June 15, 2024
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June 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

It was the first day of Kitah Gimmel and Racheli was excited to start learning. She was an eager student who loved sharing what she knew with the rest of her classmates. So when Morah Rosenbaum told the girls to open their chumashim to Perek Yud, and then asked, “Does anyone know what a ‘perek’ is?” Racheli’s hand shot right up into the air. With no other students offering a response, Morah Rosenbaum called on the lone volunteer. Racheli smiled and proudly declared “a perek is a plan!”

Morah Rosenbaum did a good job of hiding the surprise on her face, and responded in an encouraging tone. “Nice try Racheli, but think about the instructions. ‘Please TURN to Perek Yud.’ What would I ask you to turn to?” Racheli shrugged. “Page 10?” Morah Rosenbaum smiled. “You definitely know your gematria; the yud does mean 10. But it’s not a page; a perek is a chapter.” Morah Rosenbaum then reviewed how the Torah is organized, including how perakim work in the Torah.

When the time came to break for snack, Racheli went straight to Morah Rosenbaum’s desk. It really bothered Racheli that her answer was incorrect, but not because she always needed to be right. “Excuse me, Morah?” Morah Rosenbaum looked up. “Yes Racheli, what is it?” Racheli’s voice dropped to a whisper. “I really think ‘perek’ means ‘plan.’ Can I tell you why?” Morah Rosenbaum turned her chair to face Racheli. “Sure, Racheli. What are your thoughts?” Racheli gave a sheepish smile and began. “Well, whenever my parents make plans and they don’t work out, my Abba always says, ‘Let’s try Perek Bet.’ And when I asked him what that means he said that it’s like saying ‘Plan B.’ I know Bet is the same as B, so that means perek is the same as plan.”

As Racheli finished her explanation, a beaming smile spread across Morah Rosenbaum’s face. “Wow! Racheli, you are one smart cookie! You know your gematria well, and you did some really smart thinking to figure out what perek means. But I don’t think your Abba meant to say that the words mean the exact same thing. Just that he likes to say, ‘Perek Bet’ instead of ‘Plan B.’ You’ll have to ask him why. Consider it an extra credit assignment.” Racheli loved extra credit work. “Thanks Morah! I will ask him tonight!”

Fortunately, Racheli and her father had planned to exercise together that night, so Racheli knew she would have an opportunity to ask him about “Perek Bet.” In fact, the opportunity came along right away. At 7:00, Racheli joined her father in the basement and started opening her exercise mat. “So, Racheli,” started her father, “did you like the exercises we did last time, or should we try for a Perek Bet?” After two seconds of stunned silence, Racheli snapped back to attention. “Wait, what? I mean what, when? I mean … ” Racheli took a deep breath—“Abba, why do you always say that?” Racheli’s father smiled. “Let’s work out and then I’ll tell you. Deal?” Racheli smiled back and stuck her hand out. “Deal.” They shook hands and got to exercising.

After 30 minutes of jumping jacks, pushups and burpees, Racheli and her dad were spent. With no energy left to move, they now had time to talk. “So Abba, can you tell me about Perek Bet?” Abba smiled. “Sure, just hang on a second.” He stood up, walked to the basement steps and called out “Ahuva! Please come downstairs! I have a question for you!” Two minutes later, Rachel’s older sister by six years entered the basement. “What’s up, you two? Abba, you have a question?” Abba turned to Ahuva. “Huves, can you tell Racheli about what I used to be like when we went on family trips? Like when you were little and Racheli was just a baby? Don’t hold back; I won’t be insulted.” Ahuva wasn’t so sure, and her father could sense it, so he encouraged her a bit more. “Start with how I used to walk.”

Well, that instruction was all Ahuva needed. She spent the next five minutes imitating a classic way-too-serious dad on a family vacation. You know it—he plans every second of every day, walks three steps ahead of the whole family, tries to get his money back at every opportunity, and only seems to be truly happy when everything is “working out perfectly.”

Ahuva’s routine was so perfect, both Racheli and her father were ROTFLAHRAUTB (rolling on the floor laughing at how ridiculous Abba used to be). Once they had no laughs or tears left, Racheli asked the next question. “So Abba, what changed?” Her dad sat up and began his explanation. “In Parshat Bereshit, when the world was created, the Torah has two different stories. The first story is perfect and orderly. Whatever Hashem commanded happened without a problem. But that’s not how life works.

“The second time the story of Creation is told, the order is completely different,” he continued. “Humans are created before animals, the trees and grass stay underground until people are around to take care of them, and there are a bunch of mistakes. (See: Eden, Garden of.) The message here is that as much as we plan for things to be a certain way, those plans can’t work out perfectly in real life. We need to learn to roll with our mistakes, and not consider them to be signs of failure. And of course, this second story of Hashem creating the world, mistakes and all, is written in…?”

Rachel’s eyes lit up as she responded: “Perek Bet!” Abba smiled.

“Exactly.”

By Yair Daar

 

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