Have you ever found a treasure?, I once asked my father. He smiled a big smile and told me this story. That was many years ago and I have never forgotten it.
Once when I was about ten years old my father told me, I went treasure hunting with my older sister. She had heard some people talking about a treasure chest that was supposed to be hidden in a hillside cave, way at the back of an empty lot about a mile from where we lived. One day during our summer vacation we went there and spent two or three hours looking for the entrance to the cave. Then, as I was trying to squeeze between two big boulders, I suddenly fell into a hole. It was the mouth of a tunnel that led to the cave.
My sister and I crawled through the tunnel into the cave. It was very dark but we had brought a flashlight and as we shined it around we were shocked to see that there was a large wooden chest about ten feet ahead of us. Neither of us had thought we would really find a treasure.
We ran to the chest and pulled it open. It was filled with silver and gold coins. I started to count them but my sister told me to stop. This is only money she said. This is not a real treasure. If you want money all you have to do is work for it.
I was going to argue with her when I suddenly noticed a big metal chest on the other side of the cave. ‘That must be the real treasure.’ I yelled and we both ran over to the metal chest. This chest was harder to open and we were very excited when we finally opened it.
The chest was filled with statues of men and animals. Some of the statues were made of ivory, some were made of marble with diamonds for eyes and rubies for lips, and some were made of gold. I took one of the gold statues out of the chest and stood it up. Since I was knelling it almost reached my chin. ‘Don’t do that!’ yelled my sister. ‘This is only beauty and art. It is not a real treasure. There must be something better here.’
But there was nothing else in the cave. We searched and searched but the two chests were all there was. Then the battery in the flashlight started to die. The bulb grew dim. We got scared and crawled back to the tunnel. I wiggled through but my sister got stuck half way into the tunnel. I tried to pull her out but I couldn’t. I began to cry. ‘Find someone to help me.’ my sister said.
I ran up and down the street knocking on doors and begging people to come with me to help my sister. Nobody would come. Some were watching TV or playing video games. Others were busy eating, or talking on the phone. Some didn’t believe me and some didn’t want to get involved.
The only one who would help was a girl about my age. She got a rope and a spade and a water bottle. We returned to the tunnel and after about a half an hour we got my sister out of the tunnel.
We never told our parents about what had happened. I became good friends with the girl who had helped us. I asked her why she helped us even though she had never even met us before. She told me that there was a commandment in the Torah that said, Don’t be a bystander when someone else is bleeding. (Leviticus 19:16)
I grew to admire her very much. She was very responsible, charitable, faithful, kind and loving. I learned a lot from her and when we finished college I realized that she was more than a very good friend. She was the woman I wanted to marry and live with for the rest of my life. That’s your mom.
I also learned that my sister was right. Wealth and great art are nice but as the good book says, Who can find a capable wife? Her worth is far above rubies. Her husband safely trusts in her. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the Torah of kindness is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:10,26)
In your mother I found the best treasure in the world.
After 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City Calif. Allen Maller retired in 2006. He is the editor of a series of High Holy Days prayer books; the author of a book on Jewish mysticism, “God, Sex and Kabbalah”; and the husband since 1966 of Judy Coopersmith. Visit his website at http://www.rabbimaller.com for more information.