Roy Neuberger - Mar. 13, 2015

Eliyahu is a nine-year old boy who lives in Israel.

He has a wonderful soul. I sometimes call him “Eliyahu Hanovi” - Elijah the Prophet. But right now he is still a nine-year-old boy and he can be a handful. Let’s say he’s full of life. One recent day in yeshiva, he was playing with a stick during prayer. It fell with a loud sound, which disturbed the entire class. The rebbe (teacher) who loves Eliyahu very much – thought this behavior was out of place. Perhaps he overreacted, but he sent Eliyahu home, something which had never happened before.

Now let’s fast-backward.

Eliyahu’s mother, Sarah, is a very busy lady. Just before a recent Sabbath, Sarah returned home while about a thousand things were going on. (OK, maybe five hundred things….) She put down her keys. Then it was time to drive the children somewhere. She looked for her keys.


We are not speaking about one key. We are speaking about … many keys: the keys to the car (with a remote door opener, of course), the keys to the house, the keys to her parents’ house, the keys to the post office box, the keys to …. the list goes on. Do you know how long it would take to replace each of those keys? And the car key alone would cost a few hundred shekels! She, and everyone else, looked high and low, over and under, inside and outside.


Sarah managed to forget the keys over Sabbath, but after the Sabbath the search resumed. Sarah’s wise mother said, “Look in the garbage bags.” Well, Friday’s garbage was already in the dumpster. I mean, you really don’t want to climb in the dumpster. So they looked again throughout the house.


Sunday morning Sarah’s mother said once more, “You really have to look in the garbage, and – if it’s in the dumpster – you have to go in the dumpster!” Sarah did not find that an appetizing idea. But she did go to the dumpster and look inside. She had thrown out two garbage bags on Friday, one black and one grey. There was the black one! She emptied the entire bag. It was not enjoyable.

No keys!

She couldn’t find the grey one, but she was not going into that dumpster! On the other hand, she didn’t have her keys! Her mother told her again, “You have to look in that other bag!” This was a problem.

Until Eliyahu came home from yeshiva.

I mean … is there anything more exciting for a nine year old than to go into a dumpster on an important mission? Maybe there is, but Eliyahu, banished from school for the day, happily climbed into the dumpster! Who but Eliyahu would have gone in there! A few moments later, he emerged – undoubtedly in need of a bath – holding the grey garbage bag. They emptied the bag.

Sarah found her keys!

This, my friends, is what we call “gam zu l’tova!” - all is for the best. Can you imagine what would have happened if Eliyahu had not been sent home from school?

Last week, we read the Torah portion Ki Sisa, in which the Jewish People did something so incredibly inappropriate - the sin of the Golden Calf - that we have not ceased to suffer from it to this day, thousands of years later. Why we did it is really hard to understand, but we did it. We are a very unruly lot. We are a pack of trouble, as every page of the Torah attests and as Moses knew only too well.

But Moses never ceased to advocate for his people before G-d, Who of course loves us infinitely more than any human father can love his son. The Master of the Universe was so willing to listen to Moses that He gave us a second set of tablets. Yes, G-d gives us, for all our mistakes, a second chance and a third chance and … it goes on forever.

Because we are truly His People! Our deepest desire is to serve Him “b’chol levavcha uvchol nafshecha… with all our heart and all our soul.” Look at this week’s Torah portion! Right after the terrible sin of the Golden Calf, the Torah recounts the greatness of the Jewish People. Their repentance was deep and heartfelt. We are capable of such prodigious anguish over our mistakes!

Listen to these words: “Moses said to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel… ‘take from yourselves a portion for G-d and give it for the Tabernacle…’” (Exodus 35:4). And what happened? Soon they told Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough...!” (ibid 36:5) and so they had to be restrained from bringing more.

My friends, “Mi k’amcha Yisroel, goy echad b’aretz… who is like the nation of Israel, a unique nation upon the earth!” (Isaiah 6:3) Who else is capable of such repentance as the Jewish People? Yes, we are unruly, yes we are impetuous, yes we make terrible mistakes, yes we are flesh and blood, and show it time after time, but who else returns to G-d like us?

Like Eliyahu, we possess an unlimited capacity for throwing ourselves with all our hearts into doing G-d’s Will, even burying ourselves in the trash heap to serve Him! As King David says, “He raises the needy from the dust. From the trash heaps He lifts the destitute … to seat them with nobles…” (Psalms 113).

As we welcome Nissan, the month of our redemption, let us never forget that k’heref ayin … in the blink of an eye, the Jewish People was transformed from a slave nation into the exalted servants of the Master of the Universe.

“Wake up! Wake up! For your light has come. Rise up and shine. Awaken! Awaken! Utter a song! The glory of G-d is revealed on you!” (L’cha Dodi prayer)


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