Baruch Hashem, there is so much good news to share, but I sometimes feel a bit awkward because some of you don’t know the people , It won’t stop me this time. Two girls from Bnos Avigail got engaged in such a short time span, that I can’t help but wish them both a real mazal tov! They are Goldie Stein and Sarit Poliaff. If you don’t know them, wish them well any way. Why not! Let yourself feel the goodness role…
I can’t resist telling you a true story, but in honesty it works much better when you can understand the cultural/ethnic background. There was a bakery in Meah Shearim called Brizel’s. The proprietor was an eternally older Karlin chossid named Zalman. I shopped there for decades, but he always seemed to be in his mid-sixties, grey payos flying, and full of a rare blend of optimism and humor blended with Meah Shearim in every cell of his blood. His friend recounted that one day he entered the bakery and asked “What’s new?” Brizel replied “terrible” which was the last thing his friend expected to hear. “What happened?” “Nothing big. I got up really early to put in a good few hours of study before I get to the ovens (that means it was about 2 a.m.). I couldn’t find my shoes. My grandchildren were over, and they must have been playing around in my room. I finally found them, but they took the laces out. Finding the first one was easy, but then I wasted almost a half hour until I finally discovered where the kid stashed the second one. Then I headed out to the mikveh. It was too late to study, but I got there in time to immerse before going to the synagogue. I went in, and when I went out, you won’t believe what happened! Someone stole my clothes. He left me with nothing. I had to wait until someone came to tovel, and plead with him to go to my house and get me something to wear. The fellow agreed, but I knew that when I come home, my wife will have what to say about being woken up so early because her schlimazel (no one can translate that one) of a husband had his clothes stolen.” His friend commiserated, and then said, “How do you feel now? Want me to make you a coffee?” “No replied the chossid. “ I feel great. Full of simchah. You want to know why?”
“None of this happened. “
“I had no trouble finding my shoes, no one stole my clothes, and my wife thinks that I’m the best thing that happened since they began slicing bread. Isn’t that a reason to be happy? “His grin was real, and his friend left him to finish arranging the cookies while looking like he won the lottery.
Do you think about what’s right in your life?
It’s hard to not just write off all of the good and put them in the soul-destroying file called “regular”. All of Hashem’s constant compassion, providence, and love get lost once you put them in the complacency file.
I went to a funeral last night. Rebbetzin Zehava Kass lost her father. Her brother spoke, as did Rabbi Kass and a grandchild. None of them spoke about the kind of deeds that make the front page of a newspaper, or a Feldheim biography. They spoke of a man of few words, but kind deeds, who had left his native Syria as a young man, and succeeded in building a family in a different culture, facing challenge after challenge with the rarest of all virtues, modesty. I didn’t know him, and only came to the funeral in respect to the Kass’s, but I am not sorry to have been there to be part of a group of people giving honor to someone who may have easily been overlooked in other circumstances.
That we see and don’t see.
This reminds me of the beginning of this past week’s Haftorah. “Be comforted, be comforted my People, says your G-d”. In classical Hebrew the word for comfort is also sometimes used to mean regret. In context, it means that once you see the end of the story, you may come to regret the way you responded when the story was still happening.
You have all heard the kind of story where someone is headed to the airport, but is delayed because they had to help out someone who was lost, or spend longer than he had planned on the phone with a lonely person, or any one of the endless repertoire of “things that happen at the wrong time”. Our hero gets to the airport late, misses the plane. If you were in his shoes, what would you be thinking? “I can’t believe this is happening. I’m going to miss half of the meeting’, or, “the ticket isn’t even exchangeable. There goes $250” or “This will finally teach me a lesson. I have to learn to think more about my real needs and priorities”. Obviously I can’t know your thoughts, but I can easily imagine any of the above occupying space in my brain…Then you hear your phone and your friend (or spouse, or parent) is in tears telling you incoherently that the plane you were booked for crashed. At that moment, all of the regrets you had for coming late disintegrate.
But what if the plane didn’t crash. And you still had to face the mental debris that fills your mind?
The second invocation of the words “be comforted” is mean to tell you that in the ultimate sense, you will one day see the underlying chessed of the interactions that are not presently clear. It says that the world will be covered by knowledge of Hashem the way the sea-floor is covered with water.
That means that you too will one day reach the level where it doesn’t matter if you found your shoes or not. The message of every moment being a gift, full of possibilities, will be part of your knowledge base.
In the meantime,
P.S. Please continue davening for Ester Yocheved bat Braizel Brachah Pollard . May we hear good news from the Pollards who have both suffered so much for being caring Jews…