Did your rabbi ever tell you the tale of the thirty-six Tzadiks who secretly circulate in our world? They look like me and you but Inside, they glow with righteousness. To put it plainly, they are the spies of G-d; and their mission is surveillance of the human heartscape. Every Pesach they take the ethical pulse of Humanity. Then they report to the Creator. This determines the fate of the world the following year. If all is ethically well; the the harvest is bountiful, the S&P 500 index zooms, the Winter is mild and the Summers are balmy. Except for death and taxes, bliss reigns.
But the Berg family at 2822 Mendel Circle in Fairlawn, New Jersey had no time for rabbinic tales. They were busy planning their Passover. They would have a guest this year, they decided - some homeless stranger. A real Mitzvah it would be.
The next morning found Sarah Berg dialing around to several Jewish agencies until she found her man. Sure, they had a candidate. A young, rootless fellow passing through town.
What a glorious Passover it would be, thought Sarah. A sumptuous meal, the Seder ceremony, and the added Mitzvah of the indigent guest. Just as the Hagaddah says; "let all who are hungry come and eat". But so much preparation and post-meal cleanup. She cringed at the thought of dirty dishes piled in the sink, crusted with the remains of five courses. She'd get a maid. A small luxury.
Now, it's Seder night. The doorbell rings. It's him, the guest. He's in torn jeans, plaid shirt, and a Bull's sports cap.
But the Bergs welcome him into their home with smiles. Uncomfortably, they make small talk as the stranger sits stiffly at the table. They proceed with the Seder, but he seems to have no understanding of the service. Nor is he interested in Daniel Berg's Passover anecdotes directed at both him and the children. "When do we eat?" he says as they pass the matzoh and moror sandwiches around the table.
The guest eats steadily as the family participates enthusiastically in the service. They talk of ancient miracles as he enthusiastically devours the brisket and roast chicken. The children swing their heads from the derelict to their parents in silent wonder at the sullen guest.
In the middle of this tension there is a horrible crash of china from the kitchen. The floor is littered with the shards of Sarah Berg's wedding china; a gift from her mother, who had died two months before.
The elderly maid had slipped and upset the card table holding the dirty dishes. She stared down at her clumsy handiwork. A silent tear ran down the old lady's cheek as Sarah looked at her mother's heirloom, now splintered china, all over the kitchen floor. A great sadness seized her heart. The failed holiday, the memory of her mother, this incompetent human being who couldn't even clear the table without disaster. But she swallowed the lump in her throat when she saw the remorseful tears in the eyes of the old lady.
"That's OK, that's OK." She patted the shoulder of her Passover helper as the maid swept the remains of Sarah's mother's Lenox china into a brown paper grocery sack.
Sarah returned to the table determined to crown the evening with ceremony appropriate to the holiday. Fitfully, they resumed the singing. And soon, mercifully, the evening came to an end. The maid, still red-eyed, was paid handsomely, in deference to the holiday, and sent home early with a plastic bag full of roast chicken. The kids - sleepy, irritable, appalled by the rude guest - were ordered upstairs to bed.
The family went upstairs to an uneasy sleep where Sarah's dreams were strangely lighted by the bright tearful eyes of the clumsy maid. A miserable night.
Ah, but what a golden year followed for the Berg family: and the world they inhabited. A warm wind blew over the face of the earth and unlocked the cold heart of humanity. The earth smiled and her harvests were plentiful. The S&P 500 index zoomed, and the Winter was mild and the Summer was balmy.
And all for the price of a pat on the shoulder, a plastic bag full of leftover chicken, and a set of dishes. Who would suspect that a Tzadik's duties included sweeping the kitchen floor.