There are two types of people in the world, those who like their chocolate chip cookies crispy, and those who like them chewy. There are rumors that there exists a third type of human, the one who likes chocolate chip cookies thick and cakey, but not enough data exists on this subspecies, they are still under review.

Without any evidence whatsoever, I assume that the people who like crispy chocolate chip cookies are those who operate on the Din side of the spectrum, the people who like order in their lives, get up without hitting the snooze button, have neat rooms and desks, and tackle problems with intellectual rigor and discipline. The people who like chewy chocolate chip cookies are those who operate on the Chessed side of the spectrum, the people who love to give and nurture, likely hit the snooze button once or twice, have rooms and desks that are cluttered (but I know where everything is!), and connect deeply with others on an emotional level using their empathy and understanding to solve problems.

This is important knowledge for anyone setting up a Chanukah party for their workplace. If you run a preschool, you probably want to bring far more chewy chocolate chip cookies than crispy ones. If you run an accounting firm, load up on the crispy.

It is also an important tool for understanding your spouse and children. If they like the crispy chocolate chip cookies, please give them the structure they crave. They may not know how to ask for it, but their lives will be much more manageable if you keep to a schedule, set out clear expectations, and use point sheets and progress charts to establish their success in whatever they are working on. If they like chewy chocolate chip cookies, make extra time in your day to discuss how they feel about their time in school or work, reward them with compliments and affectionate touch, and give them a little bit more space to work things out, they will surprise you with their resilience and creativity when given the emotional support they need.

Gluten-free children pose the biggest challenge to parents, they simply don’t have the standard diagnostic tool you can apply to most other children. Parents are basically left with two choices; seek out alternative gluten-free recipes for both chewy and crispy chocolate chip cookies and see which one the child gravitates to, or enlist the help of a professional.

Based on the enormous import of chocolate chip cookies in human society, we assume that they were always present. You would register no shock if they found archaeological evidence of chocolate chip cookies in the tombs of Pharaohs or in the provision bags of the terra cotta armies from China’s Qin dynasty. But despite the ubiquity of chocolate chip cookies, they are a relatively new invention; there are still people alive today who remember a world without chocolate chip cookies. For many years there was a rumor that chocolate chip cookies were created when a chocolate bar accidently fell into a mixer making regular cookie dough but in reality, it was a methodically planned experiment that produced this amazing invention.

Ruth Wakefield was a hospital dietitian who also taught home economics and ran a popular restaurant in Whitman, Massachusetts with her husband. The restaurant was famous for two things, its military-like precision and dessert selection. The staff was meticulously monitored to ensure that customers always had the quick and courteous service they came to expect. A brochure for the restaurant boasted, “Long-range planning and constantly studied personnel are reflected in an operating teamwork flawless in its unruffled perfection. Confusion is unknown.” (You’d expect Mrs Wakefield to like crispy chocolate chip cookies.) She had been looking for an alternative to a thin butterscotch nut cookie that was usually served with ice cream, and on the way back from a trip to Egypt, it suddenly hit her. She came home, rushed to the kitchen and broke up a bar of Nestle semi-sweet chocolate with an ice pick and added the pieces to some brown-sugar cookie dough, and just like that the world changed forever.

Ruth happened to work as a consultant for Nestle, and they saw her newest hit dessert as a great way to market their slow-selling semi-sweet chocolate, and they offered her $1 to include her recipe on the back of their label. She agreed on the condition that they helped her market her restaurant, known as the Toll House Inn, and from that fateful day in 1938 to this very day, the Nestle packaging still prominently displays Toll House on every package despite the actual restaurant burning down after a particularly exuberant New Years Eve party in 1984.

At first, Nestle would include a chopper to make chips in each package of semi-sweet chocolate, but eventually they started marketing pre-made chocolate morsels, with the iconic shape of chocolate chips that remains to this day. Today, the variety of chocolate chip cookies is staggering. There are at least four primary varieties; chewy, crispy, chunky, and cakey. Then there are endless additions; macadamia nut, toffee chips, pecans, coconut, almond, milk chocolate, oatmeal, white chocolate, coffee, and oh so many more.

You may love your grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies, but science had its own foray into the kitchen as well, trying to figure out the best recipe. They’ve discovered a few tips that may turn you into the chocolate chip cookie master of the neighborhood, but it all depends on what flavors you’re looking for. Here are some scientifically researched tips:

For Ooey-gooey cookies – add more flour

For cookies with a nice tan – set the oven to 360, caramelization occurs above 356 degrees

Chewier cookies – use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour (how do you feel about that?)

Thick cookies – freeze the batter for 30-60 minutes before baking, it solidifies the fats which will spread less while backing

Cakey – use more baking soda because it releases carbon dioxide when heated, puffing up the cookies

Butterscotch flavored- use light brown sugar instead of white sugar

Uniform looks – add one ounce of corn syrup and one ounce of granulated sugar

Deeper flavors – Chill the dough for at least 24 hours before baking

Crispier cookies – skip the eggs, or bake the cookies for longer at lower temperatures

Personally, I’m a chewy chocolate chip cookie kind of guy. I truly have a hard time understanding the cakey or crispy people. How does someone give up on the soft melt-in-your-mouth goodness of chewy cookies? To me crispy cookies are burnt, dry and boring, and cakey cookies are not really cookies. But chocolate chip cookies have taught me to appreciate the differences between people, and the importance of seeing things from the other side. Crispy cookie lovers aren’t bad people, they’re good people who genuinely like something different. That’s OK, I don’t need to appreciate the way they operate, I need to appreciate who they are.

In this week’s Torah portion, we see the importance of seeing things through other people’s eyes in two separate stories. Yaakov, the third of our patriarchs, meets Rachel at a well, and instantly knows that they are destined for each other. He works for seven long years to win her hand in marriage, only to have his slimy father-in-law switch her for her sister under the chuppah. He is forced to commit to work for another seven years in order to marry the sister he always planned on marrying, Rachel. After being married to both Rachel and Leah, the Torah tells us that he loved Rachel more than Leah.

The Torah then says (Genesis 38:31), “And the Lord saw that Leah was hated, so He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.” Leah proceeds to have four children in rapid succession and gives the first three names that speak of her pain at being the hated wife, and her hopes to have more attention from her husband. This seems very troubling. Yaakov is one of the three Patriarchs of the Jewish people. How could he hate one of his wives? Granted, she was used in a wicked ploy her father to get seven more years of labor out of Yaakov, but this was not her fault at all, how could Yaakov hate her?

Rav Avraham Pam, OBM (1913-2006), used to explain this passage by first telling over a story that happened to him when he first started his sixty-year teaching career. A mother came in and complained that her son felt that “Rebbe hates me.” Horrified, Rav Pam told the mother that he hates no one, certainly not a student. Upon further discussion it emerged that the boy felt that Rav Pam was calling on other boys more frequently than him, which in his mind made him feel that his Rebbe hated him. Rav Pam thanked the mother, and told him that he would certainly try to be more sensitive to the boy in the future. Objectively, Rav Pam knew that he didn’t hate the boy, but if that was how the boy felt, Rav Pam had to see the world from this boy’s view and respond to what he was feeling.

Similarly, Rav Pam explained that we should never think that Yaakov hated Leah, he certainly treated her with the greatest of respect and showed her affection. We see that the Torah itself testifies (Ibid. 38:30) that “Yaakov loved Rachel more than Leah,” which indicates that he did love her, just not as much as Rachel. However, she knew that she was not the favored wife, and in her eyes, being the unfavored wife was emotionally very difficult, and she saw herself as “the hated wife.” That is why the Torah says that “G-d saw that Leah was hated,” only G-d saw this because He can see into the minds of all people and He saw that even though objectively Yaakov was giving Leah a great amount of love and attention, she subjectively still felt hated, and G-d responded to her feeling, not to what might be considered the objective truth.

The other example in this week’s parsha of responding to someone’s subjective feelings over an objective reality, occurs shortly thereafter. Rachel sees that Leah has four children and she has none, and she comes with a complaint to Yaakov (Genesis 30:1), “Give me children, and if not, I am dead!” Yaakov got angry at Rachel for making it sound like it was up to him, and he answered her, “Am I instead of G-d, Who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” He was saying, look at this objectively, I have four children already, so it must not be me who is to blame here, it must be you. Don’t come complaining to me, pray to G-d and work it out with Him! But there was a level of insensitivity in his response, because he was only hearing what she said, and not seeing the pain she was feeling inside. And as the Medrash says (B.R. 71:7), G-d said to him, “Is this how you answer a pained woman? By your life your sons (with Leah) will stand before her son!” (This came true when Yosef was the ruler of Egypt and Leah’s sons stood before him in fear…)

G-d was saying to Yaakov, you may be objectively correct that you have children, and it is her that doesn’t, but when someone comes to you with a complaint, instead of looking at the objective reality, try to understand where they are coming from, what they are feeling, what message they’re sending out, and respond to that. Just because you don’t agree with what they are saying, calibrate your response in recognition of how they see the world.

This is so important for us as spouses or parents. A harried spouse, after a long grueling day, may say something that objectively sounds terrible, “You never put in your fair share of the work! I feel like I’m carrying this whole family all by myself!” And we can try to respond by showing how they are wrong, showing how we do put in a lot of work to keep the family going. But if we do, we’re totally missing the point! They are saying that they are in pain, that they had a hard day and are stressed out, and we’re responding with totally useless information by talking about how we see things, as opposed to addressing the real issue and validating their pain. It’s like someone saying, “Yum, I love these crispy chocolate chip cookies!”, and we respond by pointing to the many clear obvious ways that chewy ones are better. It’s totally irrelevant, and it skirts the real issue, that the person is expressing joy and appreciation for what they are eating.

Another example is when we have a difficult interaction with a child, and the child says, “You hate me!” We can either respond with, “What are you talking about? Of course I love you! I do some much for you! I make you dinner every night, I clean your clothes, pick you up from school every day, pay for your sleep away camp… how dare you say I hate you!” And if you respond like that, it’s like trying to convince someone that crispy cookies are better than chewy. That is simply not how they feel and you can’t convince them out of it! But what you can do is wait for it to blow over, and then approach the child, and say, “Earlier you said that I hate you, what made you feel that way?” and try to have a conversation with the child, seeing things from their perspective.

Whether you’re a chewy or a crispy, or even a cakey, the one thing we can all agree on is that we are better off as people when we don’t try to determine the objective truth in human relationship matters, but try to understand where our truth is as well as where their truth is, what we feel and what they feel. When we do that, we get to the place where every relationship comes out just perfect, even better than store-bought!


Parsha Dvar Torah

In this week’s Parsha we see the difficulties Ya’akov encountered while dealing with Lavan, his father-in-law, who happens to have won the award for World’s Biggest Slimeball for 23 years running. From cheating Ya’akov out of the wife for whom he worked seven years, to switching his pay rate 100 times, this guy was a class act. He had every scam possible sitting securely in his pocket.

Finally, Ya’kov had enough. He waited until Lavan went to one of his Idol Fests, took his family and belongings, and headed back to Israel. When Lavan found out that Ya’akov ran away, he set out after him in a rage, and was ready to kill Ya’akov (his own son-in-law! Did I mention that Slimeball Award he won repeatedly?). Luckily, Ya’akov had G-d on his side. G-d came to Lavan the night before he approached Ya’akov and warned him very sternly that he better not touch Ya’akov or anyone in his family. The next day, Lavan approached Ya’akov’s camp and said the following, “It is within the power of my hand to harm you, but the G-d of your father spoke to me last night saying, ‘Guard yourself not to speak to Yaakov either good or evil’” (Gen; 31:29).

The commentators point out the fallacy in that statement. Lavan starts off saying that it is within his power to harm Ya’akov, when it is clear from the end of his statement that in fact he knows he cannot. This points to a human condition where a person clearly knows something to be the truth, but due to a whole life of living a different way, can totally ignore reality. Lavan was so used to thinking that he was in control that even once it was very clear to him that he couldn’t do what he wants, he still foolishly blurted out “It is within my power to harm you…”

Today we see it in the smoker who smokes through the tube inserted into his trachea, who sees the devastating effects of his ways, but cannot stop himself. We also see it in people (myself including) who really wish to add more spiritual content to their lives, but are so used to living as they do that they make excuses, and stay the same. Sometimes we are blessed to have a moment of clarity, a brief period where we feel like G-d is sending us a message. Let’s remember not to fall into the Lavan trap, where we ignore it the very next day, but rather let’s seize it, use it, and grow from it.


Parsha Summary

This week’s Parsha begins with Yaakov going to Charan to find himself a good non-Canaanite wife. As he heads down, he spends the night in the location that would, years later, be the site of the Holy Temple. He has a dream in which he sees angels going up and down a ladder. The angels of Israel were leaving him, and the angels of Chutz La’aretz (literally “outside the land” meaning anywhere out of Israel) were coming down to accompany him. In this dream G-d promises Yaakov that he will be guarded and protected in the house of Lavan, that he will come back to Israel in peace, and that eventually the whole Israel will be given to his offspring.

When Yaakov reaches Charan, he sees the local shepherds waiting around a well, and asks them why they don’t let their sheep out to pasture. They answer that they all gather around the well until they have enough people to be able to push off the boulder resting on its mouth. As Rachel, Lavan’s daughter, approaches, Yaakov sees with Divine intuition that this will be his wife, and he is filled with strength. He flips the boulder off the well, and waters Rachel’s sheep. Upon going back to Lavan’s house, Yaakov stays with Lavan for a month and works as his shepherd before Lavan asks him if he wants some sort of remuneration for his work. (Yep, Lavan the no-goodnik had Yaakov, his guest and relative, watching his sheep for a month without pay before finally offering him some pay.)

Yaakov tells him that he would like to marry Rachel, Lavan’s younger daughter. Lavan gives him his blessing on the condition that Yaakov shepherd his sheep for seven years, which Yaakov gladly does. However, Lavan the Lowlife switches the daughters and gives him Leah. Yaakov had been anticipating this, and gave Rachel certain signs which she was to give him on their wedding night. However, Rachel, fearing the incredible humiliation that Leah would undergo when Yaakov realized he was being given the wrong bride, gives Leah the signs even though that meant she would be left to marry Yaakov’s brother the Evil Eisav. This teaches how far one must go to prevent someone from being humiliated.

Yaakov is not happy with Lavan upon realizing that he has been duped, but Lavan offers a quick and easy solution – work another seven years for Rachel. Yaakov does so. Leah has four children, Reuven, Shimon, Levi, and Yehuda, after which she stops having children. Rachel has none, so she decides to give her maidservant, Bilhah, to Yaakov in the hopes of building a family through her children. This works, and Rachel names Bilhah’s two children Dan and Naftali. Leah, seeing that she stopped having children, also gives her maidservant, Zilpah, to Yaakov as a wife and she gives birth to two children, Gad and Asher.

Soon Leah has two more children, Yisachar and Zevulun, and finally, after many years of praying and yearning, Rachel has a son, whom she calls Yosef. After Yosef (who is destined to quash Eisav) was born, Yaakov is ready to head back to his land. However, after 14 years of devoted service Lavan is finally ready to cut a deal. If Yaakov stays, he will let him keep certain sheep based on their coats (i.e. ringed, speckled, spotted, or brownish). Over the next six years Lavan changes the agreement 100 times, but Yaakov manages to devise a system in which he still gets some sheep. G-d blesses his flocks, and in six years Yaakov becomes very prosperous.

Realizing that Lavan and his family are getting jealous of and angry with him, Yaakov tells his family that its time to leave their villainous Zeidy, and Rachel and Leah answer that they are only too happy to leave the father who didn’t treat them as daughters but as strangers. Yaakov leaves while Lavan is on a trip to one of his Idol Fests, and Rachel steals her father’s idols. When Lavan hears about the exodus of his daughters and grandchildren, and the theft of his idols, he becomes enraged and chases them down with the intent to seriously harm them. But G-d comes to Lavan in a dream and tells him that he better not do anything, neither good nor bad (as the saying goes, not from your honey and not from your sting), to Yaakov and his family.

Instead, Lavan comes and plays the hurt and abandoned grandfather, complaining that he wanted to see them off amid great fanfare. Then he accuses Yaakov of stealing his idols. Lavan searches all the tents, but Rachel hides them in her saddlebag and tells her father that she can’t get off her camel, because she is sick. In the end, Lavan makes a treaty with Yaakov and then peacefully departs in the morning. That’s all Folks.

Quote of the Week: To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice. ~ Samuel Fremont

Random Fact of the Week: The mayfly’s eggs take three years to hatch. Lifespan: about six hours!

Funny Line of the Week: I had a stick of CareFree gum, but it didn’t work. As soon as the gum lost its flavor, I was back to pondering my mortality.

Have a Serene Shabbos,

R’ Leiby Burnham

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