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.
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!!”
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.
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.