David Brent

In Israel, the Curtains Come with Torah Included Free

Today the curtain man came to our new apartment to put up the new curtains. I have nothing against curtains. I believe in privacy and sometimes taking naps in the afternoon and wanting to cut out the light. But I have outdoor roll down shutters that accomplish both of these things much more efficiently than curtains. My wife has paid good money for curtains because they look nice.

I am morally opposed to spending money on items that serve no function other than decoration.

It appears that I do not make the rules in my household.

I knew that I did not get to make the rules when I lived in the USA. But I thought that by making Aliyah this would change. From what I read in the papers about the Middle East, men seem to be the king of the castle. It turns out not so much in Jewish castles.

In spite of this drawback, I am still happy about making Aliyah. And in spite of the fact that I hated having curtains put on my windows, I really like the man who installed them.

He taught me Torah while he taught me how to properly drape the curtains so that they look their best. I told him how happy I am with my new apartment and I praised my wife. He quoted:

שלושה דברים הגורמים הנאה וקורת רוח. אישה נאה דירה נאה וכלים נאים מרחיבים דעתו של אדם

I think it means something like there are three things that give happiness to a man: a pretty wife; a nice house; and a good set of tools. A good set of tools must include a Porsche. I don’t have a Porsche but I do have a pretty wife. I am not complaining. I am only saying that Judaism teaches that God owes me a Porsche.

But what I love about living in Israel is that I learn Torah everywhere I go. My teachers do not consider themselves to be religious. They claim that they are secular. But whether it is the curtain installer or the waiter, a lot of people here seem to be able to quote Talmud; it is in the air, it is in the water and it is in the land — the holy land of Israel.

Yesterday, together with all of our so called secular neighbors, we had a special apartment building dedication. Our apartment building has gone through a renovation and we needed to affix a mezuzah on the new entrance. All the neighbors agreed to wait until I returned from the USA to hold the ceremony so that I could be included.

My neighbors and their families and the contractors and even an Arab family that was involved in the construction gathered together in my apartment for a few prayers and blessings. The Arab women wore hijabs. The Arab men put on kippot. I had never heard of a special Jewish ceremony for a new apartment building. But my wife brought a rabbi and he brought us special pamphlets that had been printed specifically for this occasion. It was all in Hebrew so I didn’t understand much of what I read. I said “amen” when everyone else did but I was secretly praying for a Porsche. Then we all went downstairs and I was given the honor of affixing the mezuzah. Afterwards, we returned to our apartment for kiddush and a little food and dessert.

Dedication Ceremony
Dedication Ceremony

Israel is not perfect. But sometimes it seems to me that it is the closest thing to perfect on this planet. I certainly felt it when all my neighbors gathered together in our apartment. I have never heard of such a ceremony being held in the USA. In Israel, it is common. It is natural here to take the time to praise God or learn a little Torah wherever you go. There is a genuine desire among its citizens to infuse holiness into the world.

I guess infusing the world with holiness is a little like putting curtains over windows that already have shutters — to take what is practical and elevate it.

My curtains have taught me a lot.

About the Author
David Brent is a NASA engineer with a master's and bachelor's from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology turned candy entrepreneur. He made aliya in the spring of 2013. David commutes between Israel, where his heart is, and Florida, where his business is.