KERPLUNK! A Lesson in Plans

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Photo by DL Friedner

I’ve always considered myself to be pretty solid with articulating my thoughts on paper. But even the prior sentence alone consumed a timeless amount of construction. There was some sort of blockage in my brain which I couldn’t exactly pinpoint.

I knew my thoughts were still very much there. My mind dizzied itself with an endless amount of abstract ideas and concepts that most people avoid thinking about. So it wasn’t as though I had nothing to say. I just didn’t know how to say it.

And it bothered me. If writing was my “claim to fame”, then I was slowly losing my status. If the written word was how I best expressed myself, then it must have been a while since I last let my feelings loose.

But what was I feeling exactly? Nothing I was thinking could be concretized. This seemed to be an apt mashal for the way my life was panning out lately: unexpected.

It’s not as if I had intended it to be this way. I’m always planning, imagining the worst-case scenarios, thinking through the what-ifs and what-if-nots, and everything in between.

But the more I plan, the more I find myself having to regroup and renew my ideas. “Man plans and G-d laughs” has never rung truer.

And, looking back fondly upon my seminary memories, I was reminded of when “KERPLUNK” happened…

Thoughts racing, information sizzling, brain on high alert, I literally had no extra time for the mundane. Busy sitting in stimulating classes all day, I was forced to wonder how dinner would make its way onto my kitchen table.

I finally caught a short break and decided to make a turkey salad to refrigerate for later. I soaked, rinsed and checked every piece of lettuce meticulously, and added the rest of the salad contents in the correct measurements. I took a step back at the end of my salad-making session, and my eyes lit up with excitement at the thought of having a self-made, hearty and healthy salad waiting for me for dinner.

I quickly dashed to class so as not to be late and proceeded to attend several more classes until the sun went down.

I could feel my stomach grumbling and could not wait to grab my food out of the refrigerator and satisfy my hunger.

My ten apartment-mates were hustling about the kitchen, cooking frantically, trying to pull together something quick and easy. I was so happy to have a ready-made meal calling my name from the top shelf of the refrigerator.

I finally took it out, snatched a fork from my cupboard and was about to take my first bite…and then I heard it.

“KERPLUNK!”

I don’t know how it happened, but it did. My entire salad was piled on the dirty, un-sponja-ed floor. Not a crumb in my mouth. I replayed the scene over and over again in slow motion. I even organized an impromptu memorial service with my apartment-mates, as I mourned my great loss.

“Man plans. G-d laughs.” Haha. If only I were laughing too.

I thought back to the beginning of my day in my mind. G-d knew I wasn’t going to reap the benefits of a scrumptious, effort-filled dinner tonight. As I washed each piece of lettuce with intense care and precision, G-d knew I was never going to eat it.

So why did it have to happen? Did G-d think it was some sort of funny practical joke? Pick a few random people from around the world and knock their dinners from their hands before they are even able to take a bite?

Satire aside, there has to be an important lesson here. Perhaps it’s not all about the results, but about the effort. Perhaps it’s not about the finished product, but the careful monitoring and cleaning of each individual piece.

Society has warped our minds into believing that results measure success. But we must begin to realize that there’s more. The information we learn on our journey is important; the work ethic we exercise improves us. Regardless of the result, we still profit from the experience, even if we don’t know how.

It is six years later, and I still can’t seem to get the dinner game figured out. As a Shabbos-prepping rookie, I left three potato kugels in the back of my oven (turned off, at the very least) for 5 whole days (I guess I didn’t cook much else that week). Just pity all those grated potatoes! Needless to say, I was not pleased.

But while we may not be able to fathom or understand why our meticulously prepared, precisely measured and scrumptiously delicious salads (or kugels) decide they aren’t in the mood to enter our mouths, and even when we don’t understand why the “result” had to be so negative, the journey getting there has provided us with new tools for the future and has exercised many different areas in our lives along the way, whether or not we realize it.

This isn’t a perfectly curated, jaw-dropping story of hasghacha pratis, because in real life, we aren’t always privy to the “why”. But we have to trust that there is a “why”.

Man plans. But G-d plans better.