Ki Tetzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19 )
Keeping ourselves and our surroundings clean is an important Torah value. In this week’s Torah portion (23:14) we learn about the extra care the people took to keep their camp hygienic. Cleanliness isn’t only good for our bodies—it’s good for our souls!
In our story, a kid finds out that it’s not so bad to…come clean.
STANDING ROOM ONLY
Jay was lying on his bed — that is, the small part of it that wasn’t piled up with laundry, both dirty, and clean, about a year’s worth of sports magazines, and assorted semi-empty snack packages in various stages of decay — when he thought he heard his cell phone ringing from beneath one of the plies.
After digging through the debris drowning his desk, the boy managed to find his phone and flip it on.
“Hey Jay! You psyched to go to the big game today?” Benny’s voice boomed through the phone.
“You bet I am!” Jay said. “And it’s a good thing we’ve got reserved tickets, I heard the game’s been sold out for days."
“Of course it’s sold out,” Benny said. “This game’s the talk of the town — it could decide who wins the division championship! Listen, the stadium shuttle bus leaves in an hour. I’ll meet you at the pick-up stop, okay?”
“No prob,” Jay said, clicking off with a smile.
Jay stretched back out on his bed, when the thought crossed his mind that he’d promised his mom he’d clean his room today. Of course, he’d been promising that for a lot of days and somehow it just hadn’t happened. Maybe tomorrow. Right now, his head was swimming in thoughts of bats and balls, cheering crowds, and maybe even an autograph if he was lucky. He tried to remember which row his and Benny’s seats were. Well, easy enough to just check the ticket and find out, Jay thought as he reached over to the one cleared-off spot on his trash-packed shelf where he’d put it.
Suddenly he froze. The ticket wasn’t there!
Jay rifled through the shelf, then the desk beneath it — but no ticket. Where could it be? He looked around his room — which could be have been designated as the National Museum of Clutter—and sighed. It would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
The only possible way to find it would be to do the thing he thought he never would…
Like a cleaning cyclone, Jay began to stack, straighten and organize his room, corner after corner, searching for the priceless ticket, tossing all his dirty clothes in the until-then empty hamper, and all the trash he would come across into the big garbage bag his mom had dropped off there a couple of days ago, as a hint.
He glanced up at the wall clock and groaned. If he didn’t find the ticket soon…he couldn’t even think about it.
More time passed and by now Jay was frantic. His room was looking neat as a pin, but still no ticket! In despair, Jay tossed himself down on his now-cleared-off bed and dug his head into his pillow. Why was his pillowcase so stiff?
Oh, no!...Oh, yeah!!! Now he remembered. He’d stuck the ticket in his pillowcase last night so he’d have good, baseball dreams! Jay quickly fished the precious ticket out of the pillowcase, stuffed it into his pocket and started running out the door. He could still make the shuttle bus!
As he glanced back at his now neat-and-clean room, Jay gave a smile. If he’d only found the ticket earlier…well, maybe it wasn’t so bad to make his mom happy and…he had to admit…give himself a much more pleasant place to live.
Q. How did Jay feel at first about cleaning his room?
A. He didn’t feel it was worth the bother.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He was glad he’d done it—for his mom, and for himself.
Q. What life-lesson could someone learn from this story?
A. Although it takes some effort, by keeping our surroundings clean, we can make our life more efficient, organized and enjoyable.
Q. Do you think Jay would have found his ticket faster if his room would have been neat to begin with?
A. Most likely. Since he would have easily been able to see where the ticket wasn’t, it would have been easy for him to figure out where it was.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Can you tell anything about someone’s personality by how neat and clean they keep their surroundings and themselves?
A. In general, someone who keeps themselves, and their living space neat and clean, shows that they respect themselves, are organized, and likely have an ‘uncluttered’ mind as well.
Q. Our sages teach that a Torah Scholar should be extra careful to always have a neat and clean appearance. What do you think might be the reason?
A. As the Torah is G-d given wisdom and instructions for living, one who studies and lives it, in a sense, ‘represents’ godliness in people’s eyes. It is therefore important for such a person to make a sincere, positive impression via one’s actions and even one’s appearance.