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Blog: CREME DE LA KRIM

The official blog of Chabad of Crimea

Be Happy with Your Lot!

Imagine you want to serve chicken this Friday evening, for Shabbos dinner.  What are your options?  You can buy chicken in your local kosher butcher or the kosher section of your supermarket, and prepare it.  You can buy frozen semi-prepared chicken and cook it.  You can order from a “take-out” store.  I’m sure there are more options as well. 

Now imagine that you live in Ukraine.  Not in a large city; a place like Simferopol, for example.  How do we get our chicken?  Normally, I call one of the stores or firms which sell kosher chicken, and make an order; by the case, of course.  Then I send the money to them via a system similar to Western Union.  I call them with the control number; they receive the money, and send it to me either on a train or a bus.  My driver picks it up the next day, sometimes at 4:00 in the morning, other times at less unearthly hours.  Then, after we flick the chickens, to remove the numerous feathers, we can start preparing it.  Are you already “happy with your lot?”  Read on!

Then there are days like today, which happens to be Wednesday.  Shabbos will begin just after 4:00 this Friday, and the travelling time for the chicken is about 14 hours, which means if we want to eat chicken this Shabbos, it MUST get sent out today!  In a break between classes, I ran to the bank, to get the money, which was supposed to be here two days ago.  Later, after a very hectic day in school, I called the place where I like to get my chickens.  The owner is very careful about kashrus, and always extends credit if I need it.  ‘We’re so sorry; we’re going to shecht beef now.  No, we don’t know when we’ll be shechting chickens.  Would you like beef?  Maybe next week it will be ready.’  Okay, I thought, I’ll have to call the other place, and I can order the nosh for the school store at the same time.  ‘Sorry, we have no chicken today.’  Fine; the next place always has chicken.  ‘Oh, we’re just about to shecht.  We can send it out to you next Monday, will that be fine?’ No, actually that won’t be fine; I need the chicken this week, for this Shabbos.  I remembered another store, with a fine person who manages it.  ‘The money is no problem,’ he said, ‘but I don’t have even one chicken.  They’ll probably be here tomorrow.’  Well, that only left one more store, the one I was hoping I wouldn’t have to call.  In my bakery in America, we had a sign hanging on the wall which said “The customer is the boss.”  Not here; no way!  Like it or lump it is their motto.  They actually did have chickens.  Great!  ‘If I send you the money RIGHT now, can you still send me chickens today?’ I asked, hopefully.   ‘Bring the money into the store.  No money, no chickens,’ replies the new salesperson.  ‘Did you hear what I said?  I live 14 hours away from you.   I’m going to send it to you right now.  Just tell me how much it will cost.’  ‘No money, no chickens, no exceptions,’ she replies.  No amount of explaining can make her understand that I’ve sent money many times to the store in the past.  I asked her to weigh the chickens and tell me how much money I needed to send.  ‘I can’t, I have PEOPLE here.’ She said.  ‘Hey, I’m a person too,’ I tried, but to no avail.  I called someone in that shul, for whom I had just done a big favor.  ‘Can you help me figure out how to get through to this salesperson,’ I ask?  ‘I’ll send the money RIGHT now.  I’ll call with the control number.  She can pick it up in 10 minutes or tomorrow or next year, for all I care.’  ‘So what should I do?’ was her reply.  I tried calling the rabbi there, and got someone who told me to speak Russian.  What did he think I was speaking    Chinese?  Greek?  The secretary said to call back, rudely hung up, and later again said to call back.  Then I got a fax machine and an answering machine.  I tried to call someone I know, on the other side of the city.  His telephone was turned off, because he was learning at the time.  I sent him a text message, and kept calling, but he was still unavailable.  I tried other people, and got more answering machines.  Finally, practically in tears, I called someone else and asked him to locate the person I was trying to find.  Five minutes later I was finally able to get through to him.  He agreed to pick up the money I’d send and go across town to buy the chickens, take them back to his dorm and package them properly (even on “good days” that store gets uptight about wasting another 10 cents on a bag to double wrap the chickens,) and then go to the train station to send the chicken to me.  I called the store and asked the salesperson to please weigh the chickens now, so he can make it on time.  ‘Don’t wooorry, she said.  I’ll do it when he comes in.’ I called the man who would be sending the chickens, to make sure he had his passport, and asked how to spell his name.  ‘Wait – I’ll get my passport and find out!’  Meanwhile, I was already running to the bank.  I knew I’d missed the quicker one, but was hoping to get to the other bank on time.  Sure enough, I got there a minute after 5:00.  That means that the upstairs cashier is closed and I need to use the downstairs cashier.  Last time I waited on line for a full hour!  I ran upstairs first to make out the application.  The clerk asked for a legal document proving from where I’d received the grivni, and told me I can’t send the money without it.   Once he saw that I started to call the president of the bank, he quietly called me over and asked if it mattered who sent the money.  I couldn’t care less, so he sent it on his name.   Next was the big line downstairs.  Four cashiers were talking and laughing, and only one was open for the fairly long line.  Finally I paid, and asked her to show me the control number.  ‘The what?  You pay here and then you have to go upstairs to get it.’  Up again.  Down again.  How is it that I never get used to the way things work here???  Thank G-d, the receiving line in the other city was shorter, and our friend made it on time to buy the chickens and send them.  Now they’re on the train.  Let’s just pray they get here now.

“Ben Zoma said … Who is rich?  He who is happy with his lot…”  Believe me, you have what to be happy about!  Appreciate it!  And I’ll keep trying too.

Leah

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