Honorable Mensch-ion

Cookie Division

Have you ever tried to divide a cookie into three? It is much more difficult than dividing a cookie in half. That is a major challenge in our home, with three children clamoring over Shabbat dessert each week.

In dividing the land in front of them, Abram tells Lot that there should be no strife between them. Rather, “Is not the whole land before you? Let us separate!”

Seforno, the Italian commentator, explains Abram’s thinking. Abram permits Lot to choose first; in essence, “You choose the area that you prefer, then I will choose mine.” This seems a lot like how my children divide the cookie. The younger child tells the older, “You cut the cookie, and then I will choose which piece I take.”

I recently learned a new mathematical method, the Divider-Chooser Method. Who has the upper hand? The divider or the chooser? It is easy when a parcel of land or a piece of cake needs to be divided in two, but what about three or more?

In 1964, Dr. A. M Fink, a mathematician at Iowa State University, proposed a method called the Lone-Chooser. This would allow any type of physical property or material possession to be divided equally between any number of parties.

While Abram and Lot involved themselves in a version of this theory over physical property, our tradition is a possession that we need not divide. In fact, it is for all of us.

We learn in Pirkei Avot that Torah is greater than priesthood and kingship. Kingship and priesthood is hereditary, but Torah is for all. The richest and the poorest have equal claim to the Torah. Our material possessions give great meaning to us; they are the marker of our lived experiences. Yet, our spiritual and sacred materials-relationships, rituals, family, and community-these cannot be divided. These will always be full. For these, there is no need to divide; for you can have your cake and eat it, too.

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