July 25, 2024
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July 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Ella peeked through the shades and signaled her sister Ahuva to come take a look.

“Hey, check out the new neighbors,” she said. “The parents are outside and the dad is taking out the garbage in a tuxedo. His wife also looks like she is dressed for a wedding, but it’s seven o’clock in the morning! She’s actually wearing a gown and slippers to take the recycling can to the curb.”

Although Ahuva had to admit this was a strange scene, there must be a good explanation.

“Maybe they have an early morning wedding or some fancy event to go to. Who really cares anyway?”

Ella wasn’t convinced, but she didn’t have time to sit around considering the possibilities; she had to get ready for the first day of school.

However, on the way out to wait for the school bus, things got stranger. The new kids across the street exited their home at the same time as Ahuva and Ella (and were apparently going to the same school and using the same bus stop), and their parents came out to say goodbye. Their parents were no longer dressed for a fancy affair; they were wearing regular work clothing.

“Good luck at your new school,” called mom and dad.

“Enjoy driving to work together,” responded the new kids.

Ella and Ahuva looked at each other suspiciously. What was going on?

On the ride to school, the sisters sat together in the back row of the bus, while the new kids, a brother and sister, sat near the front. Ahuva and Ella spent the first 20 minutes of the ride to school trying to come up with possible explanations, but the best they could come up with was that the parents were trying on clothing that morning. However, this did not explain the strange behavior of taking out the garbage and bringing the recycling to the curb in such clothing. Why not just change for work first? Why risk dirtying such fancy clothing? While they were pondering these questions in silence, Ella had an idea.

“Hey Ahuva, why don’t we go say hello? It’s the right thing to do, and who knows; maybe we can figure out an explanation.”

So Ella and Ahuva headed to the front of the bus to say hello to their new neighbors. It turns out that these kids were completely normal, and that the girl was actually going to be in Ella’s class. Their names were Tzvi and Esti Deshen and just moved from North Carolina because their parents got new jobs in the area.

“So what do your parents do?” asked Ahuva, hoping for a clue.

“We aren’t really sure.” Tzvi responded.

“They say it’s hard to explain,” Esti added.

Ahuva and Ella tried very hard not to look at each other, and after successfully holding back, returned to their seats. Obviously they went straight back to the last conversation.

“Maybe they are spies or secret agents!”

“Isn’t that the same thing?”

“No. Maybe. Whatever James Bond is. He wears a tuxedo! That’s what they are!”

Over the next few days, Ahuva and Ella witnessed similar scenes, but nothing they could make sense of. They scrapped their secret agent theory once they witnessed Esti raking the leaves in a fancy dress, Tzvi bringing the groceries in wearing a suit, and Mr. Deshen taking the dog for a walk, once again in his tuxedo. This seemed to be some kind of strange family thing that had nothing to do with being spies or secrets agents. Over time, Ahuva and Ella just got used to this behavior, while Ahuva and Esti started to become close friends. Finally, one Shabbat, Esti invited Ahuva to come for lunch and spend the day hanging out. The food was delicious and Ahuva had a really fun time at the Shabbat table; the Deshens were really funny. The entire day was as normal as can be, with one exception. Whenever anything needed to be cleaned up, Esti’s parents would say “please clean up before yourselves.” The first time Ahuva thought she was hearing things, but after a few times, she knew what she heard. So she finally got up the courage to ask.

“Esti, why do your parents tell you guys to clean up before yourselves? Don’t most people tell their kids to clean up after themselves?”

Esti didn’t flinch; it was as if she had been asked this question many times in the past. “Can I ask my mom to explain? She’s better at it than me.” Ahuva didn’t mind, so they went to find Mrs. Deshen.

“It starts with Parshat Tzav,” Esti’s mother began. “The parsha begins with Hashem telling Moshe to command Aharon about the Korban Olah, the sacrifice that was completely burned on the mizbeach. However, instead of going straight into a description of how the korban was prepared, the commandment begins with cleaning up from the night before. Aharon, wearing the special clothing he wore when bringing korbanot, cleaned all the ashes off of the mizbeach. Normally we would assume cleaning up to be the last step; Aharon is cleaning up the ashes of the korban that is done burning. However, by cleaning up, Aharon is clearing space for the next Korban Olah. This small act of cleaning up is not the end, but the beginning because it allows us to bring this special korban once again. Similarly, when we clean up after ourselves, we are really cleaning up before ourselves, before we can use this space again or these toys or this game again. How many times do we lose pieces or break things that aren’t cleaned up, right?”

At this point a lightbulb went on in Ahuva’s mind. “Mrs. Deshen, is that why you guys are always wearing fancy clothing to do things like take out the garbage? Like Aharon did, to show that the little things like cleaning up are really important?” Mrs. Deshen smiled. “You are a smart girl, Ahuva. I think you and Esti will make an excellent pair.”

When thinking about all the small things in life, it’s important to think about why we do them. Saying “good morning” isn’t just important because it’s easy, but because it brightens someone’s day. Listening to our parents isn’t just cleaning our rooms, or watching our younger siblings, but it is showing our parents gratitude by listening. So, the next time you are faced with something small (but still annoying) to do, try to focus on the positive result of your actions. Like with cleaning the mizbeach, sometimes the most insignificant acts can have the most significant results.

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