Well, we didn’t exactly dumpster dive, but here’s the story.

We hosted an alumni Bris here and in the hasty cleanup two Kiddush cups got lost. One was a nice cup, but the other had sentimental value as it was from our son’s Bar-Mitzvah, engraved with his name, a gift from his grandparents. We didn’t realize they were lost at first, but discovered they were missing on Shabbos, and figured they might have ended up in our garbage dumpster in the backyard.

So on Sunday that’s what we did. We pulled out one garbage bag after another from the dumpster, set up a table to go through each bag, one at a time, and tried to find those Kiddush cups. You can partially see Rivka trying to document the experience. She could not get over it!

The first Kiddush cup turned up about 10 or 12 garbage bags in. That galvanized our resolve and energized the search. We continued to go through messy garbage back after messy garbage bag until we finally found our son’s silver Bar-Mitzvah Kiddush cup in the 2nd to last bag pulled from the trash dumpster.

Amazingly, and to our son’s great surprise, found both Kiddush cups!

After we cleaned up and got all the trash back in the dumpster, a verse flew into my mind: “To extract the precious from the vile/worthless” (Jeremiah 15:19, quoted and adapted in Talmud Bava Metziah 85a). Jeremiah describes this as an ultimate Jewish mission, which the Rebbe emphasized as well, using this verse on a number of occasions.

Sometimes (in many aspects of life) we wonder: “Is it worth it?”

We don’t know even if its in there. We weren’t sure, we had no idea. Even if it is, its a big messy smelly ordeal to get it all the bags out and sort through it all.

It depends how precious it is to you. Would we have done it if the Kiddush cup didn’t have sentimental value? If it didn’t mean something personal to our son? Maybe we would have done it anyways, or maybe we would have been discouraged after going through messy smelly bag after bag? But if you feel the preciousness, then its worth doing it, even if its only a chance.

Precious things don’t always just appear as obviously and evidently precious, easily accessible and available right there out on the surface. Often (like precious metals) they are encased in ore, mixed up and confused with other things, hidden and buried within worthless or worse. Extracting can be a challenge, consuming or expensive process, but if what you are looking for is that precious, then its worth it. No matter what it takes!

One more lesson we learned from getting the trash bags out of the dumpster. For those trash bags farther out of reach we used a long-handled grabber tool and then yanked them up and out by hand once they were closer in reach. The grabber tool was most effective when grabbing at the knot area, instead of other sides of the bag.

There’s a message in this, too! The Alter Rebbe teaches that our connection to G-d is like a multi-strand rope or cable. Each Mitzvah is another thread or string or strand, which together make up the cable of connection, as the verse says “Jacob’s heritage is like a rope.” But as Alter Rebbe points out in Tanya’s Igeres HaTeshuvah sometimes we break a strand or two, our sins separate us from G-d, they sever some aspect of the connection.

And Teshuvah? The repair is to knot the strings together again. Interesting that the knot becomes the strongest part of the rope, because that’s where it is reinforced (as we also experienced with the grabber and the trash bags) and the knot (the repair) makes the string shorter, so our connection becomes even closer!