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"Tatty I'm Hungry"

Blog_tattty.jpgMy three-year-old daughter came to services with me on Sunday morning. I had my tefillin on and was in the middle of praying when she began to nudge, “Tatty, I’m hungry!”

 I couldn’t talk, so I motioned to her, “later.” But she continued.

After ten minutes of her nudging “Tatty, I’m hungry,” one of the congregants came over with a bagel and cream cheese for her, explaining that he comes from a family of Holocaust survivors and cannot bear to see any child hungry.  

My daughter took the bagel but didn’t touch it even though she loves cream cheese. My friend was perplexed. “I thought she was starving,” he said. “Why isn’t she eating it?”

“You have to understand what she’s saying,” I explained with a smile. “Thank G-d, she ate a very good breakfast 30 minutes ago. Thank G-d, we have food in our house and don’t starve our kids! What she meant when she said ‘I’m hungry’ is actually ‘Tatty, I want candy!’”

When my kids come to shul, I like to give them candy so they’ll have sweet memories and positive associations. I had already given her one ten minutes prior, but thinking it would get her another one, she decided to try the “Tatty, I’m hungry” tactic. Now, there’s no way my friend could have known this, and I’m grateful he tried to help. It just shows how it’s all about understanding the underlying message.

As we sit around the Passover table, ready to begin the Seder, the first thing we say is, “All who are hungry, come and eat; all who are needy, come and celebrate.” Of course it is a mitzvah to invite people to eat and experience the beauty of the Seder with us, but the statement is much deeper than that.

Beyond the literal invitation, it’s a call to each and every one of us to feed our souls. The same way our bodies require a nourishing breakfast each morning, our souls require spiritual infusions and inspiration.

Like my daughter, our souls call out, “I’m hungry! I’m hungry!” And we mistakenly think that the void we feel needs to be filled with physical things—a newer car, fancier food, another vacation, more money, etc. Ever wonder why Jews are so disproportionately successful in the world? It’s because we feel a deep internal void that we try every which way to fill. But really it’s the soul. The soul is hungry and the Seder is our chance to give it the nourishment it so desperately craves.

When we eat matzah, drink four cups of wine, recite the haggadah, relive the story of our Exodus—this is the spiritual “candy” the soul yearns for.

And let’s not forget, our children will be at the Seder and they are hungry too! It’s our responsibility to make it engaging for them, so they learn to satiate their soul the right way from the very start.

Theft in Our Chabad

robbery.jpgLast Monday, a staff member approached me and asked if I knew what had happened to her ipod over the weekend. She had left it in a specific place on Friday, and it was no longer there.

I hadn’t seen it, but offered to look through our security camera footage and see if we could figure it out. Fortunately we have high resolution cameras recording at all times, so I rewound to Friday afternoon and we started watching. Lo and behold, we see that at 2:00pm our cleaner came—not our regular cleaner, but a new one the company had sent—walked around, and noticed the ipod and speakers. He looked over his shoulder, realized no one was watching, and calmly slipped it into his pocket.

So, great, now we know what happened, but what next? How do I deal with the thief?

Our Chassidic masters explain that there are two ways to deal with everything in life: the long-short way and the short-long way. In this instance, the long-short way would mean calling the thief, engaging him in real conversation to understand the underlying reason of why he stole. Perhaps he’s poor, or had a troubled upbringing, and maybe he was simply tempted in the moment and regretted it immediately afterwards. It would take time and patience to build a relationship and get to the point where the thief was able to be vulnerable enough to truly open up and expose himself. And then you can come up with a solution. That might entail giving him a job, or helping him find one on his own, maintaining a connection, etc. This is surely the best and most effective method, but it is undeniably long and all-consuming.

The short-long method, on the other hand, would be to threaten him with police involvement, which would solve the immediate problem only. He would return the ipod, but would likely steal again. Nothing has really changed.

When it comes to our own problems, we have the same methods at our disposal. We can use the short-long method, which might smooth things over in the here and now, but it’s not the real work. The real work is the long-short method, which takes year of introspection, analysis and character building, but yields true, long-term results.

In this case, I must confess that I chose the short-term solution. I confronted the thief, insisted he return the ipod immediately or I would call the police, and he did. But had I had more time to invest, I should have spent the time working with him to understand and resolve the underlying issues.

In the moment, it is harder. It takes time and the results are not as immediate. But in the long term, if we want to effect real change—in ourselves or others—there is only one way: the long short way

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