Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Kislev 5764 - December 24, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Windows of the World

by Y. Freund

Part II

In the first part of the story we met Rocco, the window washer of the restaurant Windows on the World, located atop one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, New York City. Charles Harrison is the manager of the restaurant and Jimmy is a waiter who serves Doniel Jacobs, one of the regulars, who sits at a corner table and just orders Coke in a paper cup. Mr. Jacobs owns a hi-tech firm called Electro-Telcom. Periodically he meets with a distinguished rabbi named Rabbi Meizlish, who reports to him about a kollel that Jacobs supports. Jimmy the waiter overhears the conversations, sees how much importance Jacobs attaches to the matters that Rabbi Meizlish comes to talk to him about, and concludes that it is some top secret research project.

It was the beginning of September, yet it was still stifling and sticky. Windows on the World continued to host thousands of tourists a day and its workers had gotten used to the crowds of amateur photographers who wanted to snap pictures of Manhattan from the clearest observation point in town.

Rocco continued to polish the windows, and in the end, all congratulated him on his new job as exterior window-washer. He had finally agreed to dangle on a scaffold on the 107th floor of Twin Towers, and to wash the Windows on the World from outside. All were excited. Harrison was pleased. That summer he had earned a pretty penny, and as a result planned to open an additional restaurant -- Asiatic style -- on the open area in back of the kitchen.

Although Jimmy understood Harrison's plans, he couldn't make head nor tail of the customer Jacobs' latest idea. "I know he told his brokers that he wants to manufacture some sort of a mat which is supposed to prevent the rain from penetrating something he refers to as a Succah. What's a Succah, though?" Jimmy mused. "But I guess he knows what he's doing. I heard him tell one of his pals that everyone in Boro Park will buy one of those mats."

Rav Meizlish arrived, like he did at the beginning of every month. When the two went over the lists, Rav Meizlish said that the holidays were nearing and that the expenses of the large families were greater than usual. "My men aren't accustomed to luxuries. They are very frugal and suffice with little. You have a great merit in supporting them," he told Jacobs.

Jacobs smiled and told Rav Meizlish that he knew that the men were very fine. Once again Jimmy noticed that Jacobs treated Rabbi Meizlish like a king, and regarded him as the keystone of his success.

Jimmy examined Rav Meizlish's face and dress once again, and concluded that he was special. Yes, even Jimmy, the non-Jew could, to some degree, sense kedushoh.

The cell phone rang and Jacobs picked it up. "Tell them to launch the idea immediately. Now's the perfect time to market it. It's the beginning of September, and nearly Succos."

Jacobs finished his conversation quickly and turned to Rav Meizlish: "Rav Shaul, we're coming out with an original idea for schach. It'll be like a mat of halved, hollow reeds. When it is placed on the Succah in a slanting position, the rain won't penetrate. If we sell enough of them, we'll able to accept many more students this year!"

"What did you say? Rainproof schach?" Rav Meizlish asked with a furrowed brow. "Won't that invalidate the Succah? After all, it's forbidden to seal it off. We'll have to study the topic in depth. If it's only a matter of how the schach is laid, and not a matter of the material from which it is made, it's probably okay. If it proves kosher lemehadrin, it'll be a big boon because last year the rain sent most of us back into our houses the very first night of Succos."

Jimmy had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. But it was clear to him that Rav Shaul Meizlish and his brain pool were the ones who would decide whether the idea was feasible.

"I get the point," Jimmy continued to muse. "If the idea succeeds, Jacobs can make a lot of money and expand his brain pool. The pool will develop and Jacobs will become wealthier. I'll have to ask Jacobs whether I can invest in that company too."

* * *

Rocco was scheduled to make his debut as the Twin Towers outside human window-washer the following day. That night the guys on his shift organized a small party for him.

A week before, Jimmy had seen Rocco practicing. Rocco had poked his head outside the window and had bent over, each time a bit more, without losing his balance and without becoming dizzy.

"Brave chap," Jimmy had muttered. "He's only a kid."

It was half an hour before sunset and New York was bathed in orange. Jimmy scanned his tables and saw that Jacobs was there too, giving orders to his brokers via the cell phone. Even though Jacobs had a well-equipped office on the 103rd floor of Twin Towers, he preferred to wind up his day in his corner table in Windows to the World before rushing out to who knows where. (By now, you've probably figured where Jacobs went every day before sunset!)

Then Jimmy heard him say, "Yes, Rav Shaul. We'll discuss it tomorrow. Come before nine. I have a rough day ahead."

Jacobs finished his conversation and Jimmy served him a Coke in a paper cup, wondering if that was the right time to discuss business with him. Suddenly Jacobs' cell phone rang. Rav Meizlish was on the line.

"Ah, you'd rather come tonight because you deliver a shiur in the morning right after Selichos? Okay. I'm going to mincha now. I'll meet you here in half an hour. Take a cab at my expense."

If anyone else had made such a request from him, he would have refused them. But Jacobs was one of those rare Torah supporters who fully believed that he had made the best business deal in the world -- that of Yissochor and Zevulun.

Rav Meizlish headed a special kollel for truly outstanding avreichim who were capable of detaching themselves from the materialism of the Land of Unlimited Opportunity, and devoting themselves solely to Torah study. Reb Daniel Jacobs, the businessman supported them.

Jacobs had strict standards, and he wanted proof that the avreichim were abiding by them. He and Rav Meizlish had made a written contract and Jacobs was a full partner to all of the kollel's achievements. However, Jacobs was always willing to comply with Rav Meizlish's requests.

Although Jacobs gave his avreichim very high stipends, he knew that the dividends he reaped in return were well worth his efforts.

Precisely because the stipends were so high and the agreements so exacting, the members of the kollel didn't want to break faith with Jacobs even in the slightest. Every lateness or absence would give rise to many halachic questions. Jacobs for his part had never in his life encountered people who honored agreements in so remarkable and precise a manner.

Jacobs waited half an hour until Rabbi Meizlish arrived. While he was seated at his table, he heard the kitchen staff clapping hands and chanting, "Bravo, Rocco. Bravo, Rocco."

Rav Meizlish arrived a few minutes before the restaurant's closing and rushed over to Jacobs' table. Jacobs approved the applications of six more avreichim, while Rav Shaul showed him a thick book which one of the kollel members had published. A large section of the book was devoted to confirming that the rainproof schach was kosher lemehadrin. When properly laid, the schach enabled the rainwater to flow outside the Succah, and not to penetrate it. The sefer would be in bookstores the following day and Rav Meizlish wanted Jacobs to see it. He opened it to the title page, which contained a dedication to Reb Doniel Jacobs who had played a vital role in its publication.

"Another year has passed, Rabbi Doniel," Jimmy heard Rav Meizlish say with great warmth, "and I wanted to make you happy. Thanks to you, we have been able to expand our student body. The best young men on the Eastern seaboard come to us. Indeed, you have a great merit, Reb Doniel and we need many merits before Rosh Hashana. May you be blessed."

Then he gave Jacobs a list of the avreichim, who had, concurrently studied hundreds of pages of gemora and prepared hundreds of halachic responses and chiddushim. Then he added: "Doniel, you are a full partner to their merits. I'm jealous of you, Reb Doniel. Not everyone merits!

"But let me tell you an insight I recently heard. It's tailor- made for you. It was made by the Rosh Hayeshiva, the Avi Ezri, Maran HaRav Elozor Menachem Man Shach zt"l:

"When Yehoshua asked the ministering angel of Hashem's army: `Are you one of ours, or an enemy?' the angel countered: `Last night you neglected to offer the korbon tomid of mincha.'

"`But why have you come now?' Yehoshua asked.

"`To take you to task for bitul Torah during wartime.'

"That night Yehoshua `slept in the valley, the emek (umko shel halochoh, the depths of the halocho).'

"The angel's claim that they had been mevatel Torah during wartime teaches that our only weapon is Torah and that Torah is the sole basis of our existence.

"Jews lived for centuries without daled amos under their feet. They had no political status, only golus, golus and golus. No other nation can exist without ground under its feet [i.e. its own country]. Yet the Jewish Nation has been in existence for thousands of years without its own territory. Our way is that of the Torah, the way of Torah study. Torah study is our weapon, our joy, our success, our vitality, our source of existence.

"No fire can consume us. They burned our sifrei Torah. The scrolls were consumed, but the letters continued to fly aloft. They are the secret of the survival of the Jewish Nation. When a Jews enters a beis medrash, he is happy, and he does no one except himself a favor, making himself the happiest of men. When he studies Torah, he scorns all the adversities of this world. The only way he can assist himself is by studying Torah."


Jimmy didn't understand a word of course. However he was very impressed by the warmth with which these two "tycoons" shook hands.

Jacobs studied the detailed list Rav Meizlish had given him, and placed it into his pocket, right near his heart. He was calmer than usual and Jimmy sensed that the business was going very well.

Jimmy approached Jacobs' table, hoping to speak to him that very evening. He had to make some money. He had to lay stakes in that company. He would try to talk to him now, before New York closed.

* * *

Swishing was heard from the kitchen. Even though the restaurant was equipped with large dishwashers which worked nonstop, the huge pots were washed in the sinks. Harrison was tired and he distributed the tips in an automatic manner. However when Rocco's turn arrived, he gave him a generous tip, and tapped him on his shoulder fondly. "Baby- Face," he then said excitedly, "good luck."

They seemed about to part forever.

* * *

Jimmy surveyed the restaurant. The chairs had been placed on the tables, the floor had been washed. Then a morbid thought crossed his mind: If anything goes wrong with Rocco tomorrow, there will be a lot of glass to sweep up.

Afterwards, he thought about Jacobs, in whose pocket was a list worth millions. "Tomorrow's another day," he consoled himself. "If I couldn't catch him today, I'll discuss my investment with him tomorrow."


Tomorrow dawned. As usual, Jacobs took the elevator to his office on the 103rd floor of Twin Towers, looked at the emails he had received during the night and then went up to Windows on the World for a Coke. He wanted to read the lengthy discussion on the schach at his corner table. He hoped that the idea would succeed and that the money he earned would enable him to accept many more avreichim into his kollel. Still thinking about his private stock market -- the Yissochor and Zevulun one -- he leafed through the book.

8:37. Jacobs' eyes met those of Rocco, who was supposed to clean the facades of the restaurant's windows that day. Rocco seemed excited and jittery.

8:41. Very soon, Jimmy would offer him a Coke. Soon the five new avreichim he had accepted, would also begin their studies and the avreich whose son was in the hospital would not only receive his regular stipend, but also a holiday bonus, plus a check to cover many of the medical expenses.

Electro-Telcom's competitors were breathing down his neck. But he wasn't worried. These merits were his advocates. They guaranteed his success.

8:43. His wife called. "You forgot your sandwiches." Rivka, his devoted wife had been preparing fresh sandwiches for him for the past thirty-four years. Did he always remember to thank her?

"Don't worry Rivka," he calmed her. "I'll buy something in the kosher deli around the corner. We'll talk later."

Then, in the background, he heard the kids going off to school. "Is everything okay?" he asked. "I didn't get a chance to talk to Yankie yesterday. He's starting yeshiva today. Wish him hatzlochoh from me. Tell him that I heard a wonderful insight made by Maran the Rosh Hayeshiva, and will explain it to him on Shabbos."

Jacobs placed the cell phone in his pocket. Rocco opened the window. A pleasant breeze greeted him.

8:45. A Boeing 767 headed towards the World Trade Center crashed into the Twin Tower's upper floors. Red flames flared from the windows. Cement fragments and millions of shards of glass flew all over the place.

I'll make it. I have to move my feet. My blood must continue to circulate. It hurts. I'm tired. Running Electro- Telcom is exhausting. It saps me of my energy. My eyes. They're tearing. A burning knife has fallen from the sky. It's a plane. A plane has crashed into the building. I feel nauseous. I have to sit down. I'm dizzy. Why is Rocco on fire? Why is he shouting in pain? He has to clean the windows now. Yesterday they made him a party. Why is he screaming? My back. It aches. Something very hot is muffling me. I can't breathe. Black smoke is clogging my lungs. Thousands of bodies are dancing before my eyes. Bodies are falling out of windows. Rocco is jumping. He's mad. If he jumps, he'll be smashed to bits. The blood is filling my throat. I can't get up. I won't live. I'm on the way to a world which is Truly Good. Very soon I'll have to present an accounting for all of my deeds.

Yes, it was a good deal. My private stock exchange -- the Yissochor and Zevulun one -- was the best one in the world. I made a written agreement: 50-50. The receipts are in my pocket.

People are jumping out of windows. Something terrible has happened. Why don't they open the windows - Manhattan's windows to the world? Rivky, I'm not exaggerating. I'm choking. There's no more air, no more oxygen. R . .i . . v . . k . . y, I'm rich! I have receipts.

No, no! Don't cut off his stipend. May his son be well soon, and give him a good bonus for the holidays. Help him cover his medical expenses too.

Yes, keep the air conditioners on during recess. They sleep on benches instead of going home for an afternoon break? Rent a few more rooms for them, with cots. Order hot lunches for them too, starting today.

The schach is kosher! We'll earn enough to support many more avreichim this year.

I hope you're not worried Rivky. I'm not worried. Make sure that Yankie learns well. I wish I could tell him that peirush. I can't breathe. I have to open the windows to the world. New York is closing. Ribono shel Olom, I'm coming.


Torah study is his weapon. It's his happiness, his success, his vitality. No fire can consume him. The scrolls were burned, but the letters continued to fly aloft. When a Jew enters a beis medrash he is happy, and he does no one except himself a favor, making himself the happiest man in the world. Chanukah brings us the light of Torah.


Jews have always believed and trusted that Hakodosh Boruch Hu would redeem them. They have always known that if they davened better and learned better, they would fare better. If, choliloh, the opposite occurs, that is because Shomayim has its considerations. A Jew must always believe that and must always be happy. As Dovid Hamelech said: "Gam ki eileich begei tzalmovess lo ira ro, ki Atoh imodi." Even when a Jew is led to the scaffold, he knows that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is walking beside him. Are they killing him? They are killing a Jew and a Jew never dies. His soul remains forever.

"My dears ones, the Torah grants us only good. The best in the world. When a person has Torah, he lacks nothing. Believe me, that as a bochur I went with torn clothing, yet lacked nothing.

"During these days, it is a Torah obligation to strengthen ourselves. We must examine and scrutinize our deeds, but not become confused and alarmed. Whatever occurs is from Hashem. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is good, and all of us say, `Ovinu, Ov horachamon, Hameracheim, racheim oleinu.'

"Hakodosh Boruch Hu will help, so that all will be saved and all will be healthy. But we must do what is incumbent on us. How? We must strengthen ourselves in Torah, tefilloh and middos tovos. Come, let us strengthen ourselves, and on that merit, all of us will be saved."

(Excerpts from a drosho delivered by Maran HaRav Elozor Menachem Man Shach, zt"l, given in Yeshivas Ponovezh, prior to the Gulf War, 5751.)


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