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Recipe for Success

I took the book, but the look on my face obviously said, “What’s this?”


I regularly learn with my balabatim (a wide mix of men on various levels of learning) between Minchah and Maariv. One evening we were doing Ein Yaakov on the topic of shalom bayis. The Ein Yaakov quoted a pasuk from the Navi Chabakuk, and in keeping with my habit of reading the pasuk inside, I asked Barry to please bring me the sefer.

After an excessive amount of time, Barry returned and, with a big smile, handed me the book, Spice and Spirit: The Complete Kosher Jewish Cookbook.

I took the book, but the look on my face obviously said, “What’s this?”

Barry proudly said, “At first, when you said, ‘Let’s look up the pasuk in Chabakuk, I thought maybe there was a sefer by that name. However, I went through the set of Tanach and read all the names of the books, and there was nothing called Chabakuk. It then occurred to me, Rabbi, that you must have swallowed your words and said, ‘Chaba-Cook,’ but you meant the Chabad Cookbook.

“It took me some time, but I tracked it down for you!”

I almost said, “This is the wrong book. The book called Trei Asar contains 12 smaller books, including Chabakuk. Trei Asar means 12 in Aramaic. Why would I want a cookbook?”

But (baruch Hashem!) before the words left my mouth, a memory flooded my mind.

More than 20 years ago, I had the zechus to travel to Europe with the Vaad L’Hatzolas Nidchei Yisroel, an organization that spreads Torah to the Jews of the former Soviet Union.

Rav Mattisyahu Salomon graced us with his presence.

Whatever time we had to wake up, he would teach the sefer Tomer Devorah 30 minutes before davening. I attended his Tomer Devorah shiur, even when it was 4:30 a.m. I would wait by his hotel door, take his tallis and tefillin and seforim from him, and carry them to the makeshift shul.

One day as he sat down to teach, he realized that the Tomer Devorah was not on top of the small pile of seforim. He asked me if I would mind going back to his room to get it.

Of course, I ran to do the mitzvah.

I returned to his room, picked up the sefer, and hand delivered it to the Mashgiach.

He thanked me, hesitated for a moment, and then opened it and began, “Yesterday, we learned a very fundamental principle in the Tomer Devorah.”

He then reviewed the topic from the open sefer in front of him.

“This morning, I want to learn with you what the Mesillas Yesharim says about this point.”

He then continued reading from the sefer in front of him.

After the shiur, I picked up the seforim and noticed that Tomer Devorah was not among them. I then realized I had brought him the Mesillas Yesharim instead of the Tomer Devorah. And that  was why the Mashgiach had hesitated. Not wanting to embarrass me, he pretended he’d needed the Mesillas Yesharim all along.

I was amazed by his middos.

Suddenly, I heard a voice: “Rabbi, what did you want to show us in the cookbook?”

I immediately opened the cookbook and began to turn the pages randomly. My eyes noticed a sentence in the book that talked about the importance of the Shabbos table.

“Everyone, please listen up. Even in this wonderful cookbook, there is a reference to the importance of having shalom bayis, especially at the Shabbos table.”

I read a few lines, improvised a little, and closed the cookbook.

I looked at Barry and said loud and clear, “Thank you so much, Barry, for bringing me the cookbook. It was a real chesed. I’ll bet even the famed Mashgiach Rav Mattisyahu Salomon would be proud of you!”

The glow from Barry’s face could be seen and felt in the entire beis medrash as he smiled from ear to ear.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 891)

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