Posted by: R Jonathan Gewirtz | May 24, 2018

Make Lemonade

After a particularly exciting and boisterous Shabbos in our home, replete with guests and children running in and out of the house to play, snack, eat, and play some more, we began what we like to call, “Operation Take Back the House.”

My aishes chayil, knowing I’m very big on challenges and personal growth, gave me the honor of cleaning the highchair which our friends’ baby had used.  As I approached the highchair with purpose, I leaned down and scooped an empty candy bag off the floor, where one of the children had undoubtedly placed it with the strategic intent of not having to go put something in the actual trash can.

Gingerly, I removed the tray from the highchair and brought it to the kitchen.  As I looked at the tray and its “babified” remnants of a delicious meal, I realized that A) I did NOT want to touch any of that stuff, B) and it was pretty stuck, so it wouldn’t fall off on its own if I tilted over the can.  In an instant, it came to me.  I held the tray over the garbage can with one hand, and used the empty bag in the other to push the delightful kugel and chicken cutlet mélange into the receptacle.  That’s when the idea for this article hit me.

I had an unpleasant task, but by utilizing whatever I had at my disposal (no pun intended), I managed to get the job done and keep my hands clean.  The message to me was pretty clear: make the most of what you have.  Do something with whatever life sends your way, because presumably that’s what HaShem sent it to you for.

How often do we get frustrated because things seem not to be to our liking?  Let’s say you have a nasty neighbor.  Perhaps it’s not a punishment from Heaven, as much as a challenge to overcome your ego and reach out to them.  Maybe it’s an opportunity to grow a thicker skin and not be upset by things that people say to you.

Maybe you look around at your friends’ cars and feel bad that your car is a few years older, a good deal more beat-up, and you wonder why you have the mazel to be stuck with a clunker.  That is, until someone sideswipes you in a parking lot and drives off.  If you had a new car, you’d be irate, but maybe with the older one you figure another scratch just adds to the “character” and “history” of the car. You come to realize that having this older car was actually a favor to you.

People like to complain about things, but how many of us try to fix them?  “I can’t daven in that shul because this guy davens out loud, even by silent Shmona Esrai!  And that guy reads along so loudly when he gets called to the Torah that I can’t hear the chazzan.”  Did you think that maybe you could gently tell him the halacha that he need not hear himself when laining along?  Or that though he should hear himself during Shmona Esrai, he is precluded from doing so if others can hear him?  If you haven’t tried, maybe you’re not using the frustration properly.

A fellow once came to the Steipler Gaon z”l complaining that his wife was a terrible housekeeper and he wanted advice.  The Steipler told him, “Take a broom and sweep!”  We aren’t supposed to wait for other people to fix things; we are supposed to take the tools at hand and put them to good use.

There’s an expression that says, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  The homespun wisdom behind that adage is that even though you’re suffering through a difficult situation, you should make the best of it and find some way to ease the pain.  Just as a lemon is sour but can be turned into something sweet, so can you make the best of a difficult situation and find some aspect of good about it.

I think there’s more to it than that.  Yes, when life gives you lemons, you should definitely make lemonade, but not because you’re simply finding the upside of a down situation.

No. When life gives you lemons, it’s precisely because G-d wants you to make lemonade!  It’s the mission He laid out for you and that’s why you have the tools and supplies for doing it.  I think I once mentioned something I read in an Aish HaTorah fax that bears repeating:  “There’s one thing that G-d doesn’t do well, and that’s Second-best.”

Everything in this world is precisely calculated and arranged. If you’ve got lemons, you’ve got to think what you can do with them.  It may be lemonade or lemon-meringue pie, or even a nice, warm glass of tea.  The main thing to keep in mind is that if it’s in your pantry or on your table, and you’ve got it on hand, it’s meant to be used for a special recipe that only you can make.  Lemonade_033195_

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