Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – Aisle Never Forget


Operation Inspiration

By We know that as Jews, some things are so important to remember that we have reminders almost constantly. Yetzias Mitzrayim? Multiple times per day. Creation? At least weekly when we daven and make Kiddush. We have the Shaish Zechiros, six things the Torah tells us we are supposed to remember, such as standing at Har Sinai and how Miriam was punished, and most siddurim have them listed at the end of Shacharis. These are not to be confused with the six Mitzvos Temidios, the six constant mitzvos, which we also have to remember. They are belief in Hashem, belief that He is One and unique, to love Hashem, to fear Hashem, not to follow other gods and not to stray after our eyes. I created a catchy little limerick to remember those: Hashem is my G-d, so Unique, (1 and 2) and no other gods will I seek (5). I love Him each day (3) in a most reverent way (4) and after my eyes I won’t sneak (6).

Then there are things we need to remember so the Torah required a reminder at least once a year, like reading what Amalek did to us (also one of the six zechiros, incidentally.) The intent is that if we have a reminder from time to time, we will never forget it.

I can personally attest to this. I was once at a Sheva Brachos (my friend Menachem is already cringing…) and the very frum friend of the Choson made a slightly risqué comment based on the Parsha. I leaned over to my friend and asked, “Did he just say what I think he said?” He replied, “He couldn’t have.” “I think he diiid…” It was very quick and in passing, but to this day, I cannot see or hear that posuk without being brought back to that moment and rehearing that comment.

That’s how powerful memory tools can be. A Rebbi of mine said that he cannot hear Megilas Aicha without cracking a smile because he once attended a Purim Shpiel and they made a joke based on a posuk from that Tisha B’Av Megila. I asked him what the joke was and he sagaciously refused to tell me. “If I do, you’ll be in the same predicament as I am.” I was a bit perturbed at the time, but years later I can attest to the wisdom and foresight of his refusal.

Well, today I’m going to share another memory with you, one that would be OK for you to think of. Though it isn’t tied to a parsha or kriah, the principle still works. This memory trigger is one that happens when I think of Walmart. I know, you were expecting something lofty and elevated, and now you’re thinking, “Walmart? Seriously? What could be so important about Walmart?” But listen to this. You just may think of it every time YOU go to a Walmart. But please don’t be upset with me. If you think you will, stop reading right now. The End. See? I made it easy. Turn the page.

OK, if you’re still with me, you hereby accept that you’re doing so of your own volition and you will hold me harmless if you think of this story every time you go to Walmart. Here goes:

One evening I went to Walmart and as we all tend to do in a store like that, I headed to what I needed right away, but then remembered something else I might have wanted to get. While there, I saw someone looking at something that looked interesting so, after they walked away (I’m not that much of a creepy stalker!) I went over to check it out.

I then made my way down another aisle, looking to see if they had the pickles I used to buy in Yeshiva. (They didn’t.) I don’t even know if I would have bought them, but I was curious. I then proceeded down towards the check-out lines and that’s when it happened. It seemed like a chance encounter, but I know that Hashem arranged it for me to overhear what I overheard, and which I am about to share with you.

Please don’t tell anyone, as I don’t want them to blame me if they hear this woman’s voice in their head when they go to Walmart…

As I emerged from the aisle, a young man, probably seventeen or eighteen years old, was walking with what I perceived to be his grandmother. I noticed him stopping to look at some random thing, and then heard her say, “Why are you wasting time? What did you come here to get?” That stopped me in my tracks.

Not because I had also been wandering around the store looking for whatever struck my fancy, but because of the profundity of life wisdom in that brief expression. “Why are you wasting time? What did you come here to get?” Is that not a question we could all be asking ourselves on a daily basis?

We come to this world to perfect our souls by following Hashem’s Torah and Mitzvos, searching for ways to better ourselves and rectify whatever our souls need. Yes, I just equated the world with Walmart, think of me what you will.

Along the way, though, there are many shiny exciting things to look at, at what we think are great prices. Whether it’s possessions like shoes or cars or things like money, jobs or recognition, we can get caught up in life and miss the point. That’s when we need to think of that grandmother in Walmart and ask ourselves, “Why are you wasting time? What did you come here for?”

If you remember this story every time you see or go into a Walmart, and recall it on a regular basis, I have no doubt your life will be lived right on Target!


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