The Marital Cucumber Clue
If I spend too much time spent on Facebook, my interpersonal sensitivities can get dulled. I sometimes find myself making snap judgements about others based on what they post or comments they write.
I do not like this part of my character.
It’s embarrassing to admit it, but I’m comforted by the fact that I’m not alone in falling into this pit. In fact, Pirke Avot, the 1800 year-old classic Jewish text most commonly known as Ethics of the Fathers warns us, “Do not judge your fellow until you have stood in his place.” If such a warning exists, it has to be because it's human nature to judge others.
Even King David, who lived more than 3000 years ago, admitted to falling into the judgment trap, "I said in my haste 'All mankind is deceitful.'" (Tehillim 116:11)
So it’s not just me. It’s a human failing that has been with us for a long time.
That doesn’t excuse it or make it okay. It’s still something I want to work on.
I suggested to my husband that we needed to devise a verbal clue to share with one another that would indicate that something we said or wrote was unpleasantly judgey.
The word cucumber, that modest green pillar of veggie goodness, became our marital clue that one of us had just said something less than kind about someone else.
It worked for a short time, if only to help us notice how often we said something we probably ought not have said. Then it turned into a synonym for a critical remark. So instead of articulating what we were really thinking, we just said the word cucumber to one another as surreptitiously as we could master. That was a bit better, because it kept us from giving full expression to the judgmental thought, but it didn’t add anything positive into the world.
So we devised a new twist. When we want to say something judgmental about someone else, we try to balance it with something kind. So, for example (note that this example does not necessarily represent actual reality), the woman who cut my hair was distracted by her toddler and didn’t give my haircut her full attention. On the other hand, she spoke very sweetly and patiently to her daughter, who kept interrupting her work.
Or the waitress forgot to bring soy milk for my husband’s coffee, but she brought plenty of ice with my water. Or my neighbor wrote a comment on my Facebook post that made me want to scream, but he made a substantial donation when I was raising money for a local family.
The Torah encourages peace between people. When we follow the Torah’s guidelines for maintaining shalom, we can completely bypass a lot of bad feelings and even stop arguments from starting in the first place. It’s good to remind ourselves that we almost never know the whole backstory about why a person behaves as they do. If we start from the assumption that another person has a valid reason for behaving a certain way, maybe we can short-circuit the judgment.
As my husband and I continue to implement the Marital Cucumber Clue, I’m hereby taking on the Marital Cucumber Challenge (which I actually just made up). I’m going to start small, to encourage my success.
In the next 24 hours, I’m going to attempt to have a conversation with my husband without requiring him to invoke the Marital Cucumber Clue even once.
Wish me luck!
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