I’m a problem-solver by nature, I can’t help myself. I always look for ways to optimize systems, and I’m a whiz at things like getting ten people into three cars at four locations, and cooking five dishes in an oven that only fits three, but keeping everything hot.
Usually, it’s a characteristic my friends and colleagues appreciate.
But last week I was bested by someone who had the “right” answer. I was at a kids’ service for Rosh Hashanah with my daughter. We were making a pretend soup for the holiday (because that is what you do at a kids’ service for 2-year olds) and for each ingredient we were teaching the kids the Hebrew word. Water (mayim), chicken (oaf), matzah ball (k’neidelach), you get the idea. Then one of the kids suggested that we add parsley to the soup.
The adults looked at each other – parsley? How do you say parsley?
I scanned my brain for the word for parsley, and came up with nothing. Then I remembered that we eat parsley on Passover and that in that context it’s called “karpas.” Now Jewish holiday symbolism can be complex, and some people don’t eat parsley, they eat potato, but they still call it “karpas,” so I knew that word didn’t literally mean “parsley.”
But I figured that this room of 2-year olds was going to riot if we didn’t keep them occupied and engaged, so I suggested, “karpas.”
The guy leading the service paused and thought about it for a second and gave me a cautious, “huh, ok…” and we were about to continue with our song, when a woman in the back said confidently, “petrozelia,” the actual word for parsley in Hebrew.
I’m all for having the real answer to things. If the most important thing was accuracy, then that is very accurate. But it made me think about the context of when it’s important to have the right answer, versus when it’s important to have an answer that works. I think knowing how to approach a problem, and how to come up with something that works can sometimes be as important as knowing the answer.
(As it turns out, “karpas” comes from the Greek “karpos” which means “raw vegetable.” Looks like Toula’s father was right.)