emunah, tefillah, a little mussar, and a shmeck of geula

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The One-Liner

Reb Gutman Locks is a very busy man. 

He can be readily found at the Kosel Hamaravi doing his tefillin thing.  And if you look like you’re Jewish and off the reservation as far as the aforementioned tefillin are concerned, Reb Gutman Locks will more likely than not readily find you.

Tefillin thing?

Reb Gutman spends a lion’s share of his waking hours enabling his co-religionists in spiritual need to fulfill the mitzvah of laying tefillin, if but what once in their lives.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  For the fortunate few it leads to a life time commitment.  

Just ask Reb Gutman Locks.

A few decades ago he made his first visit to the Kosel searching for who knows what, but what he found instead was a Chabadnik who asked him if he would like to put on tefillin.

But rather than simply walk off into the sunset with the mitzvah of tefillin already in the past tense as applied to him, he allowed it to become the turning point of his life and he’s been returning the favor ever since by bringing this mitzvah to literally tens of thousands of others.  

For the why of it all one need go no further than a comment that he recently posted on Mystical Paths, the blog to which he regularly contributes, where he wrote as follows:

“If I had to choose just one line of advice that best sums up what a person should do with his or her life, I would quote the Rebbe Maharash.  If you focus only on this line of advice your entire life, you will die with a smile on your face, and you will keep smiling in the World to Come, too.

“Try it for a few days and you will see what I mean.

“‘Everyone ought to know the route to the supernal chambers, though that is not essential.  All you need is the main thing; to help your fellow with a complete heart and with sensitivity, to take pleasure in doing another person a favor.’

And he was talking about a lot less than the great mitzvah of tefillin.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Alarm Clock

I tend to be a steady mispallel at the Minyan Vasikan in my neighborhood, which means that at 3:30 A.M. this time of the year I am groping for the alarm clock to shut it off.

But that’s only if it was ringing to begin with.

And when it isn’t, my day has been turned on its head before I have even had a chance to distinguish it from night.  That this is so is beyond dispute.  That this is the ruination of my purported plans is a different story, as was spelled out in EmunahSpeak: PLAN B.

With all of this in mind we can better understand the bad run I had a few weeks back when my alarm clock and I went our separate ways three days in one week.

The first piece of brilliance on my part was forgetting to turn on the ringer.  As one can readily understand, a ringer that does not go off at 3:30 A.M. as expected is not a poster boy for on time vasikan attendance.  I had relied on it and it had failed me.

I’m not one to repeat such mistakes and I didn’t.  What I did do was to mess up a second time in one week in a totally different way.  Apparently, my alarm clock wasn’t programmed with any wiggle room for minor indiscretions so when I set it for 3:30 P.M. instead the usual 3:30 A.M. the alarm went off about nine and half hours after the vasikan minyan was over.  Again I had relied on it and again it had failed me.

By my third try that week I had the clock thing under control. I was very careful to turn the ringer on and to make sure that it was set to 3:30 A.M. and, Boruch Hashem, the alarm went off at 3:30 A.M. exactly as I had planned it with only one caveat.

I didn’t hear it.

I’m quite sure that I’m not the first person in this world to make such mistakes nor will I be the last.  But I’m not just another guy from the shuk.  I’m the guy who laid out this very scenario almost three years ago in EmunahSpeak: So Who are You Relying on… where I pointed out that we foolishly rely on our cars to start when we turn the key in the ignition.  We rely on that same car to go when we press down on the gas pedal and to stop when we do likewise to the brake.  We rely on our fridge to keep our food fresh and the mailman to deliver the mail every day.  We rely on the government to deposit our Social Security checks directly into our bank accounts on the third of the month.  We rely on El Al to get us safely to Israel.  And we expect Hatzalah to show up within two minutes of our call, if not sooner.

All of this reveals that the lives that most of us live could be characterized, at their core, as lives of misplaced reliance on machines that break, people that are unreliable, on events over which we have no control and a Weatherman that is right less than fifty per-cent of the time.

I also referenced foolishly relying on crock pots to keep the cholent warm and in another place I did the same vis รก vis coffee pots.

And I wasn’t just talking the talk.  For the past three years I have been making a concerted effort to keep in mind that Hashem is taking care of all of the things that I mentioned in EmunahSpeak: So Who are You Relying on… 

Unfortunately, my alarm clock wasn't one of them.