12 Kislev 5781 / Saturday, November 28, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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You're Israeli, No?    

You're Israeli, No?

If you think you can run the country better than the Prime Minister, or if you put hummus on everything you put in your mouth, you must be an Israeli…


It's funny how Hashem plays a good joke on us when we become parents. Somewhere along the line, we do things that we absolutely hated when our parents did them, like listen to cheesy, outdated love songs. At that point we might catch ourselves and suffer that extremely disappointing and embarrassing, “I can't believe I just did what my mother/father used to do!” moment. Fortunately, most of us manage to get through it without signing up for an urgent round of shock treatment at the nearest psychiatric hospital. Unfortunately, we soon discover that we suffer many more such moments, and much of the time, we're helpless to stop ourselves.


If we're really unfortunate, like I am on a consistent basis, we have moments of, “I've actually morphed into my mother!” It's quite horrifying, to be honest.


Of course, I can't discount the good things I learned from my mother, such as the ability to host a dinner party a la Martha Stewart. On the other hand, I haven't used the words “dinner” and “party” together in the same sentence in a few years. I also have her to thank for my fabulously loud and clear yelling voice that would make Sarah Brightman jealous. Sometimes it gets a bit nasal and I start to sound like Fran Drescher. I take full credit for the nasaly voice, as my mother's voice never got nasal when she yelled- just supremely annoying.


I have so many of my mother's qualities, that it's hard to believe my father actually lived in the same house as I did. He was usually off in a corner somewhere, vacuuming and humming to himself. I think it was his therapy. It's a technique called “cognitive dissonance” or something like that. I'm actually not really sure what that means.


Growing up as an American with Israeli parents had its fair share of challenges. Little did I know that Hashem was training me all along, preparing me for the time that I would return home to Israel, armed with a strong Israeli mentality, defective Hebrew, and wicked bargaining skills.


At the time, however, I couldn't yet appreciate the Golani level of IDF training Hashem was giving me. It was tough being the only kid in class with parents who had a funny accent, even though most of the kids in my class were Jewish! I used to wonder why we couldn't be more American, especially when my mom did things that made me want to run away, like sneak drinks and snacks into the movie theater. Of course, I can guarantee you that if I were to go to a movie today, I would totally do the same thing! I ain't payin' no $4 for no cup of ice!


In short, I think there's a certain special quality that living in Israel gives a person. What's interesting is that this Israeliness never leaves a person, even though they might move out of the country. All former Israelis will always live as Israelis, no matter where they live. It's in their blood.


Back when I used to watch TV, I loved comedy shows. There was one actor who came up with a very politically incorrect and very funny list of ways to know if you're a redneck. I must have watched it a hundred times, but I can't think of one example that he mentioned. I just remember that I laughed a lot.


Anyhow, I've decided to use his technique and make my own list of ways to identify if you're an Israeli. Here goes:


If you find yourself yelling at the person on the phone because they're not right next to you, you must be an Israeli.


If you begin to re-use zip-lock bags because they're more expensive than the plastic sandwich bags that disintegrate when you look at them, you must be an Israeli.


If you think you can run the country better than the Prime Minister, you must be an Israeli.


If you start to save wrapping paper from gifts you've received so you can wrap new gifts with them, you must be an Israeli.


If you answer in the negative with a little click of the tongue and a nearly imperceptible shake of the head, you must be an Israeli.


If you make the famous “wait” hand gesture in exaggerated fashion when someone is annoying you, you must be an Israeli.


If you add an “h” sound to every word that starts with a vowel, you must be an Israeli.


If you get into a shouting match with the store clerk and part as best friends five minutes later, you must be an Israeli.


If you're caught in a bargaining war and your victim starts convulsing and bleeding out of his ears, you must be an Israeli.


If you put hummus on everything, you must be an Israeli.


I admit- I've done all of the above, except for the last one. My husband does that one instead. What I realized is that I grew up with all of the above, and only now do I realize that the way my parents behaved was because Israel never left them.


I also realize something else: at some point, many of us start behaving just like our parents. And if we don't, we still have those tendencies that we constantly fight with. This is why we need to be super-duper careful with how we behave around our kids. Believe me, I mess up every day. I lose my cool after 30 minutes of telling the wall to get in the shower. I can only mediate so many fights per hour without getting fed up. I also don't feel like being a short-order cook every night, especially when I go to the trouble of making something that's more time-consuming.


Even though my kids are young, I already see certain personality traits and behaviors in them that are exactly like mine or my husband's. That's incredibly frightening. How in the world do kids mimic their parents at such a young age? Is there a genetic code for character flaws that the scientists have figured out, but don't want to tell us? Is it osmosis? Radiation from cell phone towers? Vaccines??


Is there a way to stop this vicious cycle, or as I like to call it, the gift that keeps on giving? Rav Arush answers with a definite YES! Here's his two-point strategy: One, read The Garden of Education, the ultimate guide to healthy parenting. Two, listen to Rav Shalom Arush's amazing parenting CD's, All in the Family and Educating Children with Love, translated and narrated in English by Rav Lazer Brody.

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