In memory of Phil Saltman, our next door neighbor, who passed away this week. He was an extraordinarily talented, sensitive and giving soul. The salt of the earth.
A short story. . .and 2 questions.
There was a little boy who loved his mother.
Every Friday he would see his father buy his mother beautiful flowers for his mother would place in a large crystal vase.
The little boy thought to himself, "I would like to do that for Mommy also. So he goes out one Friday afternoon and picks some flowers for his mother.
You can imagine what a little boy brings back, a few weeds, some grass, something dripping pollen. The little boy is so proud of himself and marching in he declares, "Look Mommy, I got you flowers just like Daddy!"
Well, the mother would really like to throw them into the garbage, but she understands that they represent the love her son has for her and so she gets a Styrofoam cup and arrange them as nicely as possible and set the little cup next to the crystal vase.
How proud the little boy is!
So every week he would go out and pick his "flowers" for his mother for Shabbat.
But little boys being what they are, after a while the excitement wore off and it began to be another chore he had to perform. One Friday afternoon he’s playing with his friends and he remembered the flowers. He runs and grabs a few weeds and dashes into the house. Tossing them on the table he says slightly annoyed "Here! You want flowers, I brought you flowers".
The question: How should the mother respond?
His mother looks at him sadly and says, "That's all right, Daddy gets me lots of flowers. I don't need you to bring me any." And she scoops up the weeds and drops them into the garbage. Then, realizing there is no more need for the Styrofoam cup, crushes it and tosses it into the garbage can.
A second question: What’s the lesson for the boy?
When the young boy looks at the crushed cup, just maybe he begins to realize that he wasn't doing his mother a favor, rather she was doing him a favor by allowing his weeds to sit next to the beautiful flowers in the crystal vase.
This story is about Judaism. Everything in Judaism, without exception, is for our benefit.
It is therefore only natural that when (throughout history) we’ve lost our desire to participate with enthusiasm, our “flowers” have been thrown into the trash.
On the other hand, when we do participate with enthusiasm, our flowers matter.