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The High Holidays and Mayonnaise

Updated: Dec 26, 2023

I’ve been thinking about mayonnaise. We tried one of those meal in a box services that have become so popular, and the ingredients included a tiny little container with two tablespoons of mayonnaise. I guess it’s too much trouble to drive to the store and buy your own mayonnaise and measure out two tablespoons? It has to be mailed to our home in a disposable container, already prepared and measured.

Now, perhaps you are a regular subscriber to a meal delivery service? This is not meant to make you feel guilty for a convenience that allows you to eat real food in your own home prepared by your own hands. What I’m thinking about is the blessed lives we live and how much we take for granted.

Life is hard and it feels exponentially harder this year. It is easy to become depressed and discouraged when we look at all that is problematic in contemporary life. Yet, for all its challenges, we live in the best of times. Reflecting back on that mayonnaise. If our ancestors wanted mayonnaise, they had to procure eggs. They had to harvest and cure and press olives to extract a tiny bit of oil. Then add some source of acid. And, of course, there was no refrigerator to store it, so if they wanted more two days later, they had to repeat the process. Mayonnaise has become my new symbol for the life-enhancing, and, indeed, life-saving blessings that we take for granted.

Last month I suffered a serious cat bite. My hand blew up to the size of a tennis ball. I shudder to think what would have happened without the blessing of antibiotics. On a more mundane level, I stand under the shower and have access to as much clean hot and cold water as I desire. In previous generations, kings and queens did not enjoy this luxury.

We have legitimate concerns about science and technology and how it impacts our lives. During this holiest season, perhaps we might let go of the worries about contemporary life, and, instead, use this time to focus on the fact that we live lives of comfort and ease that would have been unimaginable in centuries past. The Jewish spiritual path is one of gratitude; it’s time to count our blessings.

Rabbi Bonnie Koppell

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