The meaning of a schlepper…

I am convinced that gnats are the devil with wings! Little insects flying around my facial orifices trying to lay their eggs; the very definition of devil behaviour. This morning while walking the compost bins back to the kitchen, a little devil spawn made their way into my ear hole. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Well that is an easy fix, just put your finger in and flick him out.” Well that’s where you are wrong. My hands were in rubber gloves which were the only thing protecting my skin from two-day-old cottage cheese and raw chicken juice. There was no way I was sticking that anywhere near my ear. I was at a loss; my fingers were covered in bin sauce and this little bugger was going to plant her eggs in me. I felt her moving around in there and no amount of head banging and shaking was going to work. I got really close to just sticking the finger in to get her out, but the fear of potential ear salmonella was enough to muster my restraint. I would just have to wait it out – and It was at this moment it hit me…I am a schlepper!

A schlepper is someone you feel bad for, someone who deserves pity for the situation in which their stupidity has trapped them. And as every Israeli tour guide has said to you, “Did you know this word has its roots shared with another word that is similar but a bit different but kind of the same but also not and I am going to use this new word as a transition into a different story now, ok yalla bye.” SCHLEP! We all knew it was coming.

My time here on Adamah can best be described with the word that defines the majority of the actions I have done…Schlep. We schlep the compost from here to there, we schlep the crates of vegetables from the field to the washroom, we schlep every morning from meditation to chores to breakfast to work, it’s a life of schlepping. You can schlep a thing to a place or you can schlep yourself to a thing.

I love the word schlep. It’s a noun, a verb, an adjective, an attitude, a way of life all rolled up into the awkward sound of someone slurping a milkshake…”scchhhhlep!” A non-Jewish person who knows the word will tell you that it means a long journey, but as Jews we know it means a whole lot more than that. We have been schlepping the burden of generational persecution now for a good couple of millenia on our shoulders. It is at a time like this, when I am thinking about Jewish words and experiences that I turn to my old friends Hillel and Shammai, those guys never seemed to agree and I can’t wait to see what they come up with on this.

Rabbi Hillel, blessed is the learned, would say, “To constitute a real schlep you must first identify the value of the item you are schlepping.”

To which Shammai would respond, “No, no, no. The value of the item is of no concern. It is all about the distance of the schlep that defines the amount of schlepiness.”

Hillel responds; “My learned equal (lol) it cannot just be about distance, what about the burden? What about the destination? What about the amount of complaining it evokes? These are important details.”

Shammai would go on to say. “So how would you determine which is more of a schlep: taking your two kids on a Sunday morning from Maroubra to Dover Heights to visit their friends, or taking your two kids and your friends two kids from Bondi to Randwick to get to school at rush hour? Does it constitute as a schlep on the holy Shabbos? Can a Cohen schlep while not wearing shoes? Can you schlep a sacrifice to the tabernacle? Does it count as a schlep if the intention was for it to be a trip but half way turns into a schlep because of traffic?”

So many valid questions.

Hillel then looks up to his colleague and in an instant knew he had figured it out: “The true definition of a schlep,” said the learned Rabbi, “lies in simple maths; distance times weight divided by velocity, subtract the number of complaints, and if your answer is 42 then you will know what it means to schlep.”

??Well now I am proper confused!! What are those two even arguing about anymore?

Maybe the semantics of the exact definition of a schlep is, indeed, semantics. But it is always useful to turn to our sages to understand our past to better understand our present and future.

Let’s imagine a schlep as a journey. On every journey there are ups and downs, good and bad. You can take a wrong turn at any point or pick up lessons you didn’t think you needed to learn along the way. There is no way of knowing when you start something exactly how it will end. This is the same as a schlep. You may find yourself lugging bins of leftover pasta bake up a hill at seven in the morning and you may find yourself with gnats in your ear while your simple task suddenly turns into a massive schlep. The schlep is the journey and the struggle the path which helps put all things into perspective. Maybe that is what Hillel and Shammai were trying to say? Who actually knows what those guys were trying to say.

On this journey, I schlep here, I schlep there, I schlep this and I schlep that but it is the little things I learn along the way that make it all worthwhile. Like realising I can just take the glove off to flick the the little devil spawn out of my ear hole. Wisdom. I got to use my favourite word 47 times in this blog post. For those of you who went back and counted, you are right it was actually 52. For those of you didn’t count the first time but did count the second time, you are right, I made that number up.

Catch the last instalment by heading here
Did you see Part 2? If not click here
What about Part 1? No, check it out here