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Moving Forward

By Rabbi Sender Haber

A number of years ago, my car hit high water. I called for help and AAA sent me a mechanic with North Carolinean plates. He had only two or three teeth, which he used endearingly to chew and spit real tobacco as he spoke.

The Mechanic explained to me that he had gotten out of bed at 4:00 AM so that he could drive up to Virginia and save stranded motorists. He looked over my car and got ready to give it a boost. He gave me his legal disclaimer:

“This might fix y’all’s car, but it could also fry y’all’s ‘lectricals”.

It seems that since the car was so saturated in moisture, there was a risk that the boost might cause the electrical system to short. If my ‘lectricals were fried, the car would never be the same. The windows wouldn’t open, the locks wouldn’t work, and the radio would fritz. My other option was to allow the car to dry out for three days, so I decided to take the chance and told him to go ahead with the boost.

The mechanic hooked up the wires, turned on the juice, disconnected the wires, and ran back to his truck. He fastened his seatbelt, rolled down his window, and, as he prepared to drive off, instructed me to wait a few minutes before trying to start the engine.

“Aren’t you going to wait to see what happens?” I asked.

“Naw”. (spit)

I pointed out to my new friend that he had been up since 4:00 am helping people. He had driven all the way up from North Carolina. He had worked in the pouring rain for hours. Yet, he would never know whether he had really saved someone’s day or just “fried their ‘ectricals”.

“That’s ‘boot right”, he said.

I’m not sure how that mechanic lives with himself. As human beings we need to know that our actions have an effect on people and that we are changing this world for the better.

Even the greatest and most selfless people yearn to see the impact of their actions. Rabbi Sternberg of Park Avenue in Monsey told me that he once consulted Rav Shach about an issue that he was dealing with. A few days later, Rabbi Strernberg came back to Rav Shach to let him know that he had taken his advice and that everything had worked out. Rav Shach, who had been in his seat in the Ponevizh Yeshiva, took Rabbi Sternberg by the shoulder, led him out of the Beis Medrash and kissed him.

“Hundreds of people come to me with their problems”, he explained, “they ask for my blessings and for my advice, but they never come back. I worry about those people, I carry the burden of those people and I pray for those people. I wish that they would let me know when everything works out and they are able to go on with their lives. Thank you for coming back.”

Last week my Chavrusa and friend Jimmy Ellenson and I celebrated a Siyum on Maseches Eduyos. We have finished several Masechtos together but this was to be our last siyum for a while. Jimmy is making Aliyah (and I am not).

We both spoke at the Siyum and acknowledged that we had influenced each other in profound ways. We didn’t just cover material; we developed an approach to the material. We evolved in our thinking and learned to agree and disagree about many issues. Jimmy got me through some tough times with his advice and assistance. He provided me with academic material and concepts that I would not have considered otherwise. I, in turn, encouraged Jimmy to learn like a Yeshiva Bochur would and allow the melody and the flow of the Gemara to surround him and take over his mind and soul.

In a constantly changing world, where you never know whether you enhanced somebody’s life or just ‘fried their ‘lectricals’, it is heartening to know that we have made a difference in each other’s lives.

I will miss Jimmy and look forward to the day when we can continue to learn together in our holy land, with or before the coming of Moshiach.

In honor of the siyum, I put some of our notes into book form. It is our humble contribution to a very small body of literature on Eduyos. The Electronic version is available at http://www.torahlab.org/images/uploads/Eduyos_booklet.pdf.

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