By Mordechai Schmutter
With Rosh Hashanah just around the corner (arguably, Rosh Hashanah is always just around the corner), what better middah to work on than sharing?
Wait. Why do I have to work on sharing? Why can’t everyone else work on sharing?
Sharing is something we instill in our kids from a young age, primarily because otherwise we’ll have to buy ten of the same toy. But also because we enjoy spending 75 percent of our waking hours negotiating turns and dictating how long everyone’s turn is going to be, and which turn goes first, based on whose turn was first the last time, because everyone’s okay with taking turns, as long as their turn is first.
“Ok, you take a bite of the cookie, and then he takes a bite of the cookie. You take a bite, he takes a bite. I don’t want to hear about it anymore.”
“Ma, he’s taking bigger bites than me!”
“Muh uh! I gink eveng . . .”
And if they can’t share, we take it away and no one gets to use it, which definitely teaches them major lessons about sharing.
But if we’re persistent, they do learn.
“Mommy said you have to share.”
Kids are smart. Notice the phraseology: “You have to share.”
“Do you have to share too?”
“No. Just you.”
And they’re more than willing to share colds. So we’re definitely getting through to them.
So as a result, a lot of people look at sharing as something you do when you’re a little kid. And then you get older, and you find someone you’re going to share the rest of your life with, meaning that you get part of your life, and she gets part of your life. (She gets the time that you’re not working.) And then you don’t really have to share with anyone else.
To be honest, you’re not crazy about sharing with this person either. As a wife, you feel like your husband is wasting a lot of closet space on clothes that obviously will never fit him again, mainly based on the fact that they have more holes than surface area. And as a husband, you are desperately hanging on to those clothes, because if you get rid of them, you’re going to lose whatever space you do have in the closet, which you’re going to need if you ever decide to wear more than two suits. The two of you also share the kids, which means, basically, that if you ever want to get rid of them, you can just say, “Wow! Go show Mommy!”
But sharing is wonderful (well, except file sharing); it brings people together. There are many different kinds of sharing:
Sharing money. For example, we can buy shares of a company, where you share a percentage of Dow Jones, even if you have no idea what a Dow Jone is. I recognize the names of most of the other companies, but what does Dow Jones sell? Near as I can tell, you only ever hear of them when it comes to stocks. Is that all they sell? And who names their kid “Dow”? The way I understand it, everyone buys some shares, and when the company does well, everyone rejoices together, and when the company does not, everyone is sad together, and they form support groups and say Tehillim and maybe go down to the offices to pitch in, thus fostering a sense of community. Right? Nah. If the stock goes down, they try to sell their shares to everyone else while trying to hide the fact that they’re panicking. That’s kind of like your brother saying, “The toy broke, so now it’s your turn.”
Sharing knowledge. This can be recipes, divrei Torah, and just general bits of useful information you’ve picked up over the years. One way of sharing knowledge, for example, is yelling, “Watch your head!” after someone bumps his head. Or you can yell “Careful!” after the person trips.
Thanks. I’ll try to land carefully.
But you have to make sure that what you’re sharing is actually knowledge and not just your opinions. Sure, giving people your opinions is called “sharing your two cents,” and it’s always great to share money. But everything else in the world has gone up in price, except for unsolicited opinions, which have been worth the same two cents since the 1800s. If you have a dollar, you can get 50 unsolicited opinions. Even more if you know where to shop.
Sharing time. I don’t mean “buying timeshares.” A timeshare is when you go to one of those presentations where the salesperson tries to convince you that paying a relatively low rate to stay in the same exact place every time you go on vacation is a better deal than not paying anything at all and just leaving with your free gifts. But a timeshare is not actually about sharing time, because when you’re there, the other who-knows-how-many families who rent the room with you are not.
So by “sharing time,” I actually mean sharing time with your family and friends. For example, a recent study finds that most families spend about 35–40 minutes a day just yelling at each other. Isn’t that nice? They’re sharing knowledge, opinions, information, memories (“You do this every time! Remember that time we were at your mother . . .”). Maybe that’s not what I mean either.
There are two classic examples that people talk about in regard to sharing time:
1. Eating supper as a family, by which we mean serving your kids supper, remembering that no one brought out drinks, making the drink, cleaning up the spill from the person who had to take first and took more than the cup could actually hold because he couldn’t lift the full container, and by the time you sit down to eat, realizing the kids are finished eating with you. And then spending the entire time that you’re trying to eat fielding questions from your kids as to why there’s no dessert, and of course getting into long conversations with them about how nothing happened in school that day.
2. Taking time off to do a favor for your friend, such as driving him to the airport, because the airport charges an arm and a leg for parking, as if their space is so limited. What about that big open area alongside the runways? Why can’t people just park there?
Sharing smiles. They say, “Smile, and the world smiles with you. [Or at you. Who knows.] But yawn, and the world yawns with you.” When you smile at someone on the street, it makes them wonder what you’re smiling about and then they look back to see who you’re smiling at, and when they don’t see anyone, then maybe they’ll smile back at you, unless you’re already gone by then. But maybe the person behind you will see them smiling, and repeat the whole process, and so on, with two chains of people walking by each other in opposite directions and smiling, until everyone in a ten-block radius is walking around grinning, and no one knows why.
Sharing pain. By this, we don’t just mean inhaling sharply through your teeth while yelling “Careful!” as the other person hits each stair. It means sharing burdens. Sharing a burden with someone else makes the burden lighter. Like carpooling, or putting up your neighbor’s extended family for a three-day yom tov. But sharing pain means that when someone has problems, you listen to them complain, and try to feel what they’re going through, and then in the meantime, you give them some of your pain to hang on to as well. “You think you have it bad? Wait until you hear what happened to me! That’s the last time I try to park near the runway.”
Sharing simchas. You can also share simchas, as in “May we all share simchas together.” In other words, someone else makes a sheva berachos, and they’re happy, and you’re happy too, even though you don’t really want to be there. It’s a complicated emotion. Another reason it’s called “sharing a simcha” is that they try to send you home with leftovers.
Anyway, that’s it for today. May we all share simchas together. And no, I did not just invite all my readers to my next simcha. Although that would solve the leftovers problem. v
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of four books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.