Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Elul 5765 - September 28, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Home and Family

A Fair Share
by Bayla Gimmel

Several years ago, when we had only been living in Eretz Yisroel for a short while, a notice appeared in my mailbox announcing a fundraiser for mothers and daughters, that was to be held on a certain date to benefit a local charity.

The fundraiser was an evening event and its format was spectacular by any standard. It was being held at a hall that is usually used for weddings. The guest speaker was a well- known rebbetzin. There was going to be a comedy skit. To top it all off, a full catered meal was going to be served.

A neighbor and I made reservations to attend. We entered the hall, found a table that had two empty seats together, and sat down. Our tablemates were three women who had come with their daughters, three girls who knew each other either from their neighborhood or from school.

After a round of introductions, we each got up, washed and began the meal. On the table in front of us was a lovely selection of salads, presented in identical oval shaped small white china dishes. Each of the women took a small helping of the salad that was in front of her and passed it to the woman sitting next to her.

Soon everyone had a spoonful each of mixed salad, grilled eggplant, pickles, humous and tehina, corn salad and coleslaw on the small plate that sat atop her dinner plate. We ate and talked and the little salad serving plates were passed around and around again until everyone stopped taking seconds, thirds or whatever. By unspoken consensus, everyone stopped the passing game.

After a while, a waitress appeared with a tray and took away both the serving dishes and the small first-course plates. We continued to chat and after another short interval the waitress returned with three more of the small oval serving dishes. One dish held rice, a second contained fried potatoes with gravy, and the third was filled with cooked peas and carrots.

The rice was placed in front of one of the teenagers. She picked up the dish, skillfully took exactly a third of the rice and placed it on the dinner plate in front of her. Then she handed the serving dish to the friend sitting next to her, who did the same. The dish was then passed to the third girl who carefully emptied it into her dinner plate, being careful to clean out every last grain of rice.

At this point, the mother of one of the girls said in a loud stage whisper to her daughter, "Sorale (not her real name), how could you girls do such a thing? There are five more ladies at the table and now there isn't any rice left for anyone else!" The daughter, nonplussed, just mumbled, "They'll bring more," as she and her friends started the same sharing routine with the potatoes.

Sure enough, after another while the waitress did bring three more full dishes. We women did not know how many times the "refill" technique would work, so to be on the safe side, we each took about a fifth of the new supply. The waitress came back again and this time she had a massive tray laden with baked chicken legs, fried schnitzel and turkey roll which she served individually, thank G-d. However, I have always wondered what the proper etiquette is vis-a-vis those ubiquitous little china dishes that are used at almost every Israeli local catered affair from brissim to weddings.

When seated at a table for six, it is reasonable to take a sixth of the food and then pass the little serving dish. However, at a table for ten or twelve it seems a bit ridiculous to take about a teaspoon full of rice, half a dozen small peas and one slice of potato. Certainly another dish of each of the vegetables or grains will appear on the table at some time in the near future. However, one does seem greedy if one takes too much on the first round.

In life, as well as in the somewhat artificial world of catered dinners, is there such a thing as a fair share? I know very sweet, pretty and talented young women (and not-so- young women as well) who are always the guest at the wedding, and never the queen in the white gown and jeweled headpiece, never seated on the beautiful throne chair surrounded by admirers.

I also know excellent young men who were diligent students all through cheder. but were not accepted to the high school level yeshiva ketanah of their choice, and others who are neither the best nor the brightest who are in top yeshivas. The same can be said for girls and seminaries.

There are wonderful, loving women out there who would make the world's best mothers but have not yet had that opportunity. On the other hand, there are mothers of large broods who still seem to go into maternity clothing for about half of each year.

They used to say that if you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door. However, we have all seen brilliant businessmen who have invested all of their time, energy, talent and money into the manufacturing or marketing of a well-made useful product, only to see their businesses go bust.

On the other hand, there was someone in the States who became wealthy by putting small round stones into tiny gift boxes and selling them along with a cutesy little message about how to take care of your new "pet rock."

It is clear that the One Above doles out the zivugim, the places in schools, the children and the livelihood. Only He knows our "fair share." And, fortunately, that is not a fixed amount.

There is one time each year when we can each put in a petition to increase our share of whatever is available in this world, be it shidduchim, children, health, wealth- - -you name it. That time is Elul-Tishrei, when the King is in the field, accessible to us all.

The best part of it is that the Ribbono Shel Olom has an unlimited amount of everything at his disposal, ready to dispense to us, His beloved people. There is no such thing as asking for more than your fair share. If there are "X" number of Jewish people in the world, we are each able to obtain one Xth of infinity, a very large amount indeed.

Rabbi Moshe Aaron Stern zt'l, Mashgiach of the Kamenitz Yeshiva in Yerusholayim, used to say that when you pray and ask for Heavenly blessings, you should bring with you a vessel to hold the bounty you hope to receive. If you come with a barrel, you will be able to get a barrelful, but if you come with a shnaps glass, you can only hope to receive a shnaps glass full. We can still pour out our hearts in prayer. Whether it is the formal prayer or a private, whispered one in the corner of our kitchen, Hashem hears every word.

This is not the time to politely pass the dish and hope that another one will be brought to the table. Raise your voice to the highest Heavens. Cry, beg and plead for the coming year to bring all of us the most bountiful "fair share."


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