14 February 2012

Thoughts on Sponja

An American friend of mine who lives in a small town in Israel once observed that "when we want recreation, we hop in the car and go somewhere."
"What about the people who can't afford to travel?" I asked.
"They do a lot of sponja," she said.

There is something oddly holiday-like about pouring water all over the floor - especially in a country where water use is so carefully measured - and chasing it around.
Sponja is what Israelis do instead of mopping or vaccuuming. There are also miniature, handheld squeegees for countertops.

I heard from Rav Lorencz shlit"a (the younger) that when Ben-Gurion landed in Israel, he was directed to a family in Tel Aviv (then a hill of sand). His hostess, an imposing, strong woman, served him tea, in what may well have been the only teacup in the house. He dropped the teacup, and it fell to the sand floor, breaking. He was terrified.
"Bring the sponjadorlo!" cried his hostess. Ben-Gurion thought sponjadorlo might be a dog or a weapon -- something suitable for punishing those who broke teacups.
The hostess's daughter brought a a sponja stick and began cleaning up. The hostess endeavored to engage the trembling Ben-Gurion in conversation.
"First, the sponjadorlo," he pleaded, anxious to have his punishment over with.
She pointed to the sponja stick her daughter was wielding, indicating that this was a sponjadorlo.
...the moral of the story being not to fear unnecessarily.


  1. Yeah, I don't do sponja as often as I should, but when I do, I delight in having a legitimate excuse to pour water all over the floor.

  2. -One of the secrets to Israeli sponga is that Israelis start by dashing the water into the corners, instead of pouring it out in the middle of the room.

    -Not all sponja-cloth sticks are squeegees. Check. Trying to squeegee a floor with foam will get you only so far.

    -The Gra says that Boaz noticed Ruth's intelligence in that, unlike the other gleaners, she headed directly for the far end of the field and gleaned her way back, so she wouldn't have to shlep her gleanings in both directions. This is also the intelligent way to do sponja.

    -It is possible to sponja the floors and raise three houseplants (including a fern) on nothing but clean recycled water.

    Q. The Americans are wondering why cleaning the floor merits so much discussion.
    A. There is a lot of dust in Israel. We even have dreamlike, golden-white days when there is so much limestone in the air that it smells like chalk and all traffic noises are hushed.