November 14, 2013

Two Are Better Than One

What does a box of Cheerios have to do with the wise words of King Solomon?

My daughter picked up the cereal box sitting on the counter and glanced at it. Her eyes lit up. “Those words are from Kohelet!”

I looked at the box and saw a pretty young woman peeking through a Cheerio. I translated the Hebrew words into English. “Because four are better than one.” I looked up at her puzzled.

She explained. The full sentence from Kohlelet (Ecclesiastes Chapter 4, verse 9) reads, ‘Two are better than one, for they have a good return for their labor.’

“Here,” she said, pointing to the box like it was a school blackboard, “it is promoting Multigrain Cheerios. And since they are made with four grains, they changed the sentence to say that ‘four are better than one.’”

I would have never picked up on this and was proud that my daughter, our resident Torah scholar, had identified the wise words of King Solomon, son of David and Bathsheba, written some 3,000 years ago.

From the courts of King Solomon to a kitchen in Ra’anana, Israel is indeed a place where Torah lives, although in strange ways. Apparently, most Israelis are ingrained (excuse the cereal pun) with this knowledge and so it seeps into media, advertising and everyday language.

If two are better than one, is four better than one? Was the ad agency trying to tell us that the multigrain version was better because it was healthier? Ironically, that same box of cereal had a short shelf life in my house. 

A few days later, I read about GMOs in Cheerios and tossed the box in the garbage. Apparently General Mills uses genetically modified ingredients to manufacture the cereal. And because the FDA refuses to label foods that contain harmful GMOs, the public is for the most part unaware. Four is not better than one.

However, I recently learned that Nestle, the European branch of General Mills, manufactures GMO-free Multi Cheerios. It is a relief to know that in Israel there is a GMO-free version of this breakfast cereal. Perhaps four is better than one, but I have already opted for the gluten-free, sugar-free, GMO-free variety. My kids say these choices are also taste-free, but we must do our own due diligence, look out for each other and do what is best.

Kohelet’s words apply today as much as they did three millennia ago:

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up

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