The Secret Ingredient

Whenever I offer to join my wife and son as they cook, they both have a terrified look on their faces and urge me to use my time for more important things such as learning or taking Pip, our dog, for a walk. They don’t fool me; I know that they are questioning my cooking skills.

Please, my supportive friends, don’t reach for your computers to fire off angry emails to them defending my dignity. They are actually doing a favor for me; I don’t want to be in the kitchen when the two of them cook together. There will inevitably be an argument.

Michael, a brilliant cook, follows the exact details of a recipe. If it calls for ¼ tablespoon of salt, he will run to the store, buy atomically produced, world’s most accurate, measuring spoons, so he can perfectly measure the ¼ tablespoon. Debbie, on the other hand, does not believe in measuring spoons and simply pours what she considers ¼ tablespoon, or, what she feels is the more appropriate measure, into the bowl. (The reason Michael has to buy new measuring spoons every time he cooks is that his mother, finds them too “Yankee,” as in, “In my country we don’t use such things,” and tosses them into the trash.)

The battle between the measuring and the instinctive cooks rages on the entire time that they are “working together” in the kitchen. It reminds me of some tense moments at Sinai.

The kitchen supply stores in the desert did great business for a few days, handling a rush of measurers who declared, “All that God said, we will do!” The former slaves were accustomed to following instructions and not only wanted to do exactly as commanded, they actually wanted to be told what to do. God wanted more: “In order that they hear Me speak,” He said. He wanted an element of relationship as well.

There were some Argentines there who did not believe in measuring and who were more focused on, “We will hear!” They understood how important it is to a covenant to develop an instinctive sense of God’s will. But God wanted more. He measured lines and levels around and on Sinai, with the latest in sensor technology. You must also follow the guidelines!

God was not satisfied with the measurers; the food would lack heart. My wife would say “Dios es argentino”.  However, God did not accept the instinctive cooks without the measurers; He understood that the relationship would only develop within clear boundaries.

The people finally found the secret ingredient: “We will do and we will hear!” At that point they were presented with their crowns (chef’s hats?), to wear with pride. Rules and instinct. Structure and Creativity. Measure and Instinct. You and me. Even I can find a place in such a kitchen.

This week’s favorites: Seeds of Light, From “I Should’ve” To “I Could’ve,” and The Time Bandit.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
President

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