The Sur­prise in the Desk

Car­ol Ungar, Mira Simon (illus­tra­tor)

  • Review
By – April 13, 2021

Rab­bi Noach Muroff need­ed to buy a desk and decid­ed a used one would be the best choice for him­self and his fam­i­ly. He finds the right desk at the right price but when he brings it home, it is too large to fit through the door­way of his office. There is no choice but to dis­man­tle the desk and hope it can be prop­er­ly reassem­bled on the oth­er side of the door.

When the desk is tak­en apart, the rab­bi finds an unex­pect­ed sur­prise; tucked into one of its cran­nies is a bag con­tain­ing nine­ty-eight thou­sand dol­lars. The bag and the mon­ey were clear­ly left inside the desk by accident.

Know­ing the right thing to do, Rab­bi Muroff calls the sell­er and then goes to her house to return the mon­ey. She is, of course, sur­prised and very grate­ful. A mod­est man who has no wish to call atten­tion to him­self, Rab­bi Muroff tells no one the sto­ry except for his own per­son­al rab­bi. His rab­bi has a dif­fer­ent opin­ion on keep­ing the sto­ry secret; he feels it would bring hon­or to the Jew­ish peo­ple if Rab­bi Murof­f’s sto­ry were wide­ly known. So Rab­bi Muroff begins to speak about his good deed in more pub­lic forums, includ­ing to his young stu­dents, empha­siz­ing the need for prop­er behav­ior and for heed­ing Torah pre­cepts. Dis­cus­sions are sparked far and wide as the sto­ry spreads, even­tu­al­ly com­ing to the atten­tion of the media, which prompt­ly pub­li­cizes it, lead­ing to impor­tant con­ver­sa­tions among many groups about human rela­tions and the need to be hon­est in all one’s inter­ac­tions. As Rab­bi Muof­f’s rab­bi had pre­dict­ed, the sto­ry reflect­ed won­der­ful­ly on the Jew­ish community.

Based on a true sto­ry, with sim­ple and effec­tive illus­tra­tions in vivid col­or, and with atten­tion paid to the role of the chil­dren who observe this good deed in action, this sto­ry will cer­tain­ly lead to impor­tant dis­cus­sions about moral behav­ior and mitzvot.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions