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Marcia Stark Meth, Miriam Stark Zakon, and Emmy Stark Zitter

Life is a… washing machine? It’s a metaphor, but is it poetic? It’s so mundane. It’s so prosaic. It’s so ordinary. It’s so real.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Delicate Cycle,

Slightly Unbalanced


My Maytag has a useful feature. Stuff in too many towels or overload it with tangle-prone sheets, and a buzzer goes off, telling me that the load is unbalanced.

We live in a complicated world. Sometimes we could use a buzzer to tell us when things are out of balance. And sometimes, when you have to be that warning buzzer, things can get a little… delicate.

As department head in a frum girls’ college, I can spot a newly married kallah across the campus. Ring shining on her finger, face aglow, hands constantly touching sheitel or tichel to make sure it’s straight — all sure signs of the newlywed student.

Then there are signs of shanah rishonah stresses. The student whose grades plummet, the girl dozing through her classes. There are problems to deal with, yet within the range of normal. In a word — balanced.

But when my newly married student, let’s call her Aliza, decided to give up her college degree for a home-baked challah, I knew something was off balance. The question was: Should I start buzzing?

In her final semester of college, Aliza wanted to drop a class scheduled late on Thursday afternoons. This was no small matter. The class was required: Dropping it meant putting off graduation for a year. Since she and her chassan were planning to leave the country the following year, it meant giving up her degree for years — maybe for good.

Her reason for dropping the class? She needed Thursday afternoons to bake challos. Thursday nights she worked, Fridays were short, her freezer was too small to bake them earlier in the week.

Part of me wanted to laugh. Another part wanted to cry. But mostly I wanted to… buzz! To warn Aliza that she had to learn to balance responsibilities, old and new. Buzz! Of course, baking challos was a mitzvah and a great zechus, but the degree meant parnassah to keep her husband in kollel. Buzz! Wouldn’t finishing the degree she had worked so hard for balance a few months of eating store-bought

challos? Buzz!


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