May 23, 2024
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May 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

As the bus stopped and the doors opened, the daily chorus of manners began. “Thank you, Ms. Conners! Have a great day!” “Thanks for the ride! Have a nice day!” and so on. Today, as for the past three, Chaviva and her new friend Ora were the last ones off the bus. “Great driving today, Ms. Conners, thanks for the ride,” offered Chaviva with a smile. “Have a good day,” followed Ora. “You girls enjoy school; I’ll see y’all later.” As Ora and Chaviva began to climb the steps to the main entrance, a thought that had been hiding in Chaviva’s mind since Monday finally showed itself. “Now I know what has been bothering me!” thought Chaviva. “For some reason, Ora never says ‘thank you.’ She is polite to our driver and greets her properly, but why not show appreciation?”

Upon finishing this thought, Chaviva immediately felt disappointed in herself. It wasn’t her business to judge Ora. She barely knew this girl who just recently switched schools. So Chaviva decided to put the thought out of her mind and continue on with her day. She went to her locker, unpacked her school bag, and headed to tefillah.

Later that day, Ora and Chaviva walked to lunch together. They arrived outside the cafeteria and joined the line of students waiting to head inside. As they filed in, each student gave a small nudge to the door to keep it open for the person behind. In turn, each student offered a short “thanks” to the person in front for that extra 6 inches of space between arm and door. But once again, Ora kept quiet. This time, against her better judgment, Chaviva made a comment. “Ora, you forgot to say ‘thank you’ to the person in front of you.” Ora turned to Chaviva with a puzzled look. “Why? Did she push the door open just for me?” Now it was Chaviva’s turn to look puzzled. “Of course. Most people give a little push to make it easier for the person behind.” Ora considered Chaviva’s answer for a moment. “Okay, Chaviva. Maybe you’re right. I’ll be right back.”

With that, Ora walked down two tables to Tiferet, who was sitting near the head. “Excuse me,” said Ora. Tiferet looked up. “When you came in, did you push the door open for the person behind you, or just because everyone else was?” Tiferet shrugged. “I guess for the person behind me. Was that you?” Ora nodded. “It was. So in that case, thank you.” Tiferet smiled. “You’re definitely welcome.” Ora smiled back and returned to her seat. Chaviva couldn’t help but giggle to herself at this conversation. “What’s so funny?” asked Ora. “Ora, you didn’t have to find out if Tiferet was trying to be nice! You could just have thanked her anyway. Ora shrugged. “I don’t know. I kind of feel like kindness doesn’t count unless it’s on purpose.” Chaviva sighed. “Okay, Ora. I won’t argue with you. For now at least. Just try not to insult anyone.”

After the final bell rang, ending the day, Ora and Chaviva walked to the bus together. When they reached the front door, Mister David, the custodian, was holding it for all the students. Once again, each student thanked the door holder…except Ora. This time Chaviva was stunned. But before she could say anything, Ora suddenly stopped and turned back. Chaviva sighed in relief, waiting to hear Ora offer her gratitude. “Mister David?” The friendly man turned to face Ora. “Yes, young lady?” “I just want you to know that I didn’t say ‘thank you’ because it’s your job to hold the door. Please don’t be insulted; I promise I’ll thank you if you ever hold the door for me as a favor!” Mister David looked past Ora to Chaviva and gave a look as if to say “is she serious?” Chaviva responded with a “you got me!” look. Mister David chuckled and returned to wishing a Shabbat Shalom to the students exiting the building.

The next Monday morning, Chaviva had a doctor’s appointment, so she came late to school. As Chaviva walked in, she was met by Mister David, who had a mischievous smile on his face. “Chaviva, I know your friend doesn’t mean to be rude, but I have an idea of how to teach her the lesson she needs to learn.” Chaviva listened and agreed to the plan.

That afternoon, Chaviva’s class had gym class for their last period. As usual, they headed downstairs and brought their bags with them. There wasn’t much space for backpacks in the gym, so the girls left their stuff in a connected classroom. When gym was over, Chaviva waited for all her classmates to leave, after which she quietly locked the door and closed it, leaving her backpack inside. “Ora! Ora!” called Chaviva across the gym. “The bus leaves in ten minutes and my bag is locked inside! Can you get Mister David to help?” Ora gave a thumbs-up and ran out of the room.

Two minutes later, Ora came back with Mister David and showed him the locked classroom. “Oh, I’d love to help,” said Mister David, “but my shift is up, and I’m hungry for dinner.” Ora couldn’t believe it. “But Mister David! It will only take two minutes for you to go get the keys! Don’t you want to show kindness to Chaviva?” Mister David shrugged. “I don’t know, Ora. I’m not really into kindness. I just do my job and go home.” Ora now seemed panicked. “But I see the way you are so happy to hold doors, fix broken desks, and clean the rooms! You chose a career of helping others for a reason. You are clearly acting with kindness all day, even if…it…is…your job. Oh.”

In Parshat Vayechi, Yaakov asks Yosef to bury him in Eretz Canaan. He begins the request with “do for me chesed v’emet—kindness and truth.” What is Yaakov asking? Should Yosef do it out of kindness, or because it’s his responsibility (truth)? One possibility is that this isn’t a choice between two options. With the appropriate attitude, our responsibilities to others, ourselves, and to Hashem can become meaningful acts of lovingkindness. Shabbat shalom!


Yair Daar can be reached at [email protected].

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