April 15, 2024
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April 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

It’s All in What You’re Used To…Or Is It?

We have been celebrating several holidays that have many rich traditions; some traditions are more global in nature while others are personal and unique to each family. One story that has had many variations and has been popular in the email circuit is about newlyweds about to have the bride’s parents over for dinner for the first time. The young woman is preparing a pot roast, which she turns this way and that, then cuts off one end of the roast. Her new husband is both intrigued and confused. As he observes his wife, he asks her why she has cut off one end and why she is turning the roast, to which she replies, “It’s the way to do it—my mother always did it this way, so I’m doing it too.” She then proceeds to turn the roast again, this time, cutting off the opposite end. Once again, her husband questions her actions, and once again, she replies that she is doing just as her mom did. When the parents arrive, the new husband is still so curious, and asks his mother-in-law about the tradition of cutting off the ends of the pot roast before cooking it. She smiled a bit sheepishly and replied, “I never had a pot that fit a whole pot roast, so I had to cut it down!” Some traditions start out this way and go on for generations.

A personal story that is over 35 years old comes to mind. It was our first Purim as a married couple, and with working full time in Manhattan, and my husband in his residency, we did not know many people yet. I decided to be ambitious and make a miniature version of my mother’s mishloach manot. Growing up in Kew Gardens, Queens (not to be confused with the hoppin’ and boppin’ Kew Gardens Hills), people gave mishloach manot to all their fellow shul-goers, neighbors and acquaintances. My parents gave out 80 mishloach manot packages every year! My mother prepared mishloach manot fit for royalty—it was truly a labor of love for her, and still is (she no longer gives out so many packages, but she always has an adorable theme). I must describe my parents’ mishloach manot for a clearer understanding of the story. Imagine a large, oval “Chinet” platter. In the middle was a large bottle of wine. On one side there was a small loaf pan filled with a marble cake (Mom’s specialty), an Israeli chocolate bar and hard candies. On the other side were an apple and an orange. These food gifts weighed a ton! They were wrapped in colored cellophane and sealed with colorful curling ribbon. I loved my mother’s mishloach manot, and was eager to pay homage to her lovely and thoughtful tribute to Purim.

Working not far from the floral district, I found a store called “Pots and Lids,” which sold planters and baskets of all shapes and sizes. I bought a dozen shallow, oval, woven baskets, and filled them with a split of liquor, a chocolate bar, hard candies, fruit and a miniature cake. I wrapped each basket in clear cellophane, and sealed them with colorful curling ribbon. I was extremely excited that I was able to replicate my mother’s mishloach manot, and was even more excited when the doorbell rang. I looked through the peephole, and I was touched that someone who I barely knew was bringing me mishloach manot. When I opened the door, she had a look of shock, and almost horror, as she pointed to my mishloach manot and asked, “What’s that?” I told her that my mishloach manot was a miniature of my mother’s. She told me that hers was an exact copy of her mother’s. She was holding up a plain white paper plate, with about six raisins and four peanuts in the shell rolling around on it. I thanked her, telling her that I love raisins, and that peanuts in the shell are my favorite way to have peanuts (which is true). Basically, our “normal” is just a product of what we are used to, and I was reminded of this fact on that Purim day, and often since then.

Rav Ashear, on one of his beautiful CDs on emunah, explains how we should look at the normal, regular and seemingly mundane, and appreciate that these are all everyday miracles. Among many examples, he describes fruit —sweet and tangy, with the perfect amount of sugar, acid and pulp. Fruit is a food that can reproduce itself and comes in a vacuum-packed peel or skin for our daily pleasure and good health. Even when we make a bracha before eating this fruit, do we really appreciate the everyday miracle that Hashem gives us?

A question that Rav Ashear asks, which is important to think about, is, “What if there was only one orange tree—wouldn’t the world cherish it and be amazed by the wonder that it truly is?” Do we give thanks for our family and friends and truly appreciate them for the miracles that they are? Can we see past their bumps and bruises, their less-than-attractive character flaws, and appreciate the special things about them? May we gain some clarity when we see the everyday less as “ho-hum” and more like a miracle? Let’s all love and appreciate what we’re used to. What used to be mundane can be a spiritual experience filled with wonder!

By Sariva Sklar, CFC

 Sariva Sklar is a certified family coach with a practice in Teaneck. She conducts social skills training for children and adults both privately and in groups, as well as “Family Tune-Ups,” which improve the family dynamic for couples and their children. Sariva can be reached in her office at 201-836-4227 or by email at [email protected]. Visit her website at www.smallwonderscoaching.com.

 

 

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