Our Jewish holidays are both meaningful and delicious. To many people, Shavuos means cheesecake, blintzes, ice cream, and other dairy delicacies. We know that we eat these foods only to remember that the Jews were just learning the halachos of milk and meat, and needed time to kasher their pots, so they ate dairy.
Ingestion is certainly a powerful way to absorb and digest the concepts of the Yom Tov. The culinary queens among us have ample opportunity to show off and have fun. But reluctant cooks may be sighing wearily: Didn’t we just finish eating matzoh and meat — for a week? Do we really have to hit the pots and pans again for another round of festive feasting?
The Reluctant Homemaker
We all have our different talents and interests. Although every wife is involved in keeping home, each one does it differently. One likes to sew the pillows for the sofa, relishing the activity of carefully hand stitching dozens of colorful beads into the fabric. Another loves to shop for the greatest bargains in home decor. Another leaves it all up to her husband, or the previous owner, or to chance — her interests lie elsewhere.
But when it comes to food, the show must go on, whether a woman enjoys cooking or detests it. If she doesn’t like the job and can find someone else to delegate it to, the problem is solved. But if there are no takers, she must find a way to meet her quota: 3 meals a day, snacks, Shabbos, Yom Tov, no end in sight.
Suppose a Reluctant Cook marries a “Foodie” (“Foodie” being a person who is very into food — either its style, its taste, or its nutritional profile). Suppose the Foodie spouse has minimal time to cook and so that the task falls largely upon the Reluctant Cook. (Why Hashem would put two such people together we can’t delve into right now, but suffice it to say that it is for the same reason as we frequently find late-night owls living with morning people and free-spirited homemakers married to neat-freaks.)
Let us imagine that the Foodie has given up expecting a large spread for normal weeknight dinners, but still has high hopes for Shabbos and festival meals. Let us also imagine that the Reluctant Cook has neither interest nor inclination in preparing anything more than the usual minimalistic fare. Is the couple doomed to permanent marital distress? In order to avoid endless conflict, must one person give up and give in, suffering in silent misery? How can they resolve this issue?
Marriage not Cheesecake
Marital trouble occurs when couples focus their attention on the wrong thing. In our scenario, for example, many couples would arrive at an unhappy standstill through focusing on:
When couples realize that every issue they deal with in marriage is primarily about their relationship, they are in the best position to arrive at happy solutions. If the apparent cheesecake issue is really a marriage issue then the question becomes:
There will always be multiple answers to this question. Each one will make the marriage itself the priority. Pleasing one’s spouse is the focus of both husband and wife. The question is only how to do so without negating or harming oneself. In our example, the Reluctant Cook might be able to say, “I can’t see myself making a deluxe Yom Tov meal, but I’m fine with arranging one. I’ll make the usual roast and potatoes — my one-pot speciality — and purchase side dishes and prepared foods, making sure there will be plenty of nutritious and delicious offerings.” The Foodie might say, “L’kavod Yom Tov, I will stay up late and make a special homemade cheesecake to enhance the family Yom Tov experience.”
Having stated their contributions, each member of the couple willingly and happily forgoes the exact experience that they prefer in favor of the happily married experience of working together to create a blend of who they are and what they value. The blend has a special name, a name that means “the best of you and the best of me, the best of what this family can be.” The blend is called “marriage.”