I DREAM OF GENIE
by Stuart W.
"Plop!" goes the jello as it hits the plate. Maurice Alouicious Goldstein (Moshe to his friends) watches in anguish as the ooze from the jello devours every last inch of airspace on his dish. It's lunchtime at school, and for the third day in a row Moshe has forgotten his lunch at home, forcing him to buy the school grub.
I DREAM OF GENIE "Plop!" goes the jello as it hits the plate. Maurice Alouicious Goldstein (Moshe to his friends) watches in anguish as the ooze from the jello devours every last inch of airspace on his dish. It's lunchtime at school, and for the third day in a row Moshe has forgotten his lunch at home, forcing him to buy the school grub. He sits down and begins to stare at the vibrations of the blob on his plate. Soon, he falls into a deep trance and begins to daydream. Suddenly, he sees a genie rising from the jello! Only that this genie has a beard, a yarmulka, and the recently published Torah from Dixie book under his arm.
"Hello, Mr. Goldstein, I am Ploni, master of the kosher jello. I am here to grant you one wish from among the following three choices: (1) All of the pizza and ice cream you can eat. (2) A set of the Babylonian Talmud. (3) The Torah from Dixie book, autographed by all the authors."
After contemplating for about five seconds, Moshe selects the first option. "But let me warn you," the genie interjects, "if you choose number one, you will have all the pizza and ice cream you want, but that's all you will eat, nothing else." Now Moshe has a real dilemma. What should he do?
In this week's Torah portion, the Jewish people complain about the manna, the miraculous food they receive from heaven every day. They say they are sick of eating the same food every day, and instead want meat like they had in Egypt. Now, we can certainly understand someone getting tired of eating the same food every day. But our sages tell us something remarkable about the manna: It tasted like whatever the person eating it wanted it to taste like! For every meal one could have filet mignon, caviar, or even jello if one wished. How could the Jews complain about something so great?
The Kli Chemdah, a classical Torah commentary, points out what exactly their complaint was, based on the way in which they expressed it: "But now our souls are dried up. . .the only thing we see is the manna" (Numbers 11:6). The emphasis was on what they saw - even though the manna tasted like whatever they wanted, it still looked like the same coriander seed-based food every day. The Jews wanted their food to look different, and they figured that if only they could both taste and see it, they would be able to savor the entire experience.
Most of us can probably relate to this concept very well. Eating the same food, working at the same job, or even living with the same people can take its toll on our sense of peace and serenity. The hum-drum of everyday life can sometimes frustrate us and cause us to dream of greener pastures. We take vacations to escape the dreariness of our routine schedules, but that provides only a temporary relief from our frustrations. We need a way to overcome this sense of mediocrity and staleness in our lives.
The answer to our problems is provided by the second verse of the Shema prayer: "And these words [of the Torah] that I [Hashem] command you today shall be upon your heart." Our sages interpret the word "today" to mean that "every day the words of the Torah should be new in our eyes." We don't want to get bored with our service of G-d; we want every moment of our relationship to be filled with a sense of newness and inspiration, not despair and frustration. And the truth is that the more and the deeper we study the Torah, the more insights we get into G-d's precious handbook to life and the way in which He interacts with the world. It is a never-ending process, as the Torah is deeper than we could ever imagine, making its study a continuously exciting experience of unraveling its most hidden and spectacular secrets.
This is true about studying G-d's Torah, and it is true about the rest of life as well. We are always in search of new ways of jump-starting our lives to be constantly filled with meaning and inspiration. Perhaps this is the lesson taught to us by the manna: Although it may have looked the same every day, it tasted like anything we wanted it to taste like. Similarly, our lives sometimes seem unchanging and mediocre, but we have the power to invigorate them to always be exciting and full of happiness through our renewed service of Hashem and through the study of His Torah.
Fortunately, Moshe made the right decision and now has an autographed copy of the Torah from Dixie book, in addition to all the pizza and ice cream he could possibly imagine as an advertising incentive. (The genie was really editor Benyamin Cohen in disguise.)
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