Title: Fruits of Her Labor
Subtitle: Radish rhapsody
Byline: Debbie Shapiro
Friday morning: my hands were still sticky from kneading the challos and I was just about to place the dough back into the well-greased bowl and set it on the counter to rise. The first batch of onion cookies –my husband's favorite – were in the oven, and I was waiting for them to finish baking so that I could fulfill the mitzvah of tasting the food l'kavod Shabbos kodesh – and sit down with a cup of steaming hot coffee and a magazine while doing it.
Instead, the phone rang and I quickly wiped my doughy hands on the nearest towel and ran to pick it up before my answering machine. "Boker tov, Bubby. This is Rochie." I could hear the smile in my granddaughter's voice and almost see the mischievous sparkle in her eyes.
"Oh, Rochie," I answered, "How's everything?" I could sense that she was plotzing to tell me something.
"Mommy bought us a planter, and we planted some vegetables, right?" This was the first I heard about it, but I was all ears. She continued, "Well, the seed grew into a plant and now, b'kitzur, we have radishes."
"Oh." I waited for her to continue.
"So now, well, can I please speak to Zaidy. I have a...” she giggled in excitement and then continued in a very slow, grownup sounding voice, "I need to ask Zaidy a halachic she’eilah."
"Okay, I'll call Zaidy right now."
I went into my husband's study and, handing him the telephone said, "There's a young woman on the phone with a she’eilah. It's very important." I emphasized the word she’eilah, saying it very slowly so that Rochie would hear.
I watched my husband's expression turn from perplexed to serious to a huge Cheshire-cat-sized grin. In a very rabbinical voice he started peppering our twelve year old granddaughter with questions: "Where were the radishes planted?" "Ahh, was the planter made out plastic or was it earthenware?" "Plastic, so is there a hole on the bottom?" "Where was the planter? In the window? On top of the sill? Resting on the metal bars?"
"Ask her if the bars overlook a garden or the downstairs neighbor's porch…" I whisper, glad that I had paid attention to Rabbi Neuwirth, shlita, our Halachah teacher, when he taught us the halachos of terumos and maaseros.
"Ahah," I heard my husband respond. "I have to give this some thought. I'll call you back in a few minutes." Despite his serious tone, I could catch a hint of laughter.
Ten minutes later my husband walked into the kitchen and handed me the phone. "It's for you, Bubby," he said. His eyes sparkled with that special glint of nachas that is unique to grandparents.
"Bubby, there are three radishes."
"Three radishes," I repeated. "How nice."
"Three radishes. That's one for Mommy, one for Tatty, and one for you and Zaidy."
I could feel my eyes fill with tears. "Radishes are Zaidy's favorite vegetable. I'll put it in his salad."
A few days later – it was on my birthday -- my son came over to do some desperately needed repairs and give us our radish. There was a tiny slice missing. "Ah, this must be where she took off the terumos and maasaros," I said.
My son broke out in a huge grin. His face was shining. It was my birthday, and I had received the best present a grandmother could ever ask for – a tiny radish with a slice missing.