My Beautiful Home by Fraidy Mandel



Fraidy Mandel is a JWRP City Leader for Aish Toronto.

Jennifer Lopez, or 'J. Lo," as she is known by her legions of crazed fans, has a Youtube video tour of her closet which has racked up an astounding 1,762,246 views. Aside for the enormous amount of shoes that she owns, there are layers and layers of jeans, neatly organized and folded by presumably an army of well paid professional jean layers whom she plucked out of obscurity to bestow the great honor of being JLo clothes carers (trademarked).

I don't think they have that many pairs of jeans in an actual jeans store. Why does she need so many pairs of jeans? They all look exactly the same. And even if they didn't, how many different ones does she need? Her entire dressing room seems bigger than my entire home which houses six of us comfortably. 

The public is obsessed with Kim and Kanye. Every move, fashion choice, nuggets of wisdom (or lack of) is duly recorded for posterity so we can learn from such valued role models. There is also a video for their home. There are multiple couches and living rooms. Why? How many times do they have to sit in different rooms a day?

My house has a joined kitchen, dinette, and living room space all in one. 

Then I have another room for the official dining room table. I have lots of full bathrooms.  I have two upstairs, one half bath on the main floor, and another full one in the basement. I almost have one for each of us! We have three bedrooms. One large master bedroom and two smaller ones. My girls sleep on a bunk bed. The bunk bed gives us some extra room to move around and even perform some cartwheels. My boys' bedroom basically looks like a line up of cribs. My two year old is in a crib and my one year old is in a pack 'n play. That leaves room for only one dresser so I fit a dresser in the hallway. 

And we are happy.

During the holidays, my parents, brother, brother and sister in law, and nephew came to stay for a week. My brother and sister in law slept with their son in our one room basement. And my parents and brother slept at a neighbor. We all ate together for the meals with our guests. 

I admit that although I have plenty of room to fit everyone and more I still find myself dreaming of having a house just like some of our friends. I wonder what it would be like to have lots of money and lots of rooms. I wonder what it would be like to have a full time nanny cleaning my house until it shines and waking up to a clean sink in the morning. I dream of how beautiful my house would look if I had crown moulding and perfectly white couches. Oh, and no homemade murals, designed by my children, on my walls!  I dream of a balcony double or even triple the size of mine with stairs leading to the backyard. Now I have to go all the way down to the basement to get to the backyard! Oy! 

And then I heard the tragic news of the passing of Rebbetzin Henny Machlis of Jerusalem at the age of 58.  She was so unique, especially in such a cynical day and age where we care so much about design and aesthetics.  She and her husband, Rabbi Mordechai Machlis, lived in a small Jerusalem apartment with their 13 children. They had about 300 people join them every Shabbat for almost 3 decades, every week. They hosted Jews of all stripes, from every imaginable background- vagrants, the homeless, mentally ill, Yeshiva students, religious, not religious. People sleep in their van overnight and many others sprawled out on their living room floors. 

Their house has no crown molding, no shiny floors, and definitely not 4 bathrooms. They have tables and tables lined up in their living room with as many chairs as they can possibly fit. They even set up tables on their balcony to accommodate more guests. Rebbetzin Machlis dreamed of enclosing her balcony so that she can host as many people in the winter as she did in the summer. 

She was woken up many times throughout the night and not just for her children but for the many mentally challenged guests they had. They embraced them with patience and love. 

My dreams of the aesthetic are so fleeting. They do have value and we are not to negate the physicality but one needs to be reminded about what are the priorities in life.

It is unusual to have a woman in our days exemplify these ordinary qualities. I aspire to be even just a fraction of who she was. 

That's why I don't want J'Lo's closet. I don't want her thousands of shoes and jeans and coats. I don't want her fancy dressing room. I just want to give. I want to have a car to give people a lift. I want to have a table to have guests and family to sit by it. I want to have a kitchen to cook for them all. I want to have a sink full of dishes to remind me of how lucky I am to have someone to clean up after. I want to have a small balcony so that we can stand close to each other to keep us warm. I want to want to give. And most important, I want my kids to grow up really enjoying the small things they have. 

Because no matter how beautiful my house is, it's only as beautiful because of the people in it.

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