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Try It; You'll Like It!

A maitre d’ at a well-known kosher restaurant laughs about customers who come in for a ‘famous dish,’ but cooked according to their instructions. He points out that the dish will not be the famed food for which they came if cooked differently. “Are you sure you don’t want to try it as it is? he will ask. “Oh, no! I know the way I like my food cooked,” is always the answer. More than half his customers will not give the restaurant a chance to present their food in the kitchen’s famous and special way.

Anyone will tell you that I am not the easiest person for whom to cook. Besides Celiac disease and some serious allergies, I have always been deeply committed to Adam’s plaint, “Shall I and my donkey eat from the same trough?” and honor our ancient ancestor by religiously limiting my vegetable intake. On top of that, all the years eating Yeshiva food left their mark and I have a severe reaction to any food that looks similar to what they served in Scranton and Philly. (I honored my grandmother z”l when I was in Ner Yisrael by insisting on eating her food and refusing to disrespect her by eating in the Yeshiva dining room.) Let’s simply say that there are people for whom it is easier and more exciting to cook. However, I am willing to try new things, especially if they are Argentine, and even more so if they are desserts. I am ashamed to admit that I have even tried and enjoyed some vegan dishes. (Please don’t mention this to Adam!)

What is it that is so difficult about trying something new? I guess for some people it is fear of the unknown. I know children who prefer the rough and angry parent with whom they are familiar than the new and improved calm version of a changed parent. I meet with couples who are more comfortable with years of arguing and going to marriage therapists and rabbis than they are with the possibility of change. I know husbands who readily admit that their wives are changing in fabulous ways, and are happier than ever, but feel discombobulated by the “new” people their wives have become.

Some of us are bothered by the new because we lack any sense of control over the unfamiliar. I recently met with someone who refuses to hear any type of music with which he is unfamiliar; “I don’t know how it will make me feel!” “I know that my anger is destroying my family but I don’t know if any other approach will work!” “I’m not comfortable using a different approach to prayer; it doesn’t feel like the ‘real thing’ to me.”

“See, I present to you today a blessing and a curse.” (Deuteronomy 11:26) “Today” appears whenever God makes a major statement. First paragraph of Shema; “Today!” Second paragraph; “Today!” Blessings and curses; “Today!” The words of Torah shall always be new to you as if they were just given Today!”

The blessings and curses, the challenge of Free Choice, begins with “Hayom,” “Today!” We learn how to choose only when we are willing to consider the new.

Not every new thing is good. I won’t try to eat a new fish or bread. The new choice must always be considered through the eyes of the blessings and curses. In fact, blessings can come only when we are open to the new.

So, “Try it! You’ll like it!”

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