May 28, 2024
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May 28, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

It was Shabbat afternoon and the Cohns were just getting started on their dessert. Alex, the oldest of the four, had a question. “Mommy? Daddy? How many of the states have you guys been to? A lot?” Alex’s mother motioned to her husband to go first, which he did. “Well, let’s see… I’ve been to New York and New Jersey. Is that a lot?” Alex and her sister, Zoe, giggled. “Oh wait, I was once in Pennsylvania, but that was because I got lost on the way home from work.” More giggles. “Okay, okay you got me. I’ve been to 15, I think. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania when I got lost on the way home, Florida, California, Connecticut, Ohio, Texas, Arizona, Georgia, Rhode Island, Delaware, Vermont and Colorado. How many is that?” The twins piped up. “Elevendy a hundred!” announced Bryce. “Six six 50 20!” said David, while counting on his fingers.” Now everyone giggled. When the laughing stopped, Zoe spoke up. “Daddy, that was 14. You were close. Mommy, how many have you been to?”

Mommy Cohn smiled. “You guys aren’t going to believe this, but I’ve been to 39 states!” The Cohn kids gasped. “No way!” said Alex, “You’re lying.” Her mother smiled. “Actually it’s true. You guys know what Gramps’ job is right?” The twins jumped up in unison and shouted “Candy!” Their mother smiled. “Exactly. When he first started selling candy, he would visit candy shops, movie theaters, camps, baseball stadiums and other places all around the country, convincing them to buy candy from him. He used to take me along for trips, so I got to visit a lot of places.”

Zoe’s eyes went wide. “Cool! But what about us? Can we go somewhere far! What about, like… North Dakota!” Alex frowned. “North Dakota! No. No. No. Take us to… Hawaii!” Now, all the kids were into it. They banged in rhythm on the table. “Ha-wai-i! Ha-wai-i!”

The next morning, Alex was eating breakfast when her mom came downstairs. This time, Alex was serious. “Mom, seriously,” (see, I told you she was serious) “can we go somewhere for a trip? A road trip? I want to visit a state we’ve never been to.” Her mother thought for a minute. “I’ll talk to Daddy and see if we can figure out a way for you guys to earn a road trip. Maybe we can discuss it tonight. Alex agreed (not as if she had a choice), and went back to eating her Cap’n Crunch.

That night, after the twins went to sleep, The girls and their parents sat down to discuss a trip. “Here’s the deal,” started Daddy Cohn. “Each of you guys is going to set a personal goal. Zoe, for you it’s going to be to read more. Alex, for you it’s going to be to learn a little extra Torah on Shabbat. If you reach your goals by Memorial Day, the reward will be going to a new place.” Alex and Zoe seemed excited. “Where are we going?” Their mother spoke up. “Not sure yet, but we promise the reward will be going to a new state.”

So for the next few months (they started in January), Alex and Zoe got to work. Zoe, who wasn’t really a big reader, picked up the first Harry Potter book, and didn’t stop until she had read through the first four. Alex and her father started learning Sefer Bereishit together from the beginning. Both father and daughter were amazed to learn new things each time they sat down to study. They managed to get through Parshat Chayei Sara, including many of the comments from Rashi.

So, when the week before Memorial Day came, both Alex and Zoe were excited to find out where they were headed. First, to celebrate Alex and Zoe reaching their goals, their parents hired a babysitter for the twins and took the girls out to eat. At the restaurant, both Alex and Zoe took turns talking about how they felt about their accomplishments. Alex said that she tried to follow some of the lessons she learned from the Chumash and that she really appreciated learning Torah more than ever. “So would you say you are in a new place as a person?” asked her mother. “Definitely,” responded Alex with a smile.

Mommy Cohn now turned to her younger daughter. “What about you, Zoe?” Zoe blushed. “I never realized how exciting reading could be! I know you always told me that. I guess I should have listened earlier.” “So would you say that reading takes you to places you’ve never been?” asked her father. “Definitely,” responded Zoe, who suddenly realized what was happening. “Hey! That’s not fair! You can’t—” Dad put his hand on Zoe’s shoulder. “Our exact words were ‘If you reach your goals by Memorial Day, the reward will be going to a new place.’ And that’s exactly what the reward was. We just didn’t need to take you guys anywhere to make it happen. You did it yourselves!”

He paused and smiled at the girls, who had looks of complete shock on their faces. How could their parents betray them like this? Not cool. Not cool at all. “Relax, kids. We’re also going to Oregon!”

Parshat Bechukotai begins with the well-known phrase “im bechukotai te’lechu—if you walk with my rules.” Why does Hashem use walking as the verb to describe keeping mitzvot? Perhaps it’s because mitzvot are meant to lead to personal growth. Yes, we live lives full of Torah and mitzvot because we are commanded. However there is hopefully a positive effect as well—finding ourselves in new and better places.


Yair Daar is the middle school dean of students at Yeshivat He’Atid. He can be reached at [email protected].

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