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You Scratch My Back

By Mordechai Schmutter

Chanukah is early this year (it’s always early; the days are shorter), and it’s about time you gave some serious thought to buying gifts for people, because even if you personally don’t hold of giving Chanukah presents, the people around you hold of getting them. So we might as well talk about this.

But even if you’re just getting people presents for other reasons, this whole thing really stresses you out, because ideally you’d like to get them something they don’t have, except that:

A. You don’t necessarily know what they don’t have. You’ve seen some of what they have, but you have no idea what they don’t, unless they specifically told you; and

B. If there’s something they want that they don’t have, chances are they can just go out and buy it. Unless it costs more money than you want to spend on them anyway.

So the key is to buy them things that they would never buy themselves in a million years—either because they don’t know it exists, or because it’s ridiculous—and in one fell swoop, you can also make sure that they’ll never want you to get them presents anymore.

But where do you find these ideas? Sure, you can check that magazine they have on airplanes, where you look through it and go, “Yeah! I do need bookends that look like books!” But otherwise, chances are you’re going to get them something that is also a pen.

On the one hand, combination gifts are great, because even if they have each thing, they might not have something that is both. Like you can get them an FM Radio Toaster (Hammacher Schlemmer, $60). This is in case they want a radio in the kitchen, but they also want a toaster, and it’s a small kitchen, so they only have room for one or the other. So this way, they just have the one device, and now they just need to find a place for a second radio that plays AM.

But there are other ideas. For instance, there’s something called a Kol Haneorim Tallis (Judaica Savings, $300), which is a huge tallis that is made for Simchas Torah, when the entire shul gathers underneath it around the bimah, and in general, people like me are standing there for the entire aliyah, somehow holding the corners of four separate talleisim together over my head while everyone else takes their sweet time going “nigh nigh nanigh nigh nigh” after every single day of the week, and if I put my arm down, the Amaleikim win. So this way, you get over 130 square feet of tallis that you will never ever be able to fold back into a tallis bag.

I also think it would be a great gag gift for a kallah to get her chosson, so that right before the chuppah, he unwittingly puts it on and ends up dragging the entire thing down the aisle behind him. It’s about time we brought back trains.

Or we can keep it with the shul talleisim for unsuspecting chazzanim to take. The possibilities are endless!

And then, years from now, archaeologists are going to dig up these talleisim, and they’re going to think we were that big. It’s bad enough they’re going to look at those Shabbos raincoats that go over our hats and think we all had big Charlie Brown heads.

And if you like getting people clothing, you can also get them a Back-Scratch Shirt (Café Press, $26). This is a shirt that you put on if you want other people to scratch your back. See, the issue with having people scratch your back, in general, is that they spend five minutes scratching the parts that don’t itch, all the while with you directing them and slowly coming to the realization that at least one of you does not know his right from his left, and then when you tell them they found the spot, they give it one swipe and walk away.

So the back-scratching shirt, which is a huge shalom bayis saver, is a shirt that has a grid on the back, like in Battleship, and it comes with a card for the wearer to hold. You look at your card, and you say, “I have an itch at A4.” And the guy scratches A4. (But not well, because you’re wearing an extra layer of shirt.) And then you go, “Okay, now A3, A5, and B4 are itchy.”

Maybe you should just get a back-scratcher. Or a hairbrush with an extra-long handle. Because they make those too. It’s for brushing other people’s hair from across the room.

“Shaifeleh, come here; I want to brush your hair.”


“Never mind; I got it.”

You can also get them a Nubrella (Awakers, Inc., $60), which is a new kind of umbrella for people who don’t like holding them.

Personally, I never use umbrellas. The last thing I want to do in a thunderstorm is hold a big metal stick over my head. With the wind constantly grabbing it and turning it inside out. I get wetter fighting with my umbrella than I would if I just went outside in my bathing suit.

So the Nubrella is a hands-free clear plastic umbrella that you strap under your shoulders, completely engulfing you down to your chest, so that it takes you 25 minutes to get something from your car. It’s also great to wear on roller coasters, so you don’t lose your yarmulke.

The only drawback of the Nubrella that I can see, other than that it makes you look like an astronaut, is that it’s awkward to share. But it’s always been awkward to share umbrellas anyway. Unless your umbrella is the size of a Kol Haneorim Tallis, whenever two people share an umbrella, they both end up walking and leaning sideways, cheek to cheek, with both of them getting soaking wet and pretending not to mind. Usually, if I do have an umbrella and someone asks if we can share, I just let him have it. (“Here, you fight the wind.”)

And if you want to get them a kitchen gadget, you can always get the Dipr (The Cookie Spoon LLC, $3). You know how it is: You’ve just come in from sharing an umbrella in the rain, and everything is soaking wet except your left cheek and half of your yarmulke, and you just want some cookies and hot cocoa, so you take a cookie, and dip it in your cocoa, and you hold it there for a minute, letting it soak in, and then you lift it out and, “Hey! Where’s the rest of the cookie?” And then it’s a race to fish it out with a spoon before it becomes one with your cocoa. Of course this happens to you. But it surprises you every time.

Enter the Dipr. The Dipr is a handle with a hook at the end that you loop around the cookie. This only works with sandwich cookies—although since it’s a hook, I assume you can also use it on doughnuts, or to spear herring and dip it in your schnapps. But this way, instead of dipping your cookie in the cocoa, you can just go to your kitchen’s spare-parts drawer, find the Dipr, hook the cookie, dip it in the milk, pull it out, and then . . . Well, I don’t know what then. The press materials don’t say. Do you have to take the cookie off the hook, and almost certainly break it or drop it and get your hands wet? Or do you just put the hook directly into your mouth, like a fish?

It also might be great for scratching your back. v

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of four books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to

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Posted by on November 29, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.