Learning from Latkes
In Chelm, the city of fools, it was an undisputed fact that Rivka made the finest latkes. They were fluffy as a cloud on the inside, perfectly crispy outside, and always came out of the oil golden brown. Everyone always wanted to know how she did it, but Rivka kept it a secret from everyone. One year, her neighbour, Sorela, had enough. She needed to know the secret! She dispatched her faithful husband Herschel to spy on Rivka as the latkes were made.
Herschel snuck up to Rivka’s window undetected and started to take diligent and accurate notes. Writing down everything she did, how long she did it for, exactly how much of any ingredient she used. He returned to his wife and their kitchen with the recipe for the most perfect latkes!
Sorela began to cook. “What’s the first step?”
Herschel read aloud “Take 5 potatoes.”
Sorela looked up in shock. “5 Potatoes? Are we rich? We’ll use 2 potatoes, that’s a much more reasonable number. What’s next?”
Herschel consulted his notes. “Take 1 onion and slice it very fine.”
Sorela grimaced. “Sliced onion? You want me to cry? I’ll chop it like we always do. Next?”
“Crack open and add in 3 eggs.”
“Herschel, you know I hate eggs…” and so on and so on. Sorela cooked up the latkes, ‘following’ the stolen recipe at every step along the way. And yet, when she finished, her latkes came out the same way that they always did!
“You fool!” She cried out. “Oy! She must have known you were watching and tricked you! These taste just like my latkes!”
As a child that was one of my favourite stories about the ‘wise folks’ of Chelm. They were so silly. If you do everything the way you always do, how could you possibly expect a different outcome? Who could possibly be so foolish?
I’m sure many of you feel like you are stuck in a loop right now. Heartbreaking news coming out of Israel daily, the spike of antisemitism in North America and Canada, and of course the constant buzz of social media amplifying what feels like only the worst voices. It’s easy to feel trapped like we’re getting the same result again and again. What can we do to break this cycle for ourselves?
We can’t change the war or the terrible loss that comes with it. We can’t battle each antisemitic comment made on the internet. Some of us can’t even unplug, our younger generations know that this isn’t an option!
What can we do? We have the power to change how we respond.
You can choose to walk away from conversations which have no value.
You can choose to engage with people who will lift your spirit and give you hope.
You can choose to show the world who we really are, by being a light in dark times.
In a world full of people, wondering why a ‘new recipe’ is giving them the same old results – may we be blessed with the wisdom to make choices that will lead us to better outcomes.
Chag Urim Sameach!