April 19, 2024
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April 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

“What about a car washing business? Or mowing lawns? Or selling homemade smoothies at the beach?” These were just three of the random summer plans that Ayala, Keira, Noa and Liana considered. These four besties were going on separate family trips in August, but had nothing to do for July. They wanted to make money and do it together, but none of them wanted to work at a camp. This Sunday morning, as they sat at a local bagel store, they were again fresh out of ideas. Suddenly, Ayala perked up. “I got it! Remember how we made money two Januaries ago? We can do that again!” The other three started to laugh. “Ayala! We can’t shovel snow in July!” These girls weren’t just out of ideas; they were out of brainpower.

After their laughing had died down, a (sort-of awkward) silence settled in. A minute later, Noa breathed a large sigh. “I really wish we could do a backyard camp, too bad we don’t like little kids.” At that moment Ayala perked up again. “Wait, I got it this time!” (Her friends rolled their eyes.) “We might not want to take care of kids, but maybe we can take care of dogs!” People go away during the summer and don’t always want to bring their pets along! Or even if they don’t go away, they might want a break from their pets during the day or overnight!” For once, Ayala had a good idea; actually, the best idea! The other three girls agreed and they got right to planning.

The Doggie Retreat was all Ayala, Noa, Keira and Liana could talk about the next day at school. As they stood in the hallway discussing where to host the Retreat, a teacher walked up to the group. “Liana, the office called and said that you are heading home now.” Liana thanked the teacher and turned toward her friends. “I’m going to the allergist to get tested for allergies. My eyes have been itching a ton lately, and my parents think I’m allergic to pollen. See you ladies later!” Liana went to her locker, grabbed her stuff and headed downstairs.

A few hours later the girls were on a video chat, planning and plotting—at least the three who weren’t Liana. Liana was at home, curled up in her bed and feeling sad. While she lay there, her mom knocked on the door. “Sweetie, I’m sorry it turned out the way it did, but isn’t it better to find out now? Imagine if on the first day of work you realized you were allergic to dogs! I’m sorry if that’s not helpful, but maybe you can find another way to be part of the Doggie Retreat.” This didn’t make Liana feel any better, but she knew her mom was right. Either way, she had to break the news to her partners. She took out her phone, hopped on the chat and told them what happened.

Noa was the first to respond. “Liana! I’m glad you told us instead of holding it in! I’m also allergic to dogs! We were just talking about how there are so many parts of the Doggie Retreat that don’t involve taking care of the dogs directly. For example, we need to organize the schedule, stay in touch with the owners, advertise, purchase supplies and take care of feeding. Also, I take medicine for my allergies, so I can actually be around the dogs for short periods of time without it bothering me. I’m sure you can get medication too!”

Liana was relieved, but not completely. “That sounds great. Actually, it just sounds OK because we wouldn’t be contributing in the same way as Ayala and Keira. The main job is to take care of the dogs, and if they are doing the caretaking, I don’t want to feel like I’m not doing as much or as my job isn’t as important. Noa, would we deserve the same cut of the money? I have to think about this. I’m not going to stop you guys from going ahead, but I need to figure out what is best for me.” The other three knew they would never go on without Liana, but they didn’t want to put pressure on her. “Sure, Liana,” said Keira. “Take your time.” With that, Liana took a deep breath, said goodbye and left the chat.

The next day in Chumash class, Liana’s teacher was reviewing the parsha they had just completed—Parshat Emor. One thing Morah Shapiro always did when reviewing was to ask, “How are the parts of the parsha connected to one another?” Today was no different. “So class, let’s discuss: How are all the parts of Parshat Emor connected to one another?” As usual, she got a lot of blank stares in return. “No takers? Again? Well, let me tell you. There are two major elements to the parsha—the first is the purity of the kohanim. The kohanim must hold themselves to a certain standard—way above that of Bnei Yisrael. They must remain pure, dress a certain way and avoid injuries that might disqualify them from practicing in the Mikdash.”

“A regular member of Bnei Yisrael learning all of this might immediately feel less important. He or she might say ‘The kohanim are the real Jews. That’s why they have to be so careful. What we do doesn’t really matter.’ However, this is not the case. After learning about how special the kohanim are, the Torah moves on to the holidays. Jewish holidays are known as ‘Moadim,’ which means ‘set times.’ The first of the Moadim mentioned is Shabbat. Although we don’t always think about Shabbat as a holiday, it is a ‘Mo’ed,’ a set time to experience Hashem more directly. It doesn’t require anything of us, and can be kept where we are, in our homes. Although the kohanim have a special job, just as important is how we bring Torah and mitzvot to our homes—out into the real world. Those of us on the outside are just as significant to the story and play just as important of a role.”

Liana immediately connected this lesson to her own situation. Although she might be on the “outside,” not taking care of the dogs, she could be just as important. Liana immediately told her friends about her revelation (she actually left the room and pulled her friends out of class by appearing in the window of their classroom doors), and she of course thanked Morah Shapiro after class. As it turns out, Liana was able to be around the dogs a bit (thank you, Zyrtec), and all of the Doggie Retreat’s clients raved about the way Noa and Liana communicated and kept organized. Many said that if not for the confidence they felt in Liana and Noa, they might not have trusted their dogs to the Retreat.

There are many ways to be important. Forget the others; focus on what you can do.

Shabbat Shalom!


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

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