So you’re sending your son away to dorm, finally, but it didn’t occur to you that you’re going to have to update your school-supplies list from things like 72 pencils, five different color folders, and that pre-hardened glue that the stores are selling as “glue sticks.” So here’s a list that might be helpful, depending on how you define the word “helpful.”
I’m probably forgetting some stuff, but, then again, so will you.
Food — Yes, the yeshiva provides food, but they don’t provide food to eat between the times that they serve food. So what’s even the point? Also, a lot of times the yeshiva serves food that your child doesn’t like, such as yeshiva food.
Money — for more food. Now you might say, “Why do I want to give him money for food? I can buy him food myself for a much better price!” The answer is that any food that you give him he’s going to finish on the first day, and then he’s going to be stuck without food or money for the rest of the month. Money is just time-release food, procrastinated by laziness and the fact that most stores aren’t open at two o’clock in the morning. Or he can spend it on knasos (fines).
Whatever he’s going to be selling to the other bachurim — every guy has something. It’s like a shuk, with incredibly exorbitant prices, and haggling is allowed. Some people say that yeshiva might not adequately prepare you for the real world, but everyone’s selling something over there. And I don’t think this happens in the public schools.
Thirty identical shirts — label every single one, because everyone else will have the same 30 identical shirts, and sometimes people share closets.
Suit jacket — A suit jacket has many uses: he can wear it to davening, he can wear it when he’s chilly but doesn’t want to seem less macho because sweaters are for grandmothers, and he can wear it to secular studies to show that he doesn’t care.
Suitcases for yeshiva — which he’s going to use twice the entire year — when he goes and when he comes back — and then the rest of the year they’ll be tied up under his bed in the dorm. When he comes home for the off-Shabbosos, he’s either going to bring all his laundry home in a laundry bag without considering what he’s going to use to schlep all the clean laundry back (except maybe the same laundry bag), or he’s going to bring home his Shabbos clothes in a garment bag, with a pair of undergarments stuffed in one of the pockets. Of the garment bag, hopefully.
Maybe send two laundry bags — one for clean laundry, and one for dirty laundry, and he can just switch off and he never has to put his clothes away. Like at home!
Entire 20-volume travel Shas that he won in a raffle — If he’s not going to travel with the entire Shas, what’s the point?
One big volume of the Gemara that he’s learning that year — but not one that you already have that belonged to his brother that has writing in the margins. He wants to put his own taitch words in the margins. In case his brother’s taitch words were wrong or, more likely, completely indecipherable.
“Rebbe, can we learn a different perek? This perek is all turned up at the edges.”
“No, sorry. I only know this perek.”
Pens — like in camp, so they can write home. Just kidding; yeshivas don’t make the kids write home. Though they totally should. This is a missed opportunity that is only occurring to me now, after 13 years as a high-school writing teacher. If you want the parents to see how their kids are really doing in school, make the students write the report cards.
Sports equipment — Usually, about one kid per class remembers to bring a basketball, and they all have to timeshare it. This inevitably means that some of the kids get their time with it during class, because for some reason there’s more class time than recess time.
Alarm clock — There’s no P.A. system to wake everyone up, and I have no idea why. There’s just a vekker with a washing cup. (How does he wake up?) If your son wants to avoid getting drenched in the morning, he needs to set his alarm a few minutes earlier, and maybe go drench the vekker. (Oh, I guess that’s how he wakes up.)
Washing cup — Your son wants to have this near his bed, so the vekker can pick it up in the morning and spill it on him, which might not count halachically unless he gets your son’s hands three times. Your son may have to hide your washing cup somewhere the vekker won’t find it, like in his hat box. Or on top of the door.
A clip-on fan — This will give his pillow a perpetual cool side, and also give him a pretty good idea of which direction his yarmulke went overnight.
Pajamas — in which the shirt does not match the pants — in fact, forget the shirt altogether. Your son doesn’t need a shirt pocket in his pajamas. If he doesn’t carry a pen during the day, he’s not going to at night. The kids like wearing sweatpants and undershirts. He wears a white shirt all day; no pajama shirt you buy will be as yeshiva-appropriate as a white undershirt.
Reading lamp — for reading in bed, and for holding down the pages of the book so the pillow fan doesn’t keep turning them.
Flashlight — or one of those candles on a little base with a snuffer, if it’s a really old-school school. Your son can use this to get around the dorm, search for chametz (both right before Pesach and otherwise), and even use it in the shower when someone turns the lights off on him, which happens a lot.
A candle won’t work for that last thing.
Boots — to put on when he walks the ten feet from the dorm to the main building, over snow that is already trodden down by everyone else. He can also use them to store his washing cup, or, if they’re galoshes, as a washing cup.
Sewing kit — he has no idea how to use it — or if he does, this can be his parnassah! He can be the school Bubby! He might think it’s embarrassing, but if someone can bind, someone can sew. It’s the same thing. Maybe they can share tools! Except for the drill. And the lighter. And the duct tape.
Schluff koppel — Should be Breslov-inspired. Or have one of those pompoms that flops over that he has to keep blowing out of his face when he talks in the hallways after lights out.
Menorah — This comes in handy come Chanukah, and also to carry around the hallways if he doesn’t have a flashlight.
Purim costume — otherwise he will go to a thrift store before Purim, and his costume will be “guy in an orange suit with lice.”
Toothpaste — You only need one tube for the whole year, probably. Any money that your kid costs you in food, he’s going to save you in toothpaste.
Toothbrush — obviously. Maybe you can also get a toothbrush case of some sort, unless you think all the bachurim should just keep them on racks in the bathroom and remember whose is whose.
“Mine is the blue one.”
“Mine is the blue one!”
I suggest you buy him a pink one.
Shower slippers — The same athlete’s foot has been passed back and forth around the yeshiva since your father went there. Should make “flip…flip…flip” sounds when he walks.
Bathrobe — You might have to buy this, because no kid I know has a bathrobe until he starts dorming. When I first started dorming, in 12th grade, my father lent me his bathrobe. He never saw it again. I still have it actually, but it’s too tall for my closet, so I keep it in the closet where my wife keeps her dresses. And my kittel. I never go into that closet, so I haven’t seen that robe in years. I used to keep it on a coat rack near the front door in case I answered the door in my pajamas, until I realized that I can just answer the door in my trench coat.
GUEST: “Oh, I didn’t realize you were about to head out. Can I walk you?”
ME: “Um … OK, I guess.”
GUEST: “You’re not wearing shoes.”
ME (relieved): “I’m not wearing shoes.”
If you don’t want to get him a robe for yeshiva, a trench coat will do.
Hand towel — To wear over his shoulder when he walks to the bathroom.
Deodorant — Do not get this confused with glue stick.
Air freshener — I don’t want to talk about this.
Linens — Two sets, if you want him to even consider changing his sheets. He still won’t change them, but occasionally he’ll remark to his friends, “My mother gave me two sheets, which is weird. I don’t have two beds.”
He can also change it if it hasn’t dried from the morning’s water fight.
Detergent — Make sure to tell him to separate whites and colors, even though the only colors he has are socks and pants, and he doesn’t really wash his pants. He’s eventually going to figure out that if he doesn’t separate them, he can save money for more food and knasos.
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of six books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.