May 26, 2024
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May 26, 2024
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Vayechi: The Lesson of the Parched Rabbi

On a hot summer afternoon in the town of Fair Lawn, three children opened up a lemonade stand in front of their house. It was a very hot day, actually. And humid, too. It was the kind of day where even the trees seemed to be sweating. Heat, humidity, the whole megillah.

Anyway, these three children opened a lemonade stand in front of their house. It was a quarter a cup. Their house was on the route of lots of bicyclists and joggers huffing and puffing through the hazy afternoon, so business was good.

The children had drawn a sign in sunny colors on a large piece of white oaktag and hung it from their stand. The 10-year-old had done the lettering (one glass for a quarter, five for a dollar!), the 8-year-old drew a picture of a bright orange sun, and the 5-year-old drew a beautiful cup of lemonade in purple, green, and blue (give her a break, she’s only 5). And they were cute kids, which certainly helps when the profit margin is low. So they had location, strong marketing, curb appeal, and a good product. What’s not to like?

Business had been brisk in the early afternoon, but as it drew towards 5 o’clock, the customers started to dwindle. They were thinking of closing up shop when a big black Lincoln Continental pulled up across the street. The windows were tinted, and the children couldn’t see who was inside. When the door to the car opened, who should step out but the principal of their Hebrew day school, Rabbi Rosenthal. He was a tall, bulky man in a black suit, white shirt, and no tie, and he looked hot. He trudged across the street, licking his parched lips.

The children were stunned to see their principal appear before their house.

“Rabbi R.,” said the 8-year-old. “What are you doing here?”

“I came for some lemonade,” said the rabbi.

They handed him a glass, and he devoured it in one gulp.

“Keep it coming,” Rabbi Rosenthal said. And he laid a $5 bill on the table. He drank the lemonade faster than they could pour it. The trio watched in amazement as he guzzled nearly an entire pitcher of the lemony mixture.

“Ahhh!” the rabbi said, wiping a drop of lemonade from the corner of his mouth.

“Rabbi R.,” the 10-year-old said, “I’m glad you like our lemonade, but why are you really here? You don’t live anywhere near Fair Lawn.”

The rabbi smiled at the boy and patted him on the head. He was very bright. Apparently all those enrichment courses were paying off.

“Well, Naftali, you’re right. I’m not just here for the lemonade, although it was excellent. I’m here because I heard from your mother that you were giving half the proceeds from your lemonade stand to the yeshiva. Is that true?”

All three children nodded yes.

“That is truly admirable, my friends. You know, in Parshat Vayechi, when Yakov Avinu blesses his children, he gives Zevulun his blessing before Yisachar, even though he is younger than his brother. Do you know why?”

All three children shook their heads no.

“He did so because Zevulun, symbolized by a boat, would raise the money so that Yisachar, symbolized by a donkey, could sit and learn Torah. The one who raises money for others to learn Torah is just as praiseworthy as the one who learns, perhaps even more so.

“And so, I came to thank the three of you, Naftali, Eitana, and Leora, for raising this money for our yeshiva. And besides, I was really thirsty.”

Rabbi R.,” said the 10-year-old, “you only drank 12 glasses of lemonade, but you paid for 20. And that’s without factoring in the bulk discount. Would you like $2 back?”

“Keep the change,” said the rabbi. He really had to find out who this kid’s math teacher was and give him/her a raise.

And so, Rabbi Rosenthal drove off refreshed and pleased with the lesson he taught the children. Naftali, Eitana, and Leora were happy with the success of their lemonade stand. They donated $10 to their school, and purchased Yu-gi-oh cards, hair barrettes, and a doll for themselves. All in all, a good day’s work.

Larry Stiefel is a pediatrician at Tenafly Pediatrics.

By Larry Stiefel

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