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Lifetakes: My Little Mason

Ilana Shafer

Was my child the only black-and-white thinker in the class who would be devastated when a gold-laden structure failed to descend from Heaven?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Photo: Shutterstock.

I never liked mitzvah-brick charts. Was it the oversimplification? The way they reduced 2,000 years of estrangement — and the ultimate renewal of a glorious spiritual epicenter — to a numbers game? To a camel-colored oaktag on the wall? I wasn’t sure. 

When five-year-old Dahlia came home from school bright-eyed, cheerfully outlining her solution to the exile problem (“we just need to do a few more mitzvos, lay a few more bricks!”), the feelings of unease resurfaced. 

Was my child the only black-and-white thinker in the class who would be devastated when a gold-laden structure failed to descend from Heaven? 

I understood the rationale. Brick metaphors are a good way to concretize the abstract, to empower kids to remedy centuries of sorrow in a practical way. 

But something gnawed. 

Two weeks later: “Ugh! Ima, how big is the Beis Hamikdash already?” Dahlia squinted her eyes, did some hazy arithmetic. “We’ve been doing mitzvos for so long — even Zeidy’s Zeidy! It can’t be there aren’t enough!” 

What do I say now? 

Absurd kindergarten imagery popped into my head: a luminescent angel, enveloped by clouds, looking ruefully at skyscraping towers of bricks cramming an endless landfill. “Not enough, Creator!” the angel clucked. “Sruli’s still got to share his truck!” 

I shooed the vision away. How ridiculous. Is this the manner of an infinite G-d? 

Maybe not, but the concept is there, my inner voice chided. Contemplate it on a more sophisticated plane, if you wish, but the truth remains: Every good deed builds, every bad deed destroys.

Photo: Shutterstock

Dahlia was ecstatic: After days of nagging, I’d finally arranged a play date. 

“Rachel is on her way,” I chirped. “Isn’t that exciting?” 

Dahlia looked at me funny. Then her eyes welled up. “Not Rachel,” she said throatily. “I wanted Racheli!”

Oh. My. Gosh. Mistakenly assuming that Racheli was “Rachel” on the class list, I had invited the wrong girl. 

“Nooooooh! I don’t want to play with Rachel!” Dahlia wailed. She rolled on the floor, began clawing at her hair. 

She’d waited days for this. And I’d messed up. 

Panic set in. Rachel Kleiner and Dad would be here any minute, and Dahlia was tantrumming. Would she holler the truth in their faces, mortally wounding a five-year-old’s heart? 

Echoes of another mis-invitation resounded, an unwanted guest circa 70 CE. Should I tell Dahlia that fateful story? But this was my boo-boo; if she didn’t rise to the occasion, I didn’t want her to feel responsible for a Temple demolished.

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