Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Va’era

25 Teves 5772/January 20, 2012

One of the most exciting experiences of my youth was visiting Eretz Yisroel for the first time. I was eight years old and my Aunt Miriam was going to Eretz Yisroel for the unveiling of my beloved Zayde at the end of August. My older brother was away in camp so my parents offered me the opportunity to accompany my aunt for the eleven day trip.

I was enamored by everything along the way. I loved the plane, especially because the seats were so roomy. [The next time I flew a few years later the seats shrunk immeasurably…] When we finally landed, my Bubby, Uncle, and cousin met us at the airport. Bubby was so excited to see me she hugged me and lifted me off the ground (the only time I remember that happening.)

The ten hour flight and all of its excitement were a bit much for an eight year old and at that point I was hungry and cranky. We went to an Italian restaurant in Yerushalayim but I refused to order anything. After a few minutes of negotiations my Aunt finally convinced me to order an Italian Pizza. After all what could be bad about pizza?

When the pizza arrived I promptly announced that I wasn’t going to eat it. My exasperated Aunt asked me why not? “Because”, I explained, “it smells like the shmattas (rags) in Bubby’s house.” My aunt tried to convince me that I was being ridiculous but I was emphatic about my refusal. My cousin took the pizza and sniffed it, whereupon he burst out laughing, “It’s true, it smells like shmattas!” My Aunt took one bite and admitted that we were right. It was real Italian cheese and pizza, not for our American taste buds.

I found something else to order and everyone continued eating. When we finished we noticed that the pizza was gone. Had the waiter taken it back? Bubby shrugged us off, “I don’t know what you’re all complaining about. The pizza was delicious.”

Throughout the years, we periodically laugh about the shamattah-pizza, and how Bubby couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t eat it.

In our home, we teach our children that when you don’t like something you don’t announce, ‘Oh that’s gross!’ Rather you politely say, ‘That’s not my taste.’ It is not only insulting to disparage food that someone else worked hard to make, but it is insensitive to speak negatively about something you don’t like when someone else may enjoy it.

Such an expression does not only apply to food but to anything else in life. Just because you don’t like a game, place, or idea, doesn’t make it wrong or bad. It may not be your taste, but someone else may find it pleasurable.

The idea of tolerance is extremely important. Our society would like to believe that it is politically correct and accepting of difference. But underneath all its social babble, our world is extremely intolerant and impatient with differences of others.

That intolerance infiltrates our camp as well. Our exile began because of intolerance which bred contempt and enmity, and it is apparent that we haven’t rectified that malady yet.

What may be a shmattah to one person may be delicious to someone else. What one person may find inadequate another may find appealing and acceptable. We don’t have to agree with other’s opinions, but we still have to learn to tolerate differences.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum