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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/22/10

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Dear Rachel,

I am writing to comment on the Chronicles column of 12-23 that was signed Just my two cents. The letter-writer suggested to parents that they not wait until they’re gone to distribute their “wealth” to their offspring and for them to have the foresight to allocate their possessions as they see fit while they are still “here.”

Whether the writer was aware of it or not, s/he spoke of two distinctly separate issues, making it sound as thought they were one and the same. In reality one is a giving-in-person process, while the other – where the writer talks about leaving written instructions – would come down to an issue of inheritance.

By the virtue of a person’s passing, his or her worldly goods become an inheritance, thereafter distributable via guidelines set in a will or/and as halachically mandated – whereas living parents, or any person actually, can grant any of their assets/possessions to whomever they wish, since there is no “inheritance” to speak of as of yet.

This has no bearing on the matter of quibbling among siblings; my point is that there is definitely more leeway in “giving” as you wish while actively being able to do so.

Practical minded

Dear Practical,

Thank you for your clarification. There are many variables on this delicate subject, probably enough to fill many pages.

A recent experience of a close acquaintance has much to teach. She and her siblings undertook the delicate task of emptying their deceased parent’s dwelling – their childhood home in a distant city. This was a laborious project, yet gratifying at the same time since long forgotten remembrances were dredged up. Numerous items stumbled upon unleashed a flood of vivid memories.

Following several days of sorting, decision-making, reminiscing and packing, many items deemed not worth the trouble to carry or transport were left behind with a final and emotional farewell to a “landmark” they would in all likelihood never visit again.

One of the things my friend had brought back with her for personal use was an electrical vegetable juicer that she had found sitting on an upper shelf of their mom’s kitchen pantry, still packed in its original colorful carton. She decided against the ice-cream maker and popcorn popper (as depicted on the cartons’ exterior), and no one else there at the time seemed even remotely interested in owning them.

Unpacking back in her own home, my friend stored the juicer away in a cabinet. Weeks later it was prominently hauled out with the anticipation and satisfaction one gets when acquiring a good buy at a flea market. That feeling was not to last, though – for when she opened the box, her heart dropped.

With utter fascination and emotions tugging at every fiber of her being, my friend pulled out item after item – a hand-painted wooden egg, a tapestry designed cosmetic case filled with odds and ends, an envelope stuffed with hand-written recipes and some old photographs, several rolls of old collected pennies, and on and on. It was like a treasure unearthed in an old attic and she could feel and sense her mother’s nearness in every newly discovered trinket.

Reality suddenly hit hard, throwing icy cold water on the warmth that had been enveloping her. What about the other boxes left in place, the ones that were presumed to be holding an ice-cream maker and other such gadgets? The answer to that, dear readers, is destined to remain forever a mystery. The house had by this time long been cleaned out and was in the process of renovation.

We don’t truly know why things happen the way they do, and in that vein one can argue that things are meant to be. But one can also argue in favor of our freedom to make the right choices. In other words, if we are going to store things away for a rainy day or just for convenience sake, let’s choose to alert at least one close someone in the family. (Discarding real junk every once in a while wouldn’t hurt either.)

We live and learn every day. My friend’s experience has taught me, at least, that my excess clutter (which for some reason I can’t bring myself to part with) may one day become another’s treasure trove.

Thank you for the invaluable lesson, my friend.

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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