It’s mid-winter. In the deep past it was really no big deal, in fact, decades ago when I was a student in yeshiva, I don’t think there was anything even resembling mid-winter vacation. There was summer vacation and that was it for the year.
The fact is, the only way you could stay home from school in those days was if you had a sore throat or could successfully convince your mother you had a sore throat. But how many times can you get away with that? I think I once had the measles, which kept me home for two weeks. I’m not sure if that was during the winter.
But all that has changed. In fact, that situation was altered years ago. Today, mid-winter vacation has become a serious endeavor, even a booming business. Hopefully, there will be a good number of chizuk trips to Israel to stand with our people as well as opportunities to demonstrate our support for the IDF troops currently at war with the awful enemy, Hamas.
Of course, every time I find myself broaching this subject, I remind myself that it is vital to note that the overwhelming majority of us are staying home and trying to figure out how to entertain the kids on those few days off. The snow flurries that fell in New York last weekend was pretty entertaining for a while, wasn’t it?
I suppose you would have to reside in Rockland County or further upstate if you wanted to watch your kids play or shovel more than a half an inch of snow. The Monsey crowd had a good five inches, which to small or young children can easily pass for a foot.
A lot of other folks are heading south in search of warmer weather, the part of the country that this article is being written from. On that matter, I can elucidate on several items as mid-winter vacation approaches. The first is that while it’s warmer down here in South Florida, during the last two weeks it’s been far from warm. Come to think of it, the sun has been playing hide-and-seek with us for the past two weeks.
In fact, last Shabbos, as you may have heard in the news, a small tornado ripped through Fort Lauderdale, which is all of fifteen miles from here, creating sparks as it hit power lines and caused property damage.
We are playing a sort of peek-a-boo game with our trips down south. That is, we fly in and out, in and out, several times a year. The trips are a sort of meteorological roulette. Sometimes the weather is warm and sunny, other times it’s cool and rainy. No guarantees.
There is an interesting dynamic to this winter vacation idea that continues to evolve, especially for grandparents these days. Last Shabbos, we were walking home from shul with two couples that reside near us, and the subject turned to the intersession break, which can be a couple of weeks, and what the kids and grandkids will be doing during their time off from yeshiva.
One couple commented that their kids will be traveling most of the time and will arrive at their winter home exhausted just in time for Shabbos so they can be waited on by their doting parents and grandparents.
Another said their kids and grandkids will be piling into their three-bedroom condo and they have no idea who will be sleeping where, but that never stopped them from getting together in the past.
Kids just love it when Bubby and Zaide have a place in Florida that they can visit whenever they want. In fact, they are probably looking forward to a time when they get a little older and can fly down to Florida or over to Israel with their friends and tell their parents and grandparents to have a nice week wherever they plan to go.
The people we met over Shabbos are having their children and grandchildren move in with them for the week of winter vacation. I’m sure many people are overjoyed at the prospect of a family vacation in Florida, but I did not see anyone jumping for joy or clicking their heels.
The fact is, there are times when the homeowners (not us, but people like us) are getting ready to squeeze into a corner of their home or else pack a bag and head elsewhere, even back north, no matter how cold and snowy it is.
For those of you studying daf yomi, you know that the discussion of late is regarding what happens when you find yourself in possession of an item that changes over time, or whose name changes in some fashion. The Gemara discusses this in context of a stolen item and what shape or form it must be returned to its rightful owner.
This discussion has little to do with the upcoming mid-winter break except in the case of how we refer to it. Most people, whether in conversation or in their advertisements, refer to this upcoming vacation as “Yeshiva Week.” I’ve thought about this description for a number of years and have come to the conclusion that we should call it “No Yeshiva Week.”
After all, the “highlight” of this period is the fact that there will be no yeshiva classes during this time. So much for proper-sounding names. Whichever way you want to call it, Yeshiva Week or No Yeshiva Week is best known for the temporary upheaval it causes to the routines we’ve accustomed to since the end of Sukkos.
So here we go again. No school for the kids for anywhere from five to ten days, just enough time for them to get used to having no school, only to have to reverse course a few days later.
It might be slightly out-of-date, but for a long time there was a debate about whether the yeshivas should give time off from school during winter break at all. There aren’t many delicate ways to describe the dilemma they encountered when considering that if the boys and girls had the same days off, they could possibly meet and fraternize, thereby undoing all the efforts to keep them apart.
What was supposed to be an easy solution turned into an even bigger dilemma. The short-term solution was to give the various schools different weeks of vacation, but that created an even more implacable problem since families with both boys and girls were stuck at home during winter break.
The rules for winter break, a.k.a. “Yeshiva Week” have softened somewhat as those in charge apparently decided to deal with the situation in a more practical and pragmatic fashion. The problem, however, remains, as I recently learned that my neighbor is leaving for Orlando with her daughters one day, followed by her husband and sons two days later.
There is a whole host of yeshiva parents who have told me over the years that they would never think of going with their family to Orlando or Miami Beach during winter break, but end up going anyway. They say the yeshivas have given them “no choice.” That’s a bit of a lame excuse if you ask me, because no one is forcing you to go. But they claim they don’t want their kids to feel left out.
I think, given the choices out there, the best-case scenario would be that if you have a place in Florida, you invite the grandkids to stay so they can at least enjoy some sunny weather. That way they can pretend to have some independence and you can pretend to not be watching them. Either way, have a nice few days off.
Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at 5TJT.com. Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.