The Dirty Stairwell

The Dirty Stairwell

I heard this story from my long-time teacher Rabbi Aryeh Nivin:

When Rabbi Nivin and his wife, Ayala, were newlyweds they moved into a new building along with a bunch of other newly-married couples.

When they first moved in, the building was sparkling clean.

But over the years, b”H, all of the young couples in the building started having children, and then more children…

The once sparkling clean stairwell was no longer…As the children grew, they filled the stairwell with ashen handprints and muddy footprints, crayon scrawls and fallen bicycles.

One day, Rabbi Nivin had to go to another building to pick something up from another family. That building was brand new, occupied by a new batch of newly-married couples.

Rabbi Nivin was impressed that the stairwell in that other building was so sparkling clean. So he told the woman he was picking something up from, “I am jealous of your stairwell. It is so clean! The stairwell in my building is so dirty…”

The woman responded, “How many children live in your building?”

“About 40…”

“I don’t understand…You have 40 children living in your building and YOU are jealous of US and our clean stairwell?!”

Rabbi Nivin just started a new interactive course for beginners called The Journey. Try out the first month for only $1.


  1. Chana Jenny, I completely receive and love your point, which is that we should appreciate that Hashem gives us children.
    However, there is no reason why the presence of children should equal filth. Wouldn’t that constitute a chilul Hashem?
    Landlors must clean and paint stairwells.
    If they don’t, tenants need to set up a rotating system or chip in to get it done regularly.
    Children should not equal filth.

    • As usual, you are totally right. I was just trying to give overwhelmed moms some chizuk. But you are right

  2. Agreed. It’s sometimes hard to reconcile the unbelievable gift of children with the lived in look they cause, and to appreciate it as a badge of honour. However, the homey look of children’s artwork hanging on the wall and tell tale signs of children’s toys in their corner is a lot different than letting the dirt that seem to find children like magnets, to accumulate in layer upon layer over an extended period of time, without ever trying to keep a handle on it. Have a great Shabbos everyone!

  3. Actually, the kids in our building clean the stairwell on Fridays. We all take turns and everyone pitches in – with Mommy helping at first to show even the 5 year olds how to do it.
    In Japan, as here in Israel, it can be a source of great pride to do “toranut”, clean up and create space everyone finds enjoyable. Just throwing that in 🙂

Leave a Reply

Follow by Email