July 22, 2024
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July 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Everything we have — including all of the world’s resources like water and oil — are gifts from God that we should appreciate and not waste, even if we have more than we need. We learn in this week’s Torah portion how even though our forefather Jacob was a wealthy man, when he was moving his tents and realized he had left behind a small almost worthless pitcher, he took the trouble of going back to get it rather than letting it go to waste. We learn from here to appreciate and not waste all the good that we have.

In our story a kid gets a first-hand taste of why we shouldn’t waste.

In Good Taste

“Hey, are you just going to throw all that out?” asked Jenny, noticing the kid next to her about to dump her barely touched school lunch into the garbage.

“Why not? What else am I supposed to do with it?” the kid shrugged as she spilled out her tray and walked off.

Jenny sighed. She probably would have said the same thing as that kid last year. She never used to think twice about wasting things or taking more than she needed and then just dump it. But something happened the past summer at camp that made her see things a little differently. She had been sitting with her friends in the camp dining hall back then…

“Hey guys, check this out! It’s the leaning tower of — pizza!” Jenny said, pointing proudly at her latest food-mess creation. At this camp they would just put out trays of food and let the kids eat as much as they wanted. The food wasn’t that great, so nobody really ate that much of it, but Jenny liked to take some extra and use her creativity to design messy “food sculptures” to give her friends a laugh.

The kids were still cracking up when Mrs. Lang, the clean-up lady, walked by. “What a shame, wasting so much good, edible food like that,” she scolded. The kids tried to ignore her but she continued, “If you don’t want something, just don’t take it. Why waste it like that so nobody else can have it?”

By now the kids were quiet except for the occasional giggle that would burst out from their lips. After another minute, the woman walked off, not saying a word, and shaking her head.

“I don’t know what’s her big problem,” said Laura. “The camp gives us plenty of food. What does it matter what we do with it?”

“Yeah,” Jenny added. “They just throw it out anyway. Why not have some fun with it first?”

After a few more quips the kids moved on to the next topic — the cool boat trip some of them would be taking the next day. They were going to be leaving at the crack of dawn to watch the beautiful sunrise over the nearby lake.

The next morning when Jenny popped out of bed it was still dark outside. She quietly got dressed and walked down the path to where they were supposed to meet. As she was going past the camp parking lot, she suddenly heard a noise. She ducked behind a tree and didn’t make a sound. Maybe it was a wild animal or something!

She heard another noise, and peeked out to see a person carrying a really big box. Apparently Jenny wasn’t hiding as well as she thought because the woman looked right at her and said, “Would you mind helping me with this for a minute, dear?”

Jenny recognized the voice right away. It was Mrs. Lang!

Relieved that it wasn’t a burglar or a bear, Jenny went over to her and helped her lift the big box, which turned out to be packed full with leftover camp food, into the trunk of her car. “Maybe you’re wondering what I’m planning to do with all this?” she asked. Jenny nodded curiously.

“I try to keep it secret, but since you saw me and helped me, I’ll let you in on it. Down the road there’s a special camp for orphans and poor kids from broken homes. I have two nephews in that camp. Of course none of the kids can pay any tuition, so the camp is pretty broke. Mr. Roth, the owner of our camp, kindly lets me bring them any leftover food from our meals. I do it early so those kids don’t know about it and feel embarrassed eating other people’s leftovers. This isn’t a lot of food for so many kids, but usually there’s enough for them to get by, that is,” she looked Jenny in the eye, “that is as long as our campers, who are fortunate enough to get more food than they need, don’t just play around with it and waste it all.”

Without saying another word, the woman closed her trunk and drove off.

That next day, no matter how much her friends would tease or coax, Jenny just couldn’t bring herself to make her usual food-mess sculpture. After all, how could she just goof around with the food, knowing she was probably taking it out of some orphan’s mouth?

Ever since that day Jenny had been really careful not to waste food or other things either. Somehow she felt like they were God’s presents to her and not something to waste. Maybe someday she would think of a way to help make sure everybody had enough food and everything else they needed, but at least until then, she could make sure to appreciate and not waste the things God had given her.

Nesanel Yoel Safran is a writer, chef, and a teacher/student of Jewish spirituality. He blends these assorted vocations on his blog, Soul Foodie, where you can join him on mystical cooking adventures and glean practical wisdom for the kitchen — and for living. soulfoodiecom.wordpress.com/

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