Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mordechai,

I’ve been spending a lot of time at the supermarket this week for some reason. What’s the quickest way to get through the checkout?




Dear Noodles,

There is no quick way.

It doesn’t help that cashiers are instructed to take as long as possible, so the people behind you can stare at the magazines and candy long enough to want to buy some. Why do you think that stuff is there? Do you think it’s for the people who are about to leave the store and go, “Wait, we forgot to buy anything!”?

So I always pick the “Self-Scan” aisle when I can, despite the fact that I have never gotten through a single self-scan transaction without help. It’s like it’s the machine’s first transaction ever, like they’re training it in.

“Too many items on the belt.”

Okay, I shifted them.

“No, I want the manager to come shift them.”

No, we don’t have to get the manager involved. I did this because I’m not in the mood to make conversation. We already called him over a minute ago when the item I scanned wasn’t heavy enough for you to register that I put them down.

So there’s no way to speed up the transaction. Especially now that credit cards have chip readers.

I love these new credit cards that have chip readers, because it means that every store that you go to, whatever you guess you have to do with the card will inevitably be wrong. You’re finish scanning your items, and it says, “Please insert or slide card.”

You’re giving me a choice? Ok, I’ll slide it. That’s what I’m used to. They should have taken this vote in the first place before they decided to replace it with chips.

And then when you do, it says, “No, just kidding. You have to insert it.”

Or sometimes you’re about to swipe, but then you’re like, “No, I have to insert the chip now.”

So you do, and it’s like, “No, you have to slide it today.”

Whatever I do is wrong. I might as well bring my wife.

Um… Because she can do the card thing while I bag the groceries; that’s what I mean.

The chips are supposed to be safer. Maybe because swiping is a really quick motion that leads to thousands of credit card injuries every year. Plus you have to keep doing it over and over and turning the card in every possible direction while the cashier and the other customers stand around and give you helpful tips. (“Turn it!” “Do it faster!… Slower.” “Like starting a lawn mower.”) But they don’t actually help.

So this is safer. You do it once. One try, and then you find out the reader’s broken. Then you collapse, and the cashier takes it to do it for you, and he secretly skims it.

So it’s safer to have a system where you can accidentally walk away without your card.

Wait, that’s not it. The chips readers are supposed to make them more secure from credit card thieves, and they totally are. The way it works is the screen says, “Please swipe or insert card,” like you have a choice, and you’re like, “Well, of course I’m going to pick swiping.” Or you pick inserting. It doesn’t matter, because whatever you do, the cashier will tell you afterward that you have to do the other thing. And then the first thing again. It’s totally random and only works about half the time, so mathematically, it cuts fraud in half. The credit card thieves just run out in frustration, leaving their cards in the machine because it hasn’t told them they could take it out yet.

Because you’re not allowed to take it out until the machine says so. And it takes forever. You can put in your card, do all you shopping, and then come back, and then it will finally say, “You may now safely remove your card.” It’s like when the USB drive was first invented, and computers thought that you had to leave it in until they gave you permission to take it out, or all would be lost. Until we caught on to their scheme. All has never been lost. But with groceries, if you take it out too early, the whole system panics and they have to get a manager, like this has never happened before. And the entire line is mad at you.

So I guess the quickest way is to get through a checkout is to go with cash. Good luck trying to get your money out of the ATM.



Dear Mordechai,

We forgot to put a key in the challah. What should we do?

Chayalee Schlisselfeld


Dear Chayalee,

The real key here (oy) is to remember not to panic. Just be calm. Making schlissel challah the week after Pesach is a segulah for sholom bayis. The key here is to figure out whether it was the husband who forgot to put the key in or if it was the husband who forgot to remind the wife to put the key in.

Okay, so the segulah is actually for parnassah. You’d think the best segulah for that would be baking actual coins into the challah, but it would just make it muktzah. And lead to trips to the emergency room’s x-ray wing. And reinforce negative stereotypes about Jews. (“They’re all swallowing money this weekend.”)

We’d bake keys into our challah the week before Pesach, but that’s a good way for our keys to get thrown into a fire. So we try to make it as far as we can from the next bread-burning ceremony.

So this is a very widespread minhag, though there are a bunch of variations to it. Most people bake an actual key into the challah, like you’re making challah for someone in prison. Most people specifically use the key to their front door. But really, you can put in anything you can use to open your front door – a credit card, a wire hanger, a tie clip with a Shabbos key on it, or, if you’re having a simcha and have a really big challah, a crowbar.

Meanwhile, some people – mainly people who feel they have enough iron in their diets – braid the actual challah into the shape of a key – one of those old-timey keys with big teeth that go into those keyholes you can bend down and look through and see the other room. It’s the kind of key that looks like it might unlock pirate’s treasure. It’s basically a segulah to find gold in a cave somewhere. Or for the mayor to hand you the key to the city.

(I’ve never understood the whole “key to the city” concept. Does that mean you can misplace it and everyone will be locked out of the city? I suppose this makes more sense with walled cities. (“Put someone in a trebuchet and throw him over the wall!”))

Though it’s more like the kind of key that when you stick it in a lock, it would snap off and you’d have to call a locksmith after Shabbos.

Of course, in your situation, it’s too late for either of those. So what do you do?

Well, maybe you can just insert the key into the loaf for a moment. Or swipe it. But the issue is that you already baked it, so you might be ruining its status as a full loaf. But maybe you can use the key when you’re actually cutting open the challah the same way you would use it to cut open boxes. Lengthwise.

Or you can just get into the habit of baking keys into your challah every single week so you never forget it again.

But the main thing is to realize that the segulah isn’t magic; it just reminds you to daven for parnassah. Or at least daven for the guy who actually bit into the slice with the key.


Have a question for “You’re Asking Me?” Bake it into a challah and send it to me. You can use the trebuchet.


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