Shiputzim

When we made Aliyah back in 2003, the 11 of us, upon our arrival, went directly from Ben Gurion Airport to our newly built home in Mitzpeh Yericho. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Straight to Mitzpeh Yericho. We have been there ever since.

We were very fortunate, on many levels. Back in 2002, land was still available for purchase in Mitzpeh. Land prices were not astronomical. The dollars from the sale of our Teaneck home would go a long way back then. And we found a GREAT building contractor (Kablan) using Romanian workers who designed and built for us a beautiful new home (which was sight unseen for us during its construction!). We have been living in that home ever since. We are eternally grateful.

It is now 2022, two years into Corona, and a lot has changed since that day when we first arrived. My wife and I are not in our 40s anymore. We are in our 60s. Instead of 1 grandchild, we are Blessed today with 24, most of who are living in Israel, many even living in Mitzpeh Yericho. Instead of 9 children living at home, only our two youngest, Israeli-born children are still living at home with us. Everyone else has flown the coop. The cycle of life.

The pandemic has thrown so many of us for a loop. Until March of 2020, I was a successful tour guide. The sky was the limit. At least I used to think that it was until the skies were mostly closed for tourism. Without work for practically two years, I maneuvered here and there like many others to make ends meet.

It was time to downsize.

Propitiously, only a few months before the pandemic hit, our daughter with her husband and four children sold their home in Elizabeth, New Jersey making Aliyah. Initially, they had all kinds of plans for eventually purchasing, within a year or so, a new home somewhere in Israel. Until then they would live with us.

But then Corona hit.

And like so many others, it was back to the drawing board.

A few ideas were floated around for a while until we finally came up with a plan which would both allow me to downsize and would also allow my daughter’s family to have the sorely needed space they required to live comfortably.

We decided simply to transform our single-family home into a two-family. Thank you, Corona.

To successfully do that, we needed to do shiputzim.

As I write these words, we are still in the middle of shiputzim. Interestingly enough, the source of this oft-used modern-day Hebrew word is the Aramaic language. In the Talmud (Yevamot:63) Rav Papa states that if you find something in your home that needs fixing, you should repair it, but at the same time he also advises against shiputz – going beyond the simple required repair. He continues to say that if in the end you anyway decide to do shiputzim – to do more than the simple repair, then at the very least don’t go so far as to start knocking down walls. Rav Papa explains his reasoning by basically explaining that most shiputzim end up costing you much more than you originally bargained for, and so unless you are prepared for a serious financial hit, stay away from doing shiputzim.

Needless to say, like so many others before me throughout the generations who have not heeded Rav Papa’s warning, neither did we.

Most Israelis who have gone down the road of shiputzim know exactly what I’m talking about. From dealing with the Israeli Bank system for a loan, the suppliers (“tomorrow”), the kablan, security, workers, etc…

Don’t misunderstand me. The end product, at least in our situation, is beautiful. But the journey! Oy vey! Trial by fire!

Making Aliyah is a process. Some are successful at it sooner than later, while for others it can take much longer.

For me, now that I am going through the joy of shiputzim, I can finally consider myself a TRUE Israeli.

About the Author
Rabbi Mordechai Weiss was born in Miami Beach, Florida, and served as an emissary for Chabad in Teaneck, New Jersey for 21 years. Together with his family, he made Aliyah in July 2003 and is the author of "You Come For One Reason But Stay For Another." He is a licensed Tour Guide, a real estate agent for Noam Homes, a father of 12 children, and a grandfather of many. He resides in Mitzpeh Yericho, Israel.
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