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500 and counting...

By Mishpacha Staff

You’re holding the 500th edition of Mishpacha! For 500 consecutive issues, week after week, Shabbos after Shabbos, Mishpacha has been there — an integral part of the Shabbos experience and a vibrant mirror of our community’s priorities, personalities, and conversations. In honor of this milestone, we asked our writers to riff on the phrase “week after week” — in 500 words or less. What images and memories does the term bring to your mind?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

What the readers want (or don’t)

Mishpacha is not art for art’s sake. It’s a product that’s constantly calibrated and recalibrated to satisfy the needs and wants of a savvy readership. What’s our sense of that readership, and how have they clued us in to their inclinations?

What they want.

Take me far away, they ask. Life can get so mundane and prosaic. The endless bills, the orthodontist appointments, the dirty dishes, it all piles up high, so high, until it threatens to bury me. I want you to whisk me away. Take me to other countries, to different centuries. Fling color and drama and excitement into my life.

Give me role models, they plead. I’m all too familiar with human failings. Show me greatness. Let me see other Jews rising above themselves, beyond themselves. Bring me along when they reach out to others and grasp eternity. And then perhaps today, perhaps tomorrow, I will try to do the same.

Make me laugh, they demand. My world is painted in so many shades of black. Some mornings it takes superhuman strength to pull myself out of bed and face the shredded dreams, the broken hearts littering my life. I can’t bear any more sadness. Let me laugh at the absurdities of this world; help me curl my lips upwards.

Inform me, they request. Tell me what I need to know about health and finance and psychology. Leave me with information I’ll be able to apply to my life; nuggets of knowledge that will help me be a better parent, a better spouse and child and friend. Give me tools to understand the people around me — and myself.

Make me cry, they murmur. Sometimes I feel frozen, brittle, locked into a narrow space. Help me move out of that place. Provide stories that warm my heart until it sweats tears. 

Inspire me, they whisper. Years ago, I was nourished all through the day with Torah. It was meaningful and relevant, and so vast and brilliant I felt like an insignificant speck next to my Creator. I had clarity and burned with idealism. Then life happened. And somewhere along the way, the clarity got muddied, the flame of idealism was dulled from a roaring fire to small embers. Fan those embers! Nourish me with Torah concepts that can help me reconnect.

Hold up a mirror, they suggest. Show me our society through eyes that are not mine. Let me face the prejudices I didn’t even know I had, force me to examine what I always thought were self-evident truths. But do so subtly, don’t ever smash the mirror you’re providing. 

Move me, they plead. Stir my emotions, gently, the heat slowly rising. Then, bring them to a roiling boil. Let the words move from page to mind to veins, until the ideas flow within me, the experiences become mine.

We’ll try, we answer, we’ll try.

    Bassi Gruen

 

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