Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Who Arranges the Seats?

Today is Yaakov's secular birthday. Yaakov was born 21 tears ago (author note - I obviously meant to write "years ago" and I hit the next key to the left, but I decided not to fix it and call it a "Freudian slip") in a hospital called Saint Francis. Maayanei Hayeshua wasn't built yet.

St. Francis is very different than Maayanei Hayeshua. For one thing, we couldn't depend on the hashgacha. Aside from that, they have much less births per month and most of the babies are not Jewish. Yaakov was the only baby born that day who wasn't named Patrick.

Night before last I attended a very interesting wedding. On the Kallah's side was Rav Gavriel Sherman. He is a brother to Rav Avraham Sherman who has been widely acclaimed (and disclaimed) for his recent bold rulings concerning geirus. He was in attendance. On the chosson's side was Rav Yitzchak Bar Chaim. He is one of the founders and administrators of Nahal Haredi.

What a match!

You can only imagine who else may have been hanging around that hall!

My invitation to the wedding came from Rav Bar Chaim. For one thing, we both regularly attend a shiur given by the Admor of Tolna on Thursday nights. But it wasn't the shiur that brought us to know each other. It was Patrick --er, um-- I mean Yaakov.

Yaakov is signing up for Nachal Charedi!

And as I danced at the wedding, I was thinking about how, even though my primary guidance for my boys is toward long term careers in the Beis Midrash, I am so very proud of my oldest boy, Yaakov (who incidentally finished Shisha Sidrei Mishna 3 times as well as number of masechtos), and the path he has taken thus far.

And the next thing that I was thinking about is an exchange that I had with Rabbi (Emes V'Emunah) Harry Maryles last August about our hashkafic differences that went as follows (he is in dark red, I am in navy blue):

>>What makes you think I don't support learning in Kolel?

I am sure you support learning in Kollel, but it is learning in Kollel by your standards and stipulations. What we call here: b’eravon mugbal.

>>Because I don't think it is ethical to abuse a gov't program?! ...even if it is technically legal?

No. It is because you think that the remedy for it needs to be undertaken by the Kollelniks in the form of advanced secular education that compromises the learning as opposed to campaigning for more Torah support (that people like you and me would have to undertake) to ensure that a young Kollel guy can subsist on a Kollel wage and not need government assistance. It’s what I wrote in my post but you haven’t addressed anything besides that it’s beneath contempt.

>>My son nort onlhy learns all day buirt riuns a night kollel with my full support!

I am sure you are very proud of him. I am also sure that this is not what you directed him to do when he was growing up.

Our kids don't always do what we tell them to. But, oft-times, that's the way it should be.

There was something very ironic here which brought to mind a story that I heard on a taped lecture from Rabbi Berel Wein. Rabbi Wein begins his talk with this anecdote (this is all from memory; I apologize for inaccuracies):

An airplane story.

I needed to travel and arrived at the airport with ample time to check in for my flight. Unfortunately, there was a strike going on and the desk was staffed with fill-ins who were working much slower than usual. I had no choice but to wait my turn in line and the wait seemed interminable. After a long while I finally reached the check-in counter with only minutes to go to flight time. I presented my ticket and expected to be issued a seat and a boarding pass.

To my surprise I was told that I no longer had a confirmed reservation for the flight.

"Why not?"

"Well, you see sir. If you do not check in by 15 minutes prior to flight time, the computers automatically cancel your reservation."

"Well, that's not my fault. I was here with plenty of time. I cannot be faulted that your staff took so long to receive me. In any case, why don't you just reissue the reservation and give me a seat?"

"There are no coach seats left. That is your ticket class."

"Well, I have a ticket with a confirmed reservation and I was here in plenty of time. Please find me a seat on the plane."

"I am very sorry sir but the plane is full. All coach seats have been issued. There were some people in the line who were moved from other flights and they were given the seats of those who didn't check in within 15 minutes. I am sorry but I have no seats for you."

"I refuse to be penalized due to your difficulties and especially if I was held back in line because of others who were not booked on this flight. Do you mean to say that there are absolutely no seats at all on this flight?"

"Well there is one seat left in first class."

"I'm willing to sacrifice."

So seeing that she had no grounds to refuse, she reluctantly issued me a boarding pass for a first class seat.

As I boarded the plane, I understood why this was the last empty seat. The flight attendant informed me that the gentleman in the adjacent seat is one of the vice presidents of the airline. In fact he was sitting with his papers and personal effects taking up the empty seat. When he saw that a passenger was going to be placed in what he thought would be a free seat, he grudgingly collected his items and resigned himself to this inconvenience.

All through the flight we barely spoke. We only had a short conversation of pleasantries where I told him that I am a Rabbi on my way to some official business. And, no, I don't usually fly first class but my reservation was cancelled by the computer and this was the only seat available for me. As a way of concluding our brief conversation he remarked to me:

"Rabbi, you and I don't seem to have much in common."

To which I responded, "Well, I think there is one thing we both very much have in common."

"And what may that be?"

"Neither you nor I paid for this first class seat!"

So his son runs a night Kollel and the father is proud and supportive even though it does not truly meet his personal principles (it goes against them, actually). And my son is joining the army and I am proud and supportive even though it does not truly meet my personal principles (but it is definitely not against them).

So, like Rabbi Wein teaches us - you never know who is going to sit where. And you never know whose weddings you will dance at. There is Somebody Else who arranges the seating. And we can both be proud even if neither one of us actually "paid" for their seat.


Baruch said...

Reb Yechezkel,
You should have much nachas from him and your entire family.

Kol tuv,


Dov said...

May Yaakov and all your children be zocheh to not only lilmod lelamed and lishmor, but also laasos and lekayem.

DPB said...

who is the biggest anav?

Yechezkel said...

>>who is the biggest anav?

I am not at liberty to tell you. He wouldn't want anybody to know.