Chef : Restaurant Patron, and Other Flawed Metaphors for God (aka “The Almost Funny Reasons Why JYP Hasn’t Posted in a Month”)

Background:

In Judaism, we use a lot of metaphors to describe the relationship between God and the people. God is the king; we are the subjects. God is the parent; we are the children. God is the shepherd; we are the sheep. Literally, this Yom Kippur piyut (liturgical poem – English here and Hebrew here) is just filled with iterations of God as the artist/craftsman and we are the artistic medium. There’s an idea that Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) with all of its beautiful and sexual imagery is supposed to represent the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people.

All the metaphors are flawed on some level. For me, the flaw of the Parent-Child is that I know exactly what my parents think and want because we have conversations and they tell me directly, in a way that God does not. The Shir HaShirim / marriage/ lovers model also really doesn’t work for me. Even setting aside the sexual longing piece, the basic premise of marriage is that both people are equal partners, which is absolutely not the case in a human-God relationship. Also, I know exactly what my spouse wants, either because we are speaking it lovingly in the bedroom or screaming it at each other during an argument. So, I don’t feel like my relationship with God is a marriage either.

The relationship model that I have been feeling the last few weeks is God as the underappreciated chef and I am the picky, never satisfied restaurant patron.

Image by Rose Wang from Pixabay

I made this analogy up, but actually, I think this metaphor arguably has scriptural basis. Picture this scene from Numbers 11 (Parshat Beha’alotcha):

The riffraff in their midst felt a gluttonous craving; and then the Israelites wept and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish that we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. Now our gullets are shriveled. There is nothing at all! Nothing but this manna to look to!”

Numbers 11:4-6 (from Sefaria)

Followed by God’s response:

And say to the people: Purify yourselves for tomorrow and you shall eat meat, for you have kept whining before the LORD and saying, ‘If only we had meat to eat! Indeed, we were better off in Egypt!’ The LORD will give you meat and you shall eat. You shall eat not one day, not two, not even five days or ten or twenty, but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you. For you have rejected the LORD who is among you, by whining before Him and saying, ‘Oh, why did we ever leave Egypt!’”

Number 11:18-20 (from Sefaria)

and I can just picture God in a chef jacket and chef hat serving up that quail à la Catherine Zeta-Jones character in No Reservations.

In my case, it was an extension of the sandwich metaphor. It was as if God heard me complaining about my olive-ridden sandwich and God said, “Hmmph. JYP doesn’t like my sandwich?? I’ll give JYP a sandwich she really won’t like!!”

“Complaining again, JYP?” Photo by Maks Styazhkin on Unsplash

The Even More Olive-Ridden Sandwich:

Work got worse. Even more work and more impossible deadlines and no appreciation or recognition. Then they rolled out the new marketing campaign…and I hate it. I think it’s patronizing and divisive. It magnifies the culture issues I already had with the company and it re-energized me to job-hunt. I realized though that the campaign also reflects issues I have with the entire industry. So now, I think I want to leave the industry entirely.

Then both Husband and I had car troubles. I am aware that having two cars with issues at alternating points is a rich person’s problem and one car would be luxury enough. And we were lucky that only one car broke down at a time. But still. When your marriage functions with the spouses speaking to each other as little as possible and scheduling time pretty much independently of the other, having to coordinate who uses the working car and when is not a pleasant experience.

Then we got new neighbors. Loud new neighbors. New neighbors who regularly host late night parties (and there is no way these are COVID-safe) with lots of stomping around and music and movies jacked up to the highest volume. New neighbors who have guests coming over and ringing the wrong doorbell (mine) well after midnight on a weeknight.

“I hate these people,” I said, rather loudly in my own apartment.

“You know that if we can hear them, they can hear you,” said husband, trying to be reasonable.

“I don’t fucking care.” I said, much louder this time. “These people are fucking assholes and I fucking hate living here with them.”

The noise from the neighbors tended to be significantly louder in the living room area than the bedroom. I had been making the living room my main room for work since it’s a one-bedroom apartment. With the noise, I moved back into the bedroom, so now there were two people squeezed into a twin bed.

You read that correctly. A married couple with one twin bed. About a year into marriage, we quit pretending that we were ever going to keep the harchakot and got rid of the other twin bed to create space, and we never got around to replacing the twin with a king or queen. We’re both slim-bodied people such that sleeping in a single twin bed is actually comfortable. But two people trying to work in a twin bed is not comfortable. Lots of elbow-jabbing. Lots of snapping at each other. Not a lot of productivity or blogging.

But it gets better.

The Cherry (Olive?) on the Cake:

Friday night, we had just sat down for Shabbat dinner. Husband had prepared dinner because it was Secret Santa unwrapping day (which actually went way better than I expected and wound up being a really nice event and it did not take 2 hours). We were about to start the meal when we heard a suspicious sound in the bathroom.

“Is that water coming through the bathroom ceiling again?”

It was. This was not as shocking as it might have been because it has happened before. I actually can’t blame the horrible new neighbors for this issue because there is an issue with the pipes that preceded them. The landlord had someone come in and fix the ceiling, but apparently not the pipes. We started clearing everything out of the bathroom and setting up a bucket. Then two more buckets (really trash cans turned buckets, because we don’t have that many buckets) when the water started leaking from two other places in the ceiling.

We committed numerous violations of Shabbat in the process. I honestly don’t know how the Orthodox do it. Do they just not have home disasters on Shabbat?

Also, during the course of this chaos, I managed to injure myself by stabbing myself in the foot. I cannot begin to describe how this happened. I am just one of those strange accident-prone people. Anyway, I’m fine now, but it was just one more thing that happened.

The story gets better

We eventually started eating dinner (and drinking a lot of alcohol). Husband went to check on the bathroom at one point.

Husband: You have to take a look at the bathtub.

Me: Why? What happened now?

Husband:…Just come in and look…

Me (nervously): Is it a bug?

Husband: No…just come and see for yourself…

I hobbled awkwardly into the bathroom (see foot-stabbing wound above). Deep red-wine foamy water is coming up through the bathtub drain and filling the tub.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is another issue with the pipes that has happened before. However, we’ve never seen it where the water is this deep red wine color and bubbly, and we’ve never seen this volume of water before.

Neither of us wants to say the first possibility that comes to mind – one of the neighbors has murdered someone in their bathtub and the bloody water has backed up into our bathtub. I also don’t say aloud the second disturbing possibility that comes to mind – one of the neighbors ingested and vomited massive quantities of red wine into their bathtub and this red wine vomit-water backed up into our bathtub.

But fortunately, the deep-red wine foamy water has a not unpleasant, almost perfume-y scent to it. It has more of a pink-purple tinge to it, not really a blood-red color. A less disturbing possibility comes to mind.

Me: I think one of the neighbors used a red wine scented bubble bath or bath bomb. That must be it.

At least, that’s the possibility we decide to tell ourselves.

I’m going to keep telling myself that the neighbors were engaging in a luxurious spa day….not a horrifying bloodbath…Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels

Touché, God-Chef

Like all other God-humanity metaphors, mine is also deeply flawed. In a chef-restaurant patron relationship, the customer holds a lot of power. The customer orders and pays and expects to get what they order and pay for, otherwise they’ll leave a bad review and go elsewhere. I mean, I can pray for / order whatever I want (like right now. I’m praying hard that it’s red wine bubble bath bomb in the bathtub), but there is way less expectation that God-Chef will serve exactly the dish I ordered and no idea when I’ll get served.

However, all the bad metaphors serve to illuminate something. In this case, I learned the importance of not complaining about my olive-ridden, but otherwise, perfectly decent sandwich because the chef can always feel underappreciated and cook up something much worse.

Touché, God-Chef. And thank you.

32 comments

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    Liked by 1 person

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    Like

  3. I could torture that metaphor of yours a little more. For a while I lived in a little village with exactly one restuarant. Some days I would be too tired to eat before coming home, and too tired to cook afterwards. The only choice was that restaurant, no matter what it felt like serving, and how the service was. I was lucky that it had a decent chef, a reasonably friendly staff, and never ran out of coffee and Calvados.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. what a terrible ordeal! I don’t understand the Jewish references but I sure as hell understand the problem of bad, noisy neighbors; hope things get better; a little drama in our lives is not a bad thing but you have had more than your share

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m sorry the life-sandwich is riddled with olives right now 😦 (weird for me to say that, ’cause – yum, olives:)) Although I do have to say, you have a way of writing which actually makes me laugh out loud, while remembering that this is NOT funny for you while experiencing it.

    Yet again, I find it very interesting to read this from your point of view (with me being, I guess I’d be labeled ultra-orthodox, although I don’t like the term or being labeled.). I’ve been learning a lot about G-d (or as we say, Hashem) on my own, as an adult, and with it my view on all the liturgy has matured as well. It’s still confusing to me and I get your Chef analogy (which is funny too), yet… 🙂

    We committed numerous violations of Shabbat in the process. I honestly don’t know how the Orthodox do it. Do they just not have home disasters on Shabbat?

    We do, and sometimes we violate some stuff too (because hey, we’re all human after all!). But I guess when you’re raised with the notion of ‘THIS CANNOT HAPPEN COME WHAT MAY’, it just really isn’t an option. Although I wonder if our basement flooding had happened on Shabbos, how my mom would have reacted. Probably a lot of violations on her side, with my dad trying to save both the basement and Shabbos and the family sanity – sometimes men are good for something;)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you – it took me some time to write this. Like I had to move past the disbelief/angry stage and get to the stage where looking back, it is actually a pretty funny story. I’m glad the chef analogy makes sense, even for those who like olives. 🙂

      Your point about “This cannot happen come what may” makes a lot of sense and I think it is spot-on. I don’t have as much that fits into that category as I wasn’t raised Orthodox. Probably the only thing for me is not eating non-kosher meat. We grew up eating dairy, fish, and vegetarian in non-kosher restaurants. I attempted to quit eating in non-kosher restaurants, but it really never stuck, other than not eating non-kosher meat because that was so ingrained in me as a “We do not do that ever” thing. Actually, Pesach largely fit into that category too. But that was pretty much it. But I do understand the mentality.

      Like

  6. That is a lot to have on your plate, no pun intended. I think it’s understandable to feel stressed.

    I honestly don’t know how the Orthodox do it. Do they just not have home disasters on Shabbat?

    I tend to live in fear of this happening, because I don’t know either. Not being raised so frum, I feel I don’t have the life-long training in what to do in these situations. I guess the nuclear option is “Go
    outside, find a random non-Jew and hint that you want them to follow you home and turn the heating on (or whatever)” because that doesn’t sound weird and creepy at all. I’ve seen that done when we had problems in shul or when I’ve been eating at someone else’s house.

    Liked by 1 person

      • It’s kind of a complicated story, but I was about twelve when I started actively becoming frummer. My family did also become frum, but it was more that they were following me than becoming frum alongside me.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I would love to know more about your Jewish Journey, to the extent that you’re willing and interested in sharing about it. I’m happy to share mine too, if you’re into that sort of thing.

          Yours,
          David

          Liked by 2 people

        • I tend not to speak about it so much, partly because I feel it intersects with my family’s stories, and I feel uncomfortable telling their stories without their permission, but maybe I’ll write a bit about it on my blog one day. This week looks pretty hectic though, so probably not for a while.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I’m happy to share… I don’t know if I want to do a blog post about it because it would probably be boring for non-Jews… I have to think about how to write it out in an engaging way.

          But if I don’t do a blog post some time soon on this subject, I’ll give you a run-down of my JJ in this comment, or in another… or by e-mail – I’ll figure something out.

          -David

          Liked by 1 person

        • I’m reminded of when my hometown Rabbi gave us an assignment in to write a Jewish journey/values essay – I’m paraphrasing a bit because he gave the exact same prompt to the graduating high school seniors every year and was known for it, and I don’t want to share my location – but anyway, I wrote this essay as a 17-year-old for the assignment. I thought about doing it again as a 27-year-old, but never did. It would be an interesting exercise to write it again as a, well, considerably older than 27-year-old

          Liked by 1 person

    • I once went to a meal hosted by Orthodox college students on a really hot day and the air conditioner stopped working. They did the whole “ask a random non-Jew to turn on the air conditioner” and offer said non-Jew a cookie so that he would derive benefit. They found a frat guy who had a high tolerance for potential creepy weirdness, but yeah, in another context, it is definitely odd.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I tend to live in fear of this happening, because I don’t know either.

      Many of those raised frum don’t know what to do in these situations either, unless it’s happened to them before, of they’ve made a point of asking and finding out and learning and preparing.
      The finding a random non-Jew is totally weird and creepy and makes for some very funny stories when the situation is benign 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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