Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – Visually in Paired

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Operation Inspiration

The one thing my readers can count on is hard-hitting journalism. When I zero in on a topic I’m exhaustive in my research. In my case, that means I research the subject until I’m tired of doing so.

This time I decided to tackle the widespread issue that affects millions of people worldwide. It’s a scourge of people everywhere, with losses that cannot even be calculated. People whisper about it in hushed tones, often afraid to admit it even to themselves. Unfortunately, it happens in the frum community and it needs to be addressed. I’m talking about the problem of socks disappearing from the dryer.

Think about it. You do laundry. Countless times a week… it mounts and grows. It’s like the kids wear different clothes every single day! Well, at least when they’re not quarantined and home from school. For some reason, though, when you go to get the clothing from the dryer, almost invariably you’ve got one or more mateless socks, sadly alone, lamenting the shidduch crisis in the clothing world.

This question has baffled scientists and engineers alike. It’s been asked by mothers and fathers, doctors and lawyers, and even cleaning help. The truth is that there are many answers, some more enlightening than others.

Photos from the laundry room of an apartment complex in England went viral in 2018 when it was revealed that there is a secret spot in some dryers with a front panel where items can slip while water is being drained from the dryer. They found a huge pile of socks and even a credit card! Even if that’s not the kind of dryer you have, sometimes things fall into the lint trap. But that doesn’t explain the full force of this powerful phenomenon.

Sometimes, the missing socks – hold your breath here, people – don’t actually make it into the dryer to begin with! That’s right. Though you think the dryer is the culprit, it isn’t. Appliance experts contend that socks generally follow a sock-free diet. But socks can be stuck to the walls of the washing machine, too. When they’re wet, they can even cling to the top or sides where they are easily missed. They may surface in another load of dried laundry, leading you to believe you’ve lost another sock when, in reality, you’ve found one.

Inside the washing machine, there are also crevices where items can fall or slip through. Each machine has its own quirks, and socks and other items may disappear there. But wait, there’s an even more shocking and chilling truth you may have missed.

You see, those forlorn little socks may not be the victims of a hungry dryer or an over fed washer at all. Sometimes those socks never even made it to the laundry machines. That’s right, I said it.

Maybe a hamper spilled over and a sock scampered under one of the machines. Maybe that poor, missing sock is under a bed, or in a pant leg somewhere, to be found the next time you wear those pants or clean under the bed. And all this time you were blaming technology when it wasn’t the dryer’s fault at all.

Some people have gone to great lengths to avoid this issue, buying all the same socks. You still have the issue of socks missing, but if you get an even number of them missing, you don’t realize anything is wrong so you don’t feel bad. But of course, there’s much more at stake here than socks.

Life is like a laundry room and those mismatched socks are the moments when we feel things are going wrong. Quite often we place blame on the wrong people or things and don’t realize that we were careless ourselves. When something doesn’t work out as we hoped, we can start rationalizing that so-and-so led to the problem or it was the result of some larger cosmic issue.

There are times when we despair of finding what we’re looking for because we imagine some black hole somewhere that swallows up all hope. But that’s silly, because there are just as many logical explanations that we can do something about. We can try to imagine the various scenarios that may have led to the “problem” we’re facing and often there’s a solution we haven’t thought of. Just as you might find that missing sock balled up under the bed, you might not be out of luck with whatever you’re going through. The solution might simply be to humble yourself a bit and look at the situation from another angle.

So, my lesson about socks missing in the dryer is really one of hope and redemption. We’re not doomed to lose things, but encouraged to look deeper and think things through. We’re not all washed up; we just need to look at things with a clean perspective and everything will turn out fine.

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