Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Sivan 5766 - June 21, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

An Upside-Down Day
by Sudy Rosengarten

It was one of those days when everything goes wrong. Although I'd gotten up real early to be the first one at my doctor, because otherwise you can find yourself waiting for hours in a jam-packed waiting-room, when I arrived, his secretary let me know that the doctor was starting two hours later that day.

Of course, after all the huffing and puffing to get there in time, I was terribly disappointed, even annoyed, but then I figured that instead of going back home and coming again or sitting around for the two hours, it was a good opportunity for me to attend to some long overdue errands. With my feet always hurting me, it was the perfect time to finally order the orthopedic inner soles that the doctor had recommended.

But, as I said, it was one of those days...

Though I waited patiently my turn in the Orthopedic Supply Store, the clerk sadly informed me that she was sorry that she couldn't help me; the order forms that my doctor had signed had already passed the expiration date and I'd have to go back to him for other papers.

As the orthopedist only accepted patients in the afternoon, I went to pay a gas bill. The clerk there informed me that there was a penalty for people who didn't pay their bills in time.

I was beginning to suspect that things were not so ay-ay- ay [O.K.] in my management organizational department and that I'd better hurry up with what was left of my two hours to attend to more of my many neglected errands.

But what could I do, when, despite all my good intentions, my feet were beginning to complain that they couldn't keep up with my sudden ambition to attend to neglected chores as they (my feet,) were already old and tired (and still hadn't gotten the insoles that the orthopedist had recommended). By then, I suddenly realized that I was also hungry because in my great desire to be the first one at my doctor, I hadn't eaten anything before leaving the house. And I was also very hot... and miserable.

And then started the voices:

"So why couldn't you first call the doctor to find out if he intended to start on time? You already know that he has an erratic schedule, despite all his good intentions." And why can't you pay your bills on time? And why, for that matter, can't you do anything on time? Why do the children and grandchildren always have to receive their Birthday Card when they already forgot that they ever had a birthday??? Even sweet Chaya Rivky...

Why is her card still sitting on your desk waiting for a stamp when she would have so appreciated it coming two weeks ago on her birthday when she was so sad that she was nineteen and still not engaged?

So, there I was on that upside-down day, standing on the corner of Yerusholayim-Akiva streets, eating myself up for not being what I thought I should be, instead of eating the pizza that I had finally bought to appease my hunger, and so upset with myself for being ready to break my (lifelong) diet with all that grease and white flour...

Those were just a few of the unsettling thoughts churning around in my head, when I suddenly felt an arm encircle my shoulder and a sweet, loving voice exclaim in surprise: "Bobbee, how wonderful to meet you! And here of all places!"

I turned to see the merry blue eyes and great big smile of a petite blond, nineteen-year-old who still looked like thirteen, loaded down with schoolbooks, and looking so pleased to have bumped into her grandmother on her walk home from Seminary.

"Mental telepathy," I told her. "Just when I was thinking of you..." We stood there on the corner of Yerushalayim-Akiva excitedly talking like two friends who hadn't seen each other for a long time. I was telling her all about my upside- down day and she was telling me about her Shabbos in Beitar, where her married sister lived.

"Bobby," she suddenly exclaimed, "you'd never believe what happened. You know that it's a minhag in our family that Tattee benches all the children when he comes home from shul on Friday night. But, if a child ever goes away for Shabbos, he makes sure to bench him on Friday. So there I was, all ready to leave the house on Friday afternoon, and beginning to get nervous because Tattee wasn't home. I kept looking at the clock but he just didn't show up... I knew that if I didn't leave right away, I'd miss the last bus but I didn't want to miss Tatte's blessing, or disappoint him.

"I waited another few minutes and then reluctantly left the house and ran for the last bus. So there I was at the end of the line, waiting to get on the bus which was fast filling up. The last bus before Shabbos — and it was already packed full with men in shtreimlach and bekeshes and ladies in the Shabbos clothing and crying babies and adorable children of all ages running around. And everyone shlepping boxes and bundles and holding on to baby bottles and pacifiers and I'm the last one on and the driver closes the door and the bus begins to move.

"All the time I keep looking out the window, hoping, praying that Tattee would still show up. And sure enough, all of a sudden, I see him running in our direction, waving frantically and yelling for the driver to stop...

"I push my way back to the front steps and as soon as the driver opens the door, I bend over so that Tattee can put his hands on my head and bless me. When he finished, I kissed his hand as we all do after he benches us. He wished me a Gutten Shabbos, thanked the driver and went back home.

"After the driver closed the door and started the bus up again, I realized that everyone in the bus had been watching us the whole time and I must have blushed purple from embarrassment."

"But why be embarrassed, Chaya Rivky? What could be more beautiful than a father running to stop a bus so that he could bless his child before Shabbos?"

As we stood there talking and laughing, I noticed a little boy, about five or six, a typical cheder yingele, patiently waiting to cross the intersection. Each time he put a foot onto the crosswalk, he pulled it back again to the safety of the sidewalk. I could easily understand why. With the steady congestion of traffic and honking of horns, I also would have been frightened to cross the dangerous intersection. Though other people, both adults and older children did cross over, seemingly without fear, that little boy was terrified to do the same. Yet, he never approached anyone to "cross him" and nobody seemed to notice that he needed help.

"Just look at that little boy," I told my grandaughter. "He's been standing there so long and is too timid to ask someone to take him across. I hardly blame him for being afraid to cross alone; it's really scary. Come, let's go over and take him across."

Chaya Rivky took the child's hand in hers. He looked up, startled, then gratitude flooded his face. As we waited to cross, I told him in Yiddish. "Dee darfs fraigen a mench dich aribernemen dee gass ven dee huzt moireh alain tzu gain."

Although he smiled to me, I had the faintest suspicion that the child hadn't understood what I said. "Tageed li," I continued in Hebrew, "ata mayvin Yiddish?"

"Lo" he said, smiling back michievously and the sound of the three of us laughing was music to my soul.

With a sudden love of the child, I repeated in Hebrew: "When someone needs help he has to ask for it." This time I saw that he had understood.

When the traffic light changed, Chaya Rivky, still holding tightly to the little boy's hand, pecked me on the cheek, and said that she'd continue home after the two of them crossed.

I stood looking after the two of them till I could see them no longer in the bustling crowd, then glanced at my wristwatch, turned around and headed for my doctor. But I kept thinking about the little boy who had been too timid to ask for someone to take him across the dangerous intersection and to whom I had said: "When you need help, you must ask for it."

I had said the words but wasn't sure that in the adult world we did so ourselves, whether from shame or pride or the suspicion that the help we asked for would not be forthcoming. Despite the unsettling thought, as I hurried through the streets, I suddenly realized that there was a spring in my walk, a smile on my face. and I was feeling overwhelmed with joy.

And why not, I asked myself, when there was so many wonderful things going on in the world; a loving relationship between a grandmother and grandchild, a father running after a bus to bless his daughter, a frightened child being 'crossed' a busy intersection by someone who noticed that he was too timid to ask.

And despite the awareness of my many shortcomings, I was truly grateful to be alive, even on that upside-down day . . .


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