Picking up Garbage, Giving out Blessings

Picking up Garbage, Giving out Blessings

This past Friday, in honor of Pesach Sheini, my 20-year-old daughter, Hallel, and I took a 15-minute walk down to the grave of the Zviler Rebbe. This gravesite is one of my favorite places in a world and has played a leading role in getting me to the other side of every rough patch or crisis I’ve experienced over the past decade or so.
When Hallel and I got there, I noticed that the gravesite looking terribly neglected, maybe because the people who usually oversee the site have been unable to come during the corona crisis, and there was quite a bit of trash lying around. Plastic cups, wrappers, candle tins.
So before we headed home I suggested to Hallel that we stay for a few minutes to clean up, and she agreed. So we pulled on some gloves and got to work.
I was gathering up dozens of candle tins from underneath the candle-lighting receptacles and Hallel was sweeping up with a big broom she’d found when a Chassidic woman, wearing a hat over her brunette sheitl, called out to Hallel in American-Yiddish accented Hebrew, “Yalda! Girl! You are doing a huge mitzvah, cleaning up the gravesite of the tsaddik! You have great merits! Please bless my mother that she should have a full recovery!”
Hallel pointed the woman over to me and, feeling somewhat ridiculous, I put down my trash bag full of candle tins and closed my eyes and gave this woman a blessing for her mother’s immediate and complete recovery.
On the way home, Hallel and I giggled as we imitated how the woman had said in her American-Yiddish accent, “Yalda! You have great merits!” When all we had done was pick up some trash!
And then Hallel suggested that we go back to the gravesite on Sunday with some other kids to do a thorough clean up of the entire gravesite. I thought that was a great idea. So yesterday afternoon Hallel, 4 of her younger siblings, and I headed down to the gravesite with trash bags as well as nosh for a celebratory picnic afterward at the Rose Garden next door.
Once at the gravesite, all of us got on our gloves and got to work. And after about 20 minutes, as I was cleaning up under the netilat yadayim sinks, a Yemenite-looking man with little curly peyos approached me. “Excuse me, Geveret, but are you doing this l’shem shamayim, for the sake of Heaven?”
I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I guess you could say that I was, so I said, “Yes.”
And he said, “Then please bless me that I should get married! I’m almost 40! And that I should have a refuah and a yeshua, a recovery, and a miraculous redemption!”
So I asked him his name, and I blessed Shimon the son of (I don’t remember) that in the merit of the tsaddik buried there as well as his namesake Rebbe Shimon, whose yahrzeit we are about to celebrate, that he should see miracles this very year.
After that we went to have our picnic and came home but, since yesterday, I haven’t been able to get these two surprising and strange requests for blessings out of my mind…The weirdest thing is that this gravesite is usually full of people praying, reading Tehillim. In fact, I myself have spent many hours of my life doing those very things at that very place. And nobody ever, EVER came up to me and said “Geveret, what merits you have! Please give me a blessing!”
But when I was at that same place, squatting on the ground picking up garbage, I was asked for a blessing not once, but twice!
Which has gotten me thinking about what a holy, spiritually-potent act it can be to clean up a holy place, even my own messy, holy home.

13 comments

  1. Absolutely.
    Maybe the merit they were referring to was your willingness to contribute and improve the gravesite rather than “just” come to daven and ask for something

  2. Whoa, that last line was inspiring!

  3. Thank you so much! This was beautiful!

  4. thanks so much…the end help me cope wiith being home all the time with my kids and finding a great meaning in doing the petty chores and cleaning my homd my kids etc… so powerful!!

  5. Hadassah Aber

    Your cleaning up the Tzaddik’s kever was showing respect for him more than saying tehillim there. May all the blessings you gave get materialized! For you and your family as well โค๏ธ. Happy birthday ๐ŸŽ‚ to the child born on Hod sh’BHod!

  6. Thank you so much for this beautiful and inspiring post!

  7. Thank you! Reminds me, l’havdil, of the Kohanim’s avoda in lighting the Menorah. First they cleaned the ashes from the previous day ๐Ÿ™‚

    • basya,
      these were my thoughts too! what did the cohanim do in Hashem’s house?
      cooking and cleaning, baking and taking care of garments, no?
      their service involved “good housekeeping”.
      likewise, we are maintaining our “mikdash me’at”, our little bais hamikdash wherever we live.
      just a thought.

    • JewishMom

      true!

  8. โ€œOne should always be flexible like a reed…” (Avos Dโ€™Rabbi Natan, 41) – able to bend down to pick up garbage when needed. ๐Ÿ™‚

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