Nati was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He (as opposed to his friend Jake) had nothing to do with covering his principal’s car with ketchup, yet here he was, taking the blame. Dr. Furter was furious. “I know my car might look like a hot dog, but ketchup?! Maybe I could forgive mustard and sauerkraut, but who puts ketchup on a hot dog?! Nati and Jake, not only will you wash every car in this parking lot, but you can consider yourselves kicked off the eighth grade trip!” As much as Nati and Jake tried to convince Dr. Furter that only Jake was guilty, their principal would have nothing of it; they were both going to miss the event of the year.
So, every day for a month, Jake and Nati could be found in the parking lot, washing one Honda Odyssey after another. They worked without complaining and behaved as model students for the rest of the year. Dr. Furter was impressed with their behavior but wasn’t yet sure if Jake and Nati deserved to join the trip. So, with three weeks to go, he called them both to his office. The boys approached the door with the sign “Dr. Frank Furter,” knocked lightly, and were called in.
“Nati, Jake, I have noticed a real change in both of you since the, ahem, ketchup incident. I am willing to rethink your punishment. However, I need proof that you have learned your lesson. You both have improved in many ways, but I need more evidence that you understand what you did wrong to me and my car. You have one week.”
Jake wasted no time; he began his apology on the spot. “Dr. Furter, I am extremely embarrassed about my actions. In the five months since, I have truly learned what it means to be a positive member of this amazing school...” Nati sat stunned for 35 minutes while Jake listed all the mistakes he made and the ways in which he has changed.
After Jake finished, Dr. Furter calmly responded, “Thank you, Jake, I will share my decision at the end of the week. Nati, anything to say?” Nati could not even open his mouth. How could he compete with a speech like that? He was surely going to miss the trip, while Jake and his classmates will have all the fun. The boys left the office and went back to their regular schedules.
Now Nati was really worried. What could he do to show that he learned his lesson? He really wanted to go on that trip! At dinner, he asked his mother for advice. After listening to Nati, she responded with the following dvar Torah:
Parshat Acharei Mot begins with the avodat Yom Kippur, the service done by the kohen gadol in the Beit Hamikdash. The kohen gadol goes through a complicated process of korbanot, ketoret and other activities just to be allowed in to the Kodesh HaKodashim to gain forgiveness for bnei Yisrael. Before commanding Moshe about this process, the Torah tells us that this happened right after the death (“Acharei Mot”) of Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu.
By mentioning Nadav and Avihu before Yom Kippur, Hashem is showing us the importance of preparation. Aharon’s sons were punished because they rushed into the Mishkan to bring ketoret without thinking through what they were doing. This is the wrong way. To approach Hashem, especially to gain forgiveness, one must plan and think through what to do. This is what the kohen gadol does every Yom Kippur. This is how bnei Yisrael are forgiven.”
“Nati,” his mother continued, “don’t worry about comparing yourself to Jake. He made his speech on the spot without preparing. I’m sure Dr. Furter would prefer something more thoughtful to show that you learned your lesson.”
So Nati prepared. He reviewed all the things that Dr. Furter said to him the day he got in trouble. After five days of writing down ideas, crossing them out and writing more, he was exhausted and didn’t have a good idea. Then, when out to dinner with his family on Sunday night, he realized the answer. “I got it!” yelled Nati to a packed restaurant.
So, the next day, Nati walked up to Dr. Furter’s office and knocked. Dr. Furter opened the door and Nati calmly handed him a bag. Dr. Furter reached in and pulled out two perfectly grilled hot dogs with mustard and sauerkraut! Dr. Furter smiled. “Looks like someone was listening when I was talking. Nati, enjoy the trip!”
By Rabbi Yair Daar
Yair Daar is an assistant principal and the resident parsha storyteller at Yeshivat He’Atid. He can be reached at [email protected]