Probably anyone who grew up with a Jewish education knows the pekela story. Pekela means package in Yiddish.
In the story, there is a small town where everyone is unhappy. And everyone looks at the others and says, “If only I had what that person had, then I’d be happy.”
A man comes to this town and says that everyone can take all their stuff – like, the good and bad stuff they have in their lives – put it in a package, a pekela, and place it in the city square. Then, each person can choose whichever pekela they want to take home with them.
Everyone does this, excitedly, fills their pekelas, and puts them in the square. But, lo and behold, each person ends up taking their own pekela back.
Well, as my uncle Avrum says about this story, “You have a mansion in South France? I think I’ll take your pekela.” :) But still, let’s for a moment see what truth is in this story.
I had a very heated discussion with my friend Daniel the other day at Kollel. (Hey Daniel!) Anyway, it was about the question, is God good? I was arguing on the negative side. But one of the things Daniel said was that even though there is so much suffering in the world, the majority of people, when given a chance to continue living or to die, choose to keep living, even if only for a while.
I said that of course we don’t want to die because that is an unknown and it is very scary. But he said that a truly evil god would have created the world in a way that was just constant, horrible suffering (like the non-Jewish idea of hell). If that was our existence, we would choose to leave it, even if it was to an unknown. The fact that we choose to stay here, means that it’s not all bad. There is good we are experiencing here. That is why we choose not to opt out.
The same with the pekelas. If it was bad enough, we wouldn’t take it back. But we don’t want to give up on the good in our pekela.
Do you think you’d take someone else’s pekela? I think the idea in this story is sort of cool because obviously the point is that once everyone saw other people’s lives for what they really were, they realized they themselves weren’t that bad off. That everyone has their own problems and blessings.