This is the season when those of us who live in snowy climates are occupied with the ritual of clearing our driveways and sidewalks after a measurable snowfall. Unless theSnow is easy to clear snow is a foot or more deep, a few minutes of effort clears the sidewalk, and keeps our families and our neighbors safe.

Snow is easy to clear, but once it’s been beaten down and turned to ice, what would have been a ten-minute job can turn into hours of banging and salting to break up the rock-hard sheets. For those of you in more southern climes, you need to understand that ice is the scourge of pedestrians. One of our local emergency rooms reported that 60 victims of falls came in on a single day last winter.

I walk about four miles a day along the sidewalks, so I am very appreciative of the efforts of those who keep the sidewalks clear of snow and ice. I find there are three general categories of snow clearers:

  1. The truly conscientious who are out there after every snowfall, sometimes twice a day, to minimize the snow cover, also salting to prevent ice buildup.
  2. The attentive residents who try but can’t always keep the sidewalks clear. Their hearts are in the right place.
  3. Those who are waiting for the spring thaw.

Then there is the unique home I pass on my regular walk. The homeowner put in a new driveway and sidewalk last year, wiring the expanse of concrete to automatically melt the snow as it falls. He didn’t stop with the driveway, as some others who live along my route have done. No, this homeowner actually ran the wiring along the newly installed sidewalk, as well. Now, after a snowfall, the frontage is not just clear of snow, but also completely dry—a winter walker’s paradise.

I reflected on these shoveling practices during one of my walks last year. It was during the week when we read the Torah portion describing the Jewish people’s passage through the Red Sea on dry land. Chabad philosophy teaches that each of those passing through the sea experienced it in a unique fashion. This teaching inspired a thought that warmed my soul for the walk.

Surely, we can’t all be like the resident with a self-melting sidewalk. This person is like those Jews, the righteous, who perceived the passage through the sea as a walk through the park. We can’t all keep our sidewalks to that state of perfection, but we can at least act in a perfect way. Conscious of our thoughts, speech and deeds, we can act to keep our ways free of snow and ice on a continuous basis so as not to slip up. According to chassidic thought, the walk through the sea for that category of the Jewish people was muddy, but still passable.

Then there are those of us on the cusp, almost always meeting the challenge, applying every effort, but not quite getting there. We mostly have things under control, but we need to make that final transformation. These are the Jews who made it to other side of the sea, each step forward a struggle.

The last category of homeowners who never shovel relates to an incident described at the end of that week’s Torah portion. When the Jewish people reached the other side of the sea, they were on fire, anxious to arrive at Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. As the Jews approached MountWe can't all keep our sidewalks in a state of perfection Sinai, the nation of Amalek attacked like a freezing north wind. Their goal was to cool off the enthusiasm of the Jewish people. A battle ensued. The Jewish people were victorious, but Amalek remains in spirit, planting doubt, hoping to slip us up, convincing us to let the snow sit on our sidewalks.

No matter what category we’re in, let’s remember the saying of Reb Meir of Premishlan, a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov: “We’re connected on high, so we can’t fall down below.” With a little extra effort, not to mention a pinch of salt, we can all keep our sidewalks clear and hasten the coming of the ultimate spring, the coming of Moshiach.