How is a Spoon Like a Mask?

There is an old, old story attributed to Rabbi Haim of Romshishok that I love. It features two rooms and two feasts.

One feast represents Hell, the other Heaven. In each feast, the diners are given very long spoons making it impossible to feed themselves.

In the Hell feast, there is pandemonium. The diners flail about, smacking each other with their unwieldy spoons in an attempt to shovel the food into their mouths. They fight each other for mouthfuls they are incapable of eating. The food is wasted, the feast spoiled and the diners remain starved.

Meanwhile, in the heavenly feast, there is lively conversation and laughter. Every morsel is savored and appreciated. Every belly is full. There is only one difference between the two meals: in the heavenly feast, the diners use their long spoons to feed each other.

This classic and oft-quoted allegory points out that it isn’t what we have that brings us joy, but what we do with it. When we think of the people around us, and when they reciprocate in turn, everyone wins.

Masks are like the long spoons. They don’t do a lot for the wearer, but they are meant to protect those around us. If I protect you, and you protect me, we both win.

If we flail around, fight and refuse to consider others, we end up with a wasted feast. In this case, normal life is the feast and we are starving for it.

Right now, no one is winning… but I have hope. Kindness has a way of showing up at the last second, like the superhero that stops the falling bus inches above your head. Any second now I expect kindness to do the same for us.

Any… second… now…

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher, and author with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. She co-publishes Space and Time magazine with author husband Ryan Aussie Smith. For more information visit
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2 Responses to How is a Spoon Like a Mask?

  1. Marge Simon says:

    A simple, yet outstanding post with a message for all, if only “all” would stop for a moment and think it over. Hateful thoughts and speech are unhealthy, folks.
    Thanks, Angela!

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