It is funny what sticks in your mind, isn’t it? Over 25 years ago, I heard my father-in-law ask in a tone that managed to be both amused and acerbic, why people couldn’t simply serve roast chicken every Friday night. At the time, my sympathies went to the woman who had innocently asked him whether a certain item only available in a specialty Japanese store was kosher. While not a gourmet cook like she was, I do vary the dishes served at my Shabbat table; my family and I would be bored with the same exact meal week after week.
My mother-in-law, like my mother and grandmothers offered no such variety. For them, being able to afford and have access to kosher chicken was in itself the special Friday night treat. How could anyone want more than chicken soup, roast chicken, and a simple side dish? They lived in different times.
I enjoy experimenting with new Shabbat recipes and while certain holidays cry out for specific traditional dishes, it is unusual for us to have exactly the same meal two weeks in a row. Yet, something I recently read made me recall my father-in-law’s lament and relate to it with greater understanding.
What spurred my realization was discovering that I had completely—I mean totally, without a clue—missed out on hearing about the trend of ‘late-in-life lesbians’. While this trend is obviously elementary compared to the politically correct idea that there are 31, no, actually 56, no wait, its 72 (the number changes almost daily) genders, perhaps the comparative simplicity of the idea caused me to laugh.
How unbelievably unhappy and confused we are. In Richard III, William Shakespeare wrote of “the winter of our discontent.” Today, we seem to be living through years of discontent. There are many real challenges in the world. Venezuelans are starving, people around the world are being killed by Islamic extremists, serious illnesses abound and too many children are born into situations that make successful living a terrible struggle, to name only a few. There are those who are born with discernible physical and genetic gender confusion.
And then, there are those of us born basically healthy and, even in difficult economic times, living shockingly well. Instead of counting our blessings, for decades now we have been busily looking for reasons to be unhappy. We don’t just seek to improve and tweak our society but to radically change: our marriages, our schools, our economic system, our beliefs, our gender…
I don’t think we can lay the blame for this on serving lemon chicken one week and potato-crusted chicken another. I plan to keep enjoying trying out new recipes. Yet, it isn’t completely unrelated either. Somehow, when there isn’t a counter-balance to the natural desire for excitement and newness, when we confusedly think that happiness can be delivered by someone or something outside of ourselves, and when we lose touch with our souls and magnify the demands of our bodies, we find ourselves on a road that has no natural end. Our rebellions may take different forms, but one warning that is very modern and up-to-date is found in Deuteronomy 32:15 explaining how instead of feeling gratitude when showered with blessings, humans tend to kick rather than kneel.
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