Author’s Note: Revised from an earlier piece http:www.aish.com/sp/so/48924982.html
You’re Not From ‘Round Here, Are Ya?
“This book contains G-d’s name,” he informed me with a punitive glare.
An all Hebrew prayer book. Left on my seat. A lot of good that’ll do me. Seeing no other place to put it, I placed it on the floor beneath my chair.
He extracted it.
Nine words I shall never forget: “We (1) do (2) not (3) place (4) holy (5) books (6) on (7) the (8) floor (9).”
Honestly, I wanted to slug the guy. Both of us attending the bar mitzvah of my neighbor’s first born. Humiliated in silence. Not even a “Oh, well, gee, I’m sorry, I didn’t know” stammer of regret.
My Ignorance …
I had hoped to hide. But here I was, outed. My funeral home yarmulke couldn’t have done a better job. But, hey, I took it all in stride, right? Over and done with.
I glanced at the clock.
It was my first experience in an orthodox shul some thirty years ago.
Stuff Happens For A Reason
That first entanglement with orthodox rules might have deterred another, but deep down I had found my place. My problem was how I was going to convince my wife.Truth be told. I was an am ha aretz.*
Rabbi Twerski …
does not walk through the alley without good reason. Yet, there he was. Headed for my back gate. He’s coming over here. He’s really coming over.
“Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi.”
“Good Shabbos. Mr. Busch, I have a problem.” Rabbi Twerski has a problem and he’s coming to me?
“H … ho … how can I help you, Rabbi?” I offered. Stunned does even scratch the surface.
Nu, So What’s The Problem?
Saturday. Shopping, home from work, household chores, repairs, kick back, have a drink. In the Jewish world, the festive holiday of Sukkos falling out on Shabbos. Kind of like a twofer.
An evergreen branch had fallen from Rabbi Twerski’s Sukkah.
Shabbos forbade any Jew touching it. Even me.
“No! It’s muktzah,“* Rabbi Twerski exclaimed after I had volunteered to pick it up.
“You are a Jew and it’s Shabbos. You may not touch it either.”
Pretty neat, huh? That despite my abysmal ignorance, I too was a Jew.
Remember what I said about Saturdays?
Personally, I dislike the expression. You know, shabbos goy. Perhaps its oft-uttered intolerant tone by the less thoughtful is what I find objectionable. I wonder if it’ll fly before the Ribono Shel Olam when comes our turn, each of us, to give his final reckoning.
He was resurfacing my bathtub. A non-Jew, a likable fellow, he agreed.
The scent of esrog permeated this small but festive enclosure. Therein sat Rabbi Twerski, a large book opened before him.
“Boruch Hashem. Welcome!”
“Tom, there it is.”
“Okay, all done,” Tom announced, stepping down from the folding chair.
A gracious host, Rabbi Twersky invited us to eat. Perhaps, next time.
Step by Step
Though the seeds of observance would remain dormant for some time yet, they would one day bud and blossom. The most difficult part lay ahead. Would my family survive the many stumbling blocks strewn along the path?
How long yet before I’d smell the honey scented-flowers in the garden?
*am ha aretz: colloquial usage, an uneducated person
*muktzah: not to be touched on Shabbos