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

When it comes to throwing out old stuff, people are usually on one of two teams. The first is Team Chuckitall—those who just want their homes to be clutter-free; they have no reason to keep anything. The other is Team Youneverknow—those who are afraid to throw anything out that might be useful. (“Maybe one day headless dolls will become popular and my grandchildren will want them!”) However, when it comes to sentimental objects, both teams agree that throwing them out is hard. You might never need that fake moustache that doesn’t even stick, but remember when your brother wore it to try and rent a car? And how about that old pair of sneakers? They might have 50 holes, but you wore them that time you scored 30 points. Ah, memories!

Maury was a classic Youneverknow-er. His mother was always trying to get him to throw things out, but he just found hiding spots for everything. His old socks? Inside his new ones. His old comic books? Under a floorboard in his room. Used Band-Aids? OK, he threw those out, but you get the point. As Maury got older, he collected and hid more and more things, until one day his mother had enough. “Maury, this house is just too full of stuff! Your father’s, your sister’s, your brother’s, and of course, all of your junk! I’m sorry, the time has come to donate all the things you no longer need. I saw an advertisement for a local charity that will take almost anything, and they are coming on Wednesday. Time to start packing it all up!”

Maury was devastated. “Give away my old math workbooks? What if my grandchildren can use them? The suit with permanent mustard stains? But maybe I can dye it yellow and nobody will notice!” But after thinking it over, Maury realized that it was all for the best. He owned so many things that could benefit other people in need, so why not be generous? Sure, a lot of this stuff might come in handy one day, and sure he might lose 40 pounds and fit into his pants from fifth grade, but if someone could definitely use his stuff now, giving it away would be the right thing to do. Making his mother happy wasn’t too bad, either. So Maury gathered up his things, packed them in bags and boxes, labeled the packages, and put them on the front porch.

Walking back to his room, Maury was feeling quite proud of himself. Growing up, he wasn’t particularly fond of sharing and did not consider himself to be a generous person. He had been trying to improve his generosity, and here was proof that he finally made it!

But just as Maury’s pride was reaching its high point, he walked into his room and saw his Ninja Turtles collection, still hiding underneath his bed. Almost immediately, he began to feel guilty. Of all the things he gave away, nothing mattered to him even nearly as much as the figurines of Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo and Rafael. There was also his baseball card collection, still buried under the floorboards, right next to his first skateboard, which was way too small for him to ride anymore. Maury didn’t give any of these items away, even though he no longer had use for them.

Actually, guilt wasn’t the only emotion Maury was feeling at the time. He also felt a deep sense of nostalgia—a warm and cozy feeling about the past—when thinking about these toys. When Maury was in third grade, he fell into a giant vat of chocolate while touring the Hershey’s factory with his family. When he was finally rescued, it was at the end of the assembly line, after he had turned into a giant chocolate kiss. Fortunately, Maury was able to eat himself free, but between all the chocolate he ate and how scary it was, he needed two months to recover at home.

During his recovery, Maury spent many hours with his Ninja Turtles and baseball cards. The skateboard was a gift from his parents to cheer him up and riding it was the first thing he did when able to leave the house. These possessions were more than just toys; they were like Maury’s personal heroes. Unsure about what to do, Maury decided to keep his treasured objects. He couldn’t imagine they could mean more to anyone else.

That evening, Maury sat down with his family to eat dinner, and the conversation quickly turned to a local news story. A child named Timmy from down the block was missing for three days until a child from across the country started hearing strange noises coming from inside his giant teddy bear. He didn’t remember his parents saying this bear talked, and he definitely didn’t think a Build-a-Bear would be programmed to say, “Help me, I’m a human stuck inside a teddy bear!” Turns out that Timmy had wandered into O’Toole’s toy factory and gotten himself “baked” into a teddy bear. Now, reunited with his family, Timmy was to stay home while his body recovered from the ordeal.

Those reading this story might have made the connection, but for whatever reason, Maury didn’t. He didn’t realize how similar Timmy’s situation was to his chocolate incident. So Maury just carried on with his night. He did his homework, played on his Nintendo Switch, got ready for bed, and went to sleep.

The next morning in Chumash, Maury’s class began studying Parshat Mishpatim. Maury’s teacher, Morah Golda, began by asking why the first mitzvah in the parsha is to free a servant after six years. She went on to explain that the entire purpose of the Torah is to teach us to look beyond ourselves. This might mean realizing that Hashem runs the world, or caring about other people and not being self-centered.

Morah Golda explained that this idea is best expressed by the mitzvah of freeing servants. Being slaves in Egypt was obviously a very painful experience for the Jewish people. The personal nature of this pain could have the Jewish people thinking that nobody else suffers like they did. They might not be able to look beyond themselves and see that others suffer as well. By treating servants properly, we are reminding ourselves that our pain cannot stay personal; we cannot allow it to make us self-centered. Instead we must remember how terrible suffering feels and therefore go out of our ways to make sure others don’t suffer in the same way. This mitzvah is therefore a perfect way to kick off Parshat Mishpatim.

Upon hearing this, Maury made the immediate decision to pack up his Ninja Turtles, baseball cards and skateboard. He would bring them all to Timmy to help him get through his recovery. When school ended, Maury rushed home and followed through with his plan, with one addition. He attached a note to the bag that said, “Dear Timmy, enjoy these toys, but take care of them so you can pass them along to the next child in need.”

Each of our life experiences—whether bad or good—feels personal. The challenge for us is to realize that whatever we go through, others do as well. If you get through a hard time or if you experience a good time, make sure to pay it forward.

By Yair Daar

 

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