Pekele (Yiddish) noun: package, parcel, bundle [pronounced: peh-keh-leh]
My grandmother always had a collection of shopping bags in her front hall closet. She stuffed them in there after shlepping them home from the neighborhood stores in her native Brooklyn, and she packed them full of leftovers when we visited for dinner. Her bag rule, like her Tupperware rule, was that if you returned it empty she would refill it for you. My first memory of the word pekele was as a reference to one of those bags.
The better-known usage refers to the metaphoric pekele that each of us carries with us. This connotation of pekele is so common that it appears in the Yiddish-English dictionary as “burden” or “bag of troubles.” In English we might call it our “baggage.” What do we keep in a pekele? We shove frustration and disappointment in there, difficulties we are experiencing, personal issues that we don’t want to share—and we carry it everywhere. Sometimes we use what’s in there. Sometimes the bag leaks. Mostly we just carry it around, thinking that it’s heavier than everyone else’s pekele, imagining that our lives would be perfect if we could just get rid of it. But that bag has staying power, like the ones in my grandma’s front hall closet.
One lesson of the pekele is this: Your pekele is unique. No one else can really feel how heavy it is, because only you can carry it. You can never trade your pekele for someone else’s – nor should you ever want to do such a thing. If you believe that your pekele is filled with the heaviest burden, then it is time to regain perspective. According to my grandmother’s wisdom, God only fills your pekele with what you can carry.
Another important lesson of the pekele: If you are fortunate enough to find ways to share its content with compassionate friends, they can relieve you of some of its weight. True friends remind us to put the pekele down for a few minutes, stretch those arm muscles and adjust its contents as you regain your strength.