By Phyllis J. Lubin
“Mommy, I’m eating pretzels!” Yussie announced early this morning from the bottom of the staircase while waiting for his school bus.
“What?” I asked from upstairs while getting ready to start the day.
“I’m eating Trader Joe’s pretzels!” Yussie clarified in case I needed to know which pretzels he was eating exactly—as if eating a different brand of pretzels as an early-morning snack would have been any better.
I think there might be something in the makeup of that extra chromosome Yosef Binyamin has that prevents him from trying to hide something bad that he is doing. It’s almost as if he wants us to reprimand him so that he can do teshuvah!
True teshuvah, we are taught, begins with confessing the sin. Yussie is very good at confessing his sins.
And so I dragged myself downstairs to retrieve the ill-gotten pretzels.
“Why are you eating pretzels so early in the morning, Yuss?”
“I’m sorry, Mommy. I’m so, so hungry!”
At least he had a reason. The problem is that Yussie is always hungry. Left to his own volition, he would eat an entire bag of Trader Joe’s pretzels. (I guess I could, too—pre-Weight Watchers!) But at least he understood that what he was doing was wrong. And frankly, I don’t think he was that hungry—just in a mischievous mood!
Most of the time Yussie is not sneaky. He will do inappropriate things right out in the open. (Truth be told, sometimes I would prefer the misdeeds be hidden so that I do not have to try to correct the action.) But if you call him on his misdeed after the fact, he might be wary of admitting any wrongdoing. For instance, if he misbehaves in school and the teacher sends home a note to that effect, when we ask him what happened, he will usually respond, “I don’t know.” Then we know he must have done something wrong and is just too embarrassed to admit it.
We all know when we do things that are wrong. The problem is that oftentimes we find a need to rationalize our wrongdoings. For instance, we are not speaking lashon ha’ra—we are only reiterating actual facts to warn people who might need to know the situation. Or we tell a friend that we never got the message that they called, or we don’t take a phone call and instead tell our children to say that we are “not home,” rationalizing that we do not want to insult the callers by saying that we just don’t want to talk to them.
Yussie’s extra chromosome tends to protect him from inaccurate rationalizations. He usually will admit a wrongdoing without someone even asking him. We generally decide on a bedtime earlier in the day. The time varies depending on what is going on, but typically it will be somewhere between 8:30 and 9:15. If we have made an 8:35 “deal” and the clock strikes 8:36, he is quick to remind us that his bedtime has passed and he has not gone to sleep. Or if we made a deal to have two cookies for dessert and I give him three, he will point out the extra cookie with a big smile on his face.
As we enter the New Year and stand in shul doing our “al chets,” let’s try to be more honest with ourselves; let’s take a lesson from Yosef Binyamin Lubin and just confess our misdeeds and truly try not to repeat them in the future.
May we all merit a happy, healthy, and sweet new year! v
Phyllis Joy Lubin is an attorney with Maidenbaum & Sternberg, LLP, who resides in Cedarhurst with her husband, Leonard. They have six children—Naftali, Shoshana, Rivka, Rochel, Yosef, and Lea—and a daughter-in-law, Nina. The author welcomes your questions and comments at MothersMusings@gmail.com.