Adar is so sweet! It seems to progress day by day until its energy just explodes when Purim is here. Things in Har Nof were much quieter than other years. I’m not sure whether it’s the logical outcome of the young couples who bought (relatively inexpensive) apartments 31 years ago mysteriously hit 60 (or more), and have kids who are no longer in the Crazy Years, or whether it’s that Rav Ovadia’s loss has finally affected the number of drunk bachurim hitting the pavement on Rechov HaKablan. The beauty of the raw affection that the inebriated men showed each other was just as real as ever, and the ingenuity of the kid’s costumes was just as funny. My original costume was a disguise that cast me as a Greek Orthodox nun. My black robe, skirt turned veil and necklace in which a “gold” dollar sign replaced the usual ornament informed the world (or anyone who was interested) that I belong to a sect that worships money. Of course I only put my costume on when I reached the Neve building. My Bnos Avigail girls haven’t been around the Old City long enough to recognize the costume, and many of them seemed to think wearing a $ sign around my neck was normal. How frightening! The next night was Neve’s party. I figured I should try another costume. I wore my regular clothes, but put a large Na Nach white kippah with attached peyos over my scarf. At least they figured out a) that this is a costume, and b) that its fun.
On Purim a lot is revealed, either through reading the megillah, and identifying yourself in its narrative, or by other means. One of my sons told me an amazing story made even more amazing by his telling it when he was “under the influence” to some degree This particular son is a really serious learner, studied in Tifrach and lives in Bnei Brak. All of this made the story far more dramatic.
Once a week, he volunteers at a remarkable kollel. It was organized by Lev LeAchim for young men who have limited Judaic background and who want to go beyond inspiring shiurim to real learning that leaves you with solid information and skills. One of the young men became observant in his late teens (he is now 20). He told the head of the kollel that he doesn’t want fish. He wants to learn how to fish. What he wanted was the skills to learn Gemarrah with real depth. The Rosh Kollel made the shidduch between him, and my son. The young man (whose real name is Hertzel), was living something of a double life. His mornings were spent in the Kollel. His afternoons were spent at his Real World Job, in the secular Tel Aviv, where the current culture at work is to turn the workplace into your real home, and the people you work with into your pseudo family. To Hertzel that meant going out with them for entertainment in the evenings, eating out in restaurants that were only relatively kosher etc. The two halves of his life rarely intersected. The one consistent One who he took with him to both places was Hashem. Somewhere along the line, Hertzel had the opportunity to hear some Breslov chassidus, and through that he learned to find Hashem wherever he was. And as they say in the stories,
Came the day...
He was cycling to work, and crossed through a traffic circle instead of driving around it. A policeman’s megaphone soon sounded “You in the bike. Move to the side of the road”. He tried explaining to the officer that he is only riding a bike, not a car, but this didn’t move the policeman, who began writing a ticket. Hertzel turned aside momentarily, and said to Hashem, “Abba! Cancel the ticket for me!” When he turned back, he discovered that his prayer didn’t seem to affect anything. He changed gears. “I realized that it’s Hashem’s will that I get the ticket. I looked at the policeman, and I envisioned the letters of Hashem’s Name on his forehead. I knew that Hashem is giving me the ticket, and that the officer is just doing the job he is paid for, keeping the roads safe. I turned to him and told him that I understand, and that he is right to do his job. We shook hands, and continued our separate ways.”
“One thing still bothered me”. Hertzel told my son “Later in the day, when I took time to speak to Hashem in my own words, I asked Him what getting the ticket is supposed to say to me. If I had hurt my hand, I would know that I should value my hand, and use it well. What about a ticket? It came to me in a flash. When I was in the middle of the traffic island, I could see both lanes. Some of the cars were headed one direction, and the other cars were headed in the opposite direction. And there I was, smack in the middle. That’s my life! I suddenly got it. I can’t stay in the middle forever; it’s time to decide who I am and where I belong”. He gave notice at work the next day, and is now learning a full day.
Purim, the day of revelation is over. You are now headed towards Pesach, the time of revealed love and ultimately the time of redemption.
Have a great ride!