their neighbors after they had a baby, at a time when there were no pizza stores – you may mean well, and other people might too, but this is not the Jewish way!

  9. The reason I don’t think single girls are usually asked is that there’s no immediate reciprocity, since (I’m assuming here) you’re not pregnant yourself.

    And as for those who don’t like the practice – again, partially it has to do with reciprocity, as well as “stam” being a chessed.

  10. I hear you, Susie.

    When my sister-in-law had a baby, the neighborhood arranged meals for her. A friend came over with takeout chicken. If my sister-in-law wanted takeout chicken, she could have ordered it herself! She has to put up with whatever chicken someone else ordered for her? No one touched it.

    We are in the magnificent age of microwaves, freezers, and cereal. The meals are not necessary. Usually they end up being baltashchis, as picky eaters abound and won’t eat anything unless Mommy made it anyway.

  11. Susie..Some people are actually broke in this economy and might need help, especially with a new mouth to feed.h And some people might not have recuperated from giving birth, might be fragile or nemica, really tired, or holding down the fort while their spouse is out working two jobs to pay the rent and car insurance…And THAT is why it is a nice thing to do. It means the needy aren’t singled out…Everyone gets a bit of TLC at a stressful time in their lives.

  12. Chavah – it’s people broke in this economy who are also among those being asked to make the meals. Trust me, I’ve made plenty of meals for new moms – either because I wanted to help a friend or because there was a mother who needed it for a special reason – twins, baby in NICU which means mom comes home and has to shuttle back and forth to nurse baby at hospital, mom who had infected C-section that ripped open – or because someone pressured/forced me into it. Calling and asking someone makes them feel bad, people don’t like to say no. By pressuring a bunch of ladies in the neighborhood who have jobs and housefuls of kids to make a meal for a mother two weeks after she had her second baby. I don’t think you are always doing a good thing. And by your logic, this supper-club is for everyone, and we don’t single out the needy, so I assume the shnorrer (oops, “person from the community who organizes it”) asks the needy moms to make meals too – in which case, how are you helping anyone? Sometimes the people being asked to make the meals don’t have the time or money.

    My sis-in-law once was frantically cooking a meal for a new mother (of a first baby! Like, couldn’t she make herself a tuna sandwich? Couldn’t her husband buy her a bagel and cream cheese or make her an omelet?) and found herself screaming at her kid who was asking for homework help: Faigie, can’t you see I am busy cooking?! I can’t help you now! She stopped to ask herself: is this chesed? Screaming at my own child and stressing out my house for what?

    Some people do need help, and they should take it. Others do not need help and should know that being a “taker” for no reason is not a Jewish value (go back and check your daily prayer after meals, where you ask G-d to not make you need “presents from people” and check out the tefilos from Yomim Noraim (“This year, may we not need to take from each other.”) Bad4 was telling about ONE MONTH of meals. I bet any money this new mother doesn’t have twins or a sick baby or some unique reason why she needs a month of meals, but at this point the new mom doesn’t even realize that she is accepting something she shouldn’t because “the community arranges it.”

    I have seen this over and over again – someone pressured my friend into making a meal for a new mom when she herself had just taken her sick elderly mom-in-law into her home – someone asked my friend to make a meal for Shabbes for a new mom and she asked how many people it was for (like, are there two kids or five kids in the family?) She was told, six adults and two kids. SIX ADULTS!!! Who are these adults? The new mom invited 4 Shabbes guests and then asked the neighbors to make food for them? Is that normal? I can go on and on – young women who go stay at their mommy’s house for 2-3 weeks after giving birth and then come home and sign up for the two weeks of meals they are “entitled to” – never mind that the meals were intended to help a mother with a newvborn post-birth, it isn’t a government get-out-of-making-supper break you can cash in on up to 6 months after you give birth…

    As a community, we should do chessed! But we all are limited in what we can do. I’d rather see less meals made for new mothers who don’t truly need the help and more people making shidduchim, visiting old lonely people etc…

  13. Susie: To directly respond to your last comment, as someone who is busy making shidduchim, and has B’H a family and a job of my own, I am happy to make meals for new mothers, although my community does it for a shorter period of time. On the rare occasions that someone calls me, and I can’t do it, I simply say, “Sorry, I can’t do it this time”. There is nothing wrong with helping a new mother for a month; it’s so nice not to have to think about even having to heat supper, it just appears at the front door. Anyone who doesn’t want it, can decline, and anyone who can’t do it, can apologize and beg off. I am sure the Chessed Police have never arrested someone for choosing not to help. But I am also pretty sure that you have not asked, and been told by your Rav, that there is something wrong with what your community is doing. (though I am surprised that a woman would invite guests while accepting meals, but who knows that there are no extenuating circumstances?) I also don’t see why anyone’s own kids should go hungry when the mother prepares food for someone else; why not just make a double recipe, and everyone can eat?

  14. One can always say no if you feel that you are being taken advantage of. Nobody has to be a doormat. But what comes around goes around. While I am middle aged woman with no children of my own (so I cannot speak to post-birth conditions) I am quite familiar with post-op recuperation… there were times when I was recovering from serious surgeries that I truly appreciated neighborhood meals..Not because I COULD NOT make a sandwich, but because I had limited energy and it could now be spent on something else. So I am happy for opportunities to make other’s lives easier. BTW I seriously wonder why anyone with a family that is cooking meals for someone else would not double or triple amounts so they can feed their own family and also freeze some for future home meals. MY DH and I host large Shabbos meals pretty regularly, and I try to do this as much as possible with sides, schnitzel, anything that can freeze. Financially It means that I can buy the cheaper, bulk size of veggies and products without waste.

  15. Wow, a whole month!?! The most I ever got was 2 weeks and that was unusual. A week is the norm here. I mean, congratulations on handling that perspective change so well!

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