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To Light A Spark

Kitchen Tiles and October 31st, 1978

August 23, 2009

"You're kidding, right?"

The man stood tall, his chest puffed out, pointing down at the piece of art on the ground.

"Don't you think it's a bit ridiculous that the museum paid for this? In the same place where Monet's hang?"

I had to admit, he had a point. Down there, on the ground, was the piece of art. That's what they called it, anyway. It was black-and-white checkerboard tile. It looked like somebody had cut a square out of a kitchen floor and placed it on the ground.

"But think about it," the small, old tour guide said, "how many of you were afraid to step on it, just because you knew it was a piece of art? But the artist wants you to step on this piece. Isn't that interesting?"

It was interesting. Who knew? Tile on the ground. Art. Cool. I liked this guide with her crazy red lipstick and red dress and red shoes. She was fun.

But the man wasn't satisfied. He huffed and puffed and tried to blow the art down. But there it was, sitting on the floor, overpriced and overvalued. And it drove him crazy.

The tour guide changed her plans and took us to another piece. On the wall was a completely black painting. On it was a date written in white. "October 31, 1978." That was it. This time, I was pretty convinced that it was just plain ridiculous. But then, in a flash of red and white, my world was rocked yet again.

"For his entire life, the artist of this piece has painted the same thing. Now, think about it. Every day he has painted the present date on a canvas. Isn't that something?"

"So, is this, like, in other museums as well?" the man asked, his face contorted in frustration.

"Yes," the woman said, a tight smile across her face.

Somehow, the idea that someone could make a career of this really bothered people. This time, it wasn't just the man that complained. Half of the group seemed to be grumbling. The tile was okay. At least that guy had only scammed once. But this guy, he made a living off this stuff.

The tour guide tried to explain how the piece symbolized the importance of every day, reminding us of the dedication a project like this would take. But she had a revolution on her hands.

Half of the beauty of going to a modern art gallery is watching people's reactions. They complain, they frown, they furrow their brows. Some, like me, try to nod and pretend they understand what it's all about. Every now and then you hear a wonderful line like, "The belly button is so powerful!"

In the end, though, any piece of art is just a piece of art. A painting on a wall, a piece of music. or even a lousy blog. Maybe they're all crazy. Maybe we're being scammed. Maybe.

But maybe there's more to consider. Maybe complaining is man's way of banging his head against a wall so he can make some noise. Maybe when we stop banging and look deeper, we can see the message someone is trying to send. Maybe we can look beyond the message and see a truth that even the artist might not have meant to create.

And maybe, just maybe, that is how we were meant to live our lives. Instead of searching for the darkness in the light, perhaps we were meant to look for the truth in the lies. To see G‑d everywhere we look. Even if what we're looking at is a kitchen floor or a giant clock.

Or maybe we should just stay in the Monet exhibit where beauty shines on us without any personal effort.

Maybe.

Elad Nehorai is an alumnus of Arizona State University and Mayanot yeshiva. You can find Elad wandering around America, gallivanting around Israel, or getting lost in the clouds. His favorite things to do include reading, writing and conversing with G-d.

The Lemonade Heard Around the World

August 9, 2009

I'll never forget that guy. There we were, selling lemonade on the side of the road. Twenty-five cents a piece. We had already made a few bucks for a few hours work. Not too shabby.

But that guy—well, he just changed everything.

The car slowed as it came towards us. Another customer. Nice.

I don't really remember what he looked like, but I remember the smile. Warm and friendly. He asked us for a cup of lemonade with that smile. How could we say no?

We had a quality operation going. One person poured the lemonade. Another one gave it to him. I took the money. It clicked like clockwork. We were all over that action.

We gave him the cup. He flashed us that smile again. He reached down to grab something from his car. I remember him ruffling through something, maybe his wallet. He finally seemed to find what he had been looking for.

And out it came.

A bill. A bill! We expected him to ask for change. We didn't want to get our hopes up. Still, we stood with bated breath. I, as the consummate professional, made sure to smile and take the bill. I waited for him to put his hand out for the change.

Instead, he smiled at us and waved.

"Have a good day, kids," he said. (Something like that, at least.)

I went over to the table—to my friends—to celebrate. We had just been paid for four lemonades when all we'd made was one. Amazing.

And that's when I took a look at the bill. Something about it looked strange. I was mostly used to bills with George Washington on the front, but this one had someone else. Some stuffy dude with facial hair. Who was he?

But what ended up catching my eye in the end was the number on the corner of the bill.

Five.

For a moment, I thought something was wrong with my eyes. I checked again.

Five.

I stared, flabbergasted. Was this possible? Had all my years of lemonade production finally paid off?

I showed my friends and we all stared with disbelief at the bill. Five dollars. Five dollars!

It was the best day of our short lives. Even better than the day we got a bicentennial quarter.

I'll never forget that day. How happy we all were. How we smiled and showed off our fancy new bill to our parents. The way we strutted around like we were the kings of the side of the road. Life was glorious on that day.

I still remember that guy who stopped for us. How he smiled like it was nothing to give a few kids a five dollar bill just to make them happy. I wonder if he knew how happy it would actually make us. How I'd still remember him twenty years later—probably for the rest of my life. I wish I could tell him.

Whenever I see a lemonade stand now, I make sure to buy some lemonade. I never pay with coins (I hate 'em anyway). The kids smile. And I remember the guy's smile. Somehow, they seem connected.

They say that if you save someone's life, you save the world. Well, sometimes you don't need to save a life to change the world. Sometimes you just need to buy some lemonade.

Elad Nehorai is an alumnus of Arizona State University and Mayanot yeshiva. You can find Elad wandering around America, gallivanting around Israel, or getting lost in the clouds. His favorite things to do include reading, writing and conversing with G-d.
People travel around the world searching for it. They starve themselves for it. They scream, they cry and they beg for it.

“It” is that little thing called meaning. Truth.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could just bang two rocks together and find It? What if we could save money on airplane tickets and seminars and find that meaning in our own lives?

Join me on my journey through the infinite without even resorting to a midlife crisis.
Elad Nehorai is an alumnus of Arizona State University and Mayanot yeshiva. You can find Elad wandering around America, gallivanting around Israel, or getting lost in the clouds. His favorite things to do include reading, writing and conversing with G-d.