Once in the town of Rutherford, three children sat down on a cold Friday afternoon, Erev Shabbat Kodesh, and tried to figure out how to make their mother happy.
It was Yeshiva Week, the week in January when their day school gave off for vacation. Their father had left for work early that morning, and their mother was still in bed, hoping they would entertain themselves for a few hours so she could get some rest. The night before, she had left out a pile of DVDs, a stack of books, and enough board games to amuse a Cub Scout troop for a week, hoping they would get the hint.
While their mother was sleeping, the three children decided to try to make her happy. It was Parshat Yitro, which contained the Aseret Hadibrot, the Ten Commandments, and they decided to surprise their mother with parsha projects.
The oldest child decided to bake a cake. He took out every pot and pan in the kitchen and made a ten layer cake, with chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, blueberry, fluff, Captain Crunch, grape, peanut butter, coconut, and banana.
The middle child took out a giant mound of clay and made a perfect model of their house, then painted it in many colors. Paint was flying everywhere, but she worked with reckless abandon. Artists can’t be bothered with cleanliness.
The youngest child sat and read until her siblings were done and then went to work on her own project.
When the mother awoke at 9:30, she groggily stepped from her bedroom and shuffled into the living room in her flannel bathrobe and fuzzy moose slippers, expecting to see the house in shambles. Much to her surprise, the house was spotless, and her three children sat on the couch, eagerly waiting to tell her about their projects.
“In honor of the parsha, I made you a cake, Mom,” said the oldest. “It has ten layers, in honor of the aseret hadibrot, and it fulfills kibud av ve’em, honoring your mother and father, since I made it for you. It also fulfills Remember the Sabbath Day, since we’ll eat it on Shabbat. So it teaches about the fourth and fifth commandments.”
“Wow,” said the mother, “that’s fantastic.” She peeked into the kitchen, expecting to see some culinary carnage, but it was clean as a whistle.
“In honor of the parsha, I made a model of our house,” said the middle child. “I was going to do a sculpture of you, but I wanted to observe Lo ta’aseh lecha pesel vechol temunah, you should not create any graven images, so I followed the second and the fifth commandments.
“Terrific,” said the mother. She looked into the den, again expecting a mess of biblical proportions, but once again she was pleasantly surprised. It was immaculate.
“And I cleaned up after their projects,” the youngest one said. “I cleaned every dish, picked the fluff out of the flour sifter, scrubbed every fleck of paint off the table, and swept all the clay off the floor. That way I fulfilled the fifth commandment and the sixth commandment.”
“The sixth?” asked the mother.
“Yes,” said the youngest. Lo tirtsach, You shall not kill. Which is what you most assuredly would have done to us had you seen what it looked like in here an hour ago.”
“Very impressive,” said the mother with a smile.
And so, to celebrate, the mother took all three children out for brunch, where each had identical servings of waffles a la mode with vanilla ice cream and a maraschino cherry on top, thereby observing the tenth commandment, Lo tachmod et beit rei’echa, you should not be jealous of others.
By Larry Stiefel