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A Matter of Taste

For six days, work shall be done… (35:2)

The Torah expresses itself in the passive - 'work shall be done' - rather than using the active - 'do work'. This is to teach us the proper attitude toward our workday pursuits: the necessary mundane involvements of life should be approached in a matter-of-fact and unenthusiastic manner…

- Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin was expected at the home of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. But the visit gave rise to a dispute between the Rebbe's wife and her daughter, Freidkeh. For several years now, Freidkeh had taken charge of all the cooking in the house; now, in honor of the distinguished guest, the Rebbetzin wanted to retake the kitchen. The Rebbetzin cited seniority and baalbosteh's[1] rights. Her daughter argued that since she always does all the cooking, it is hardly fair that the task be taken from her just when an honored guest arrives.

The case was referred for arbitration to Rabbi Schneur Zalman, who offered the following compromise: The Rebbetzin will prepare the food, but Freidkeh would add the salt. Since the food will be all but tasteless without her contribution, the privilege of feeding Rabbi Shlomo would be equally hers.

But when the much-contested dish finally reached the table, Rabbi Shlomo Karliner found himself unable to continue past the first spoonful. The force of decades-long habit had caused the Rebbetzin to salt the food without even realizing it, and Freidkeh, of course, had not failed to perform her duty. The result was simply impossible to swallow.

But the sodium story of this hapless dish was far from over: a third dash of salt now joined its predecessors, this time cast by the hand of Rabbi Schneur Zalman himself. Upon noticing the neglected plate in front of his guest, the Rebbe figured that perhaps the food is not sufficiently salted to Rabbi Shlomo's taste.

Finally, Rabbi Schneur Zalman asked the Karliner why he wasn't eating; Rabbi Shlomo replied that the food was too salty to eat. Surprized, Rabbi Schneur Zalman took another spoonful from his own plate and swallowed thoughtfully. "You know," he said, "you're right."

"From the time that I journeyed to Mezeritch to my Rebbe" the Rebbe explained "I have not sensed the taste of food."



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