ou shall set up judges and law enforcement officials for yourself in all your gates….” (Devarim 16:18)

Rav Chaim Vital says that the word “gates” refers to the gateways through which a person connects to his world: his eyes, ears, and mouth. A person has to appoint judges and police to oversee his own senses; these will filter everything he absorbs. (Rav Shalom Meir Valach, Maayan Hashvui)


On the first morning of bein hazmanim, I woke up with a sick feeling invading my consciousness: The boys start vacation today.

I tried self-talk. C’mon, Faigy, they’re your kids. Are you telling me you’re scared of them?

Well, that was demeaning, because the answer was yes. All my sons under one roof for three weeks? I wasn’t scared; I was petrified!

Yet since motherhood comes with these lovely milestones, I began practicing Lamaze. (I’m a staunch believer in Lamaze for child-raising years, more than for child-bearing years.)

I was getting dressed when I heard shrieks and hysterical laughter. Dashing out of my room, my shirt on backward (kashur l’shikchah? I’ll never forget this scene!), I discovered my sons racing around the house chasing… an alligator.

I am not prone to hyperbole. This was no lizard. It had four huge legs with claws and an enormous snout and was merrily slithering its way around the sanctuary of my home, bumping into furniture as it went.

I screamed, jumped on the couch, (“No jumping on the couch, Mommy,” Yitzi managed to point out), and yelled at my sons to go get my upstairs neighbor. My voice was so loud he could probably hear me himself.

To make a long and horrifying story short, my neighbor caught the alligator/lizard and took it back to where it belonged (the jungle?). Being a very nice person, he never pointed out to my husband that he was married to a lunatic.

Sitting my progeny down, I soberly told them that if they ever pulled such a stunt again, they’d have to find a new mother.

Then I went back to my room, locked the door, and prayed for Rosh Chodesh Elul.

The Gemara tells us (Kesubos 5b) that ears can receive messages the most easily. Often, a person may not even realize that he’s hearing something that’s seeping in and poisoning his neshamah.

The Gemara in Sotah (8a) says that a person sins with what his eyes see. As Rashi says in Bamidbar (15:39): “His eyes see and his heart desires.”

And the mouth [can also be a source of sin]... as Shlomo Hamelech says in Mishlei (18:21): “Life and death are in the hands of the tongue.”

Snips and snails and puppy dog tails, that’s what my boys’ room is made of.

I’ve hosted hamsters, chickens, a dead snake (don’t ask!), and a rabbit. This past week, my son brought home a kitten because its poor owners needed a vacation (from it?). He assured them that his mother would love to foster a kitten for a week.

I’ve made my boys build fences for the rabbit, which she promptly dug underneath, have employed baby gates for the kitten, which she squeezed through, and I’m contemplating double screen doors like they have for the lions in the safari — only one door can open at a time, so no alligators can come in.

Nothing has helped and at present I think I need a vacation. Perhaps the kitten’s owners could host my sons for a week.

Now it’s Elul, and we’re reciting Selichos. Someone who doesn’t have judges and policemen guarding these three senses can say all the Selichos he wants, but his neshamah is clogged, and his teshuvah will be that much harder.

Elul has come and my male progeny have gone back to school. I’m slowly recovering, but it’s a long traumatic process.

A couple of days ago I got a phone call from a distant relative. He’s giving away an old iPad and kindly offered it to us. We have computers in my house (this article’s proof of that), but they all have filters and I didn’t want to open our vistas to the iPad mania, so I politely refused.

“But it’s so old it can’t do anything,” he insisted.

An old one can always be replaced with a new one, so I firmly held my ground.

I may be able to unlock the dead bolts on my screen doors now that summer’s over, but I’ll never be able to let down my guard on what enters my home.  (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 605)