I took out graphing paper and looked at Daniel. He was already staring out the window of my workshop. Ugh, this was going to be one of those things like baking with your kids or waking up early to jog — sounds magical, but a dud in reality.

I waved my hand in front of his eyes and he blinked, looked up at me, and then back out the window. The window is just for air, there’s no view. He was basically staring at the neighbor’s brick wall. That was my competition.

“I thought we were gonna use drills,” he whined.

“We are,” I assured him. Though not for a few more sessions. I didn’t say that out loud. I waved the graphing paper. “It’s a process, this is the beginning.”

“Let me know when we’re up to drills.”

“That’s like trying to start a cake with the batter. You have to make the batter before you can dip your finger into it.”

“I thought you’re not supposed to eat raw batter.”

“Whatever. It’s like learning Gemara before you learned alef-beis.”

“Isn’t that how Partners in Torah works? Like only one person has to know how it really works and the other one can just jump in?”

I can’t argue with this kid. I made one more attempt. “In order for whatever you’re making to come out good, you gotta plan it. Otherwise, it’s a mess. There’s not enough space, or there’s too much space.”

He looked at me blankly.

“This is how we do it,” I stated.

He shrugged. “It’s boring.”

“We didn’t even start.”

“Whatever, let’s just do it fast so we can get to the fun part.”

At least he said he’d do it. I pulled out a picture of the choshen I’d printed from a Google search. “First, size. How big is it going to be?”

Daniel paused, in thought. “I want it to be real. Like the Kohein Gadol could’ve worn it.”

“So a zeres by a zeres?”

“I dunno, is that how big it was?”

I nodded.


Yay, he said cool. Does that count as enthusiasm? I handed him a pencil, graph paper, and a ruler.

“Draw a straight two-foot line on one of the top lines.”

Daniel drew the line carefully.

“Now make a two-foot line going down each end, and then close it, so it’s a square.”

He didn’t answer, but did as he was told, careful and tentative. When he was done, he looked up at me.

“Measure an inch inside the square and make a square inside the square, so there’s a border.”

Daniel’s eyes went blank a minute. Were those instructions too complicated? But he started drawing and got it right. Good.

“Now we have to divide it into twelve, so we know where each stone will go.”

This basic stuff I could have him do, the trickier stuff I’d have to take over and let him watch, or look out the window. He finished and looked up at me, pleased with himself. The lines weren’t perfect, but his smile was so wide that even I, Mrs. Perfectionist, resisted the urge to fix them. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 563)