May 26, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Va’etchanan: Jelly Bean Justice

Devarim: 5: 17, 6: 18

At Chocolate Manna from Heaven, the kosher candy store in Fair Lawn, people come in with orders large and small. While one customer might request 50 gift baskets of assorted treats, another might come in for five jelly beans. If one was lucky, the smaller orders were from kids. That’s what the confection business was all about, after all. One didn’t have to be Willy Wonka to enjoy giving out candy to children.

So when Shir Brookheimer came into the store and put one wrapped piece of grape Bazooka Bubble Gum on the counter, it didn’t seem particularly unusual to Devorah Oppenheimer, the owner of Chocolate Manna from Heaven.

“That’s 10 cents,” Devorah said politely.

“I’m not buying it,” Shir said. “I’m returning it.”

“Oh?” Devorah asked. “Is there something wrong with it?”

“No,” Shir said. “I’m sure it’s fine. As a matter of fact, I love Bazooka Gum. Especially the grape ones.”

“Do you like them for the taste, or for the Bazooka Joe comics that come with them?”

“Both,” Shir said. “Although the comics are usually in Hebrew, and I need a little help translating them.”

“I know what you mean.”

“I especially like blowing bubbles. That’s probably my favorite part, the big purple bubbles.”

“I’ll bet,” Devorah said.

“Sometimes I like to put three pieces in my mouth at once and blow a really big bubble.”

“Hmmm. Sounds good.”

“Only one time I blew a really big bubble and got it in my hair and all over my face. My mother was a bit annoyed.”

“I’m not surprised,” Devorah said. Then she quickly interjected a question before Shir could go on talking. “So why are you returning the bubble gum?”

“Well, let me tell you. I was getting to that, if you just gave me a chance.”

“Sorry.”

“So this morning I came into the candy store with my mother and my little brother, Shemaiah. We bought a whole bunch of candy. We got gummy bears, and sour stix, and chocolate kisses, and jawbreakers, and jelly beans, and baby bottle pops, and Bazooka Bubble Gum.”

“Wow, that sounds like quite a haul.”

“Yeah. It’s for a party for my birthday.”

“When’s your birthday?”

“Next week. Want to hear who’s coming to my party?”

“Maybe later,” Devorah said. “So that still doesn’t explain why you’re returning one piece of bubble gum.”

“I was going to tell you, if you’ll just let me finish.”

“Sorry. Go ahead.”

“So my Mom paid for 10 pieces of Bazooka, but when we got home and counted them, there were 11 pieces. So we drove back to return the extra one.’

“You didn’t have to do that,” Devorah said. “I would have forgiven you for the extra piece. And besides, people do that accidentally all the time. And if you really cared, you could have paid for it another time.”

“I suppose,” Shir said, “but we didn’t want to violate Lo Tignov, you shouldn’t steal.”

“Good point,” Devorah said. “But I think you would have been OK for one piece of 10 cent bubble gum.”

“I suppose,” Shir repeated, “but there’s another pasuk in this week’s parsha, where Moshe tells the Jewish people, um…”

Ve’asita hayashar vehatov be’einei Hashem,” a maternal voice whispered from behind the multi-colored jelly bean display.”

“Yeah,” Shir agreed. “Which means, you should always do what’s right in the eyes of God.”

“Very good,” the maternal voice said.

“Thanks, Mom,” Shir said, looking back towards the jelly beans. “So even though I could have kept the bubble gum, since it was only 10 cents, and maybe no one would have missed it, the right thing to do was to return it. Or as my dad might say,’ Do the right thing.’”

Devorah was sure that somewhere behind the jelly bean display, there was a smiling mother.

“That’s really good of you,” Devorah said. “I think you deserve a reward for your honesty. Is there anything I can get you?”

“Please,” the bat kol behind the jelly beans said,” no more candy!”

Larry Stiefel is a pediatrician at Tenafly Pediatrics.

By Larry Stiefel

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