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Stories of Shul Life: The Essence of Sukkot
By Alan D Busch
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Rated "G" by the Author.
It's never too late to learn that what really matters is not the shine but the substance ...
The Essence of Sukkot
Many years ago, I read a story line not unlike the one that follows: that of a poor Jew who learns the lesson of Sukkot through his travails and devotion. Therefore, while I do not claim the story line as mine, the body of the tale, its characters and content, I did author.
Alan D. Busch
The day of Erev Sukkot, 2007
Long ago-when our grandparents' grandparents lived in tiny villages-was there one called "Bissele." Therein lived a certain simple Jew, a "shlepper" by trade, a pious but unlearned man who did as best he could with what little he had.
For the better part of the preceding winter, spring and summer, he had worked doggedly, scrimped and saved enough money with which to purchase a fine lulav and esrog.
His efforts were blessed.
A day or two before the Eve of Sukkot, he, his one and only horse and cart set out for the provincial marketplace in which- among the myriads of general merchandise available-beautiful lulavim and esrogim could be had.
It was while traveling on a treacherously pitted and hazardous dirt road that the simple Jew's horse lost its footing by the edge of a precipice, fell and broke two of its four legs.
Reb Schmeryl, whom bad luck seemed to pursue, was simply beside himself. Overwrought
by the accident that had befallen his faithful, hard-working companion, Reb Schmeryl-having no other choice- acceded to the offer of a passing peasant fellow to put his horse out of its misery.
Once one horse dispatched, another's necessity arose. Reb Schmeryl needed another horse in any event and, as it happened, said peasant, one Stavich, was more than willing and able to supply.
And the price, what of that?
Well, when the painful transaction was concluded, Reb Schmeryl retained but one-quarter of what he had so industriously squirreled away.
Down but not out, he, his newly acquired four-legged companion and cart proceeded forthwith to the provincial seat but-now with so little money left, how would he be able to purchase a beautiful set of the "arba minim," the four species?
Only hours before the eve of the chag, as merchants were closing their shutters, in schlepped Reb Schmeryl looking as worn and shriveled as the esrog he'd soon purchase.
Alas, one such storekeeper, a dealer of religious ritual objects, took pity on Reb Schmeryl and let him in though he had already closed.
"Sholem aleichem, Reb ... Reb ...?" his voice trailing off inquiringly.
"Schmeryl. Aleichem shalom, Reb ... ?"
"Geltmacher," responded the merchant, his chest slightly but certainly immodestly
"Reb Geltmacher, I have but these few coins with which to buy the four species," he
said, hoping perhaps that Reb Geltmacher might be a tzaddik-first impressions
"Over here Reb Schmeryl,look here," he motioned to his weary customer.
Inside the "discarded" bin Reb Geltmacher had placed some of the sorriest excuses for lulavim and esrogim anyone had ever seen. Reb Schmeryl examined a set carefully with an eye as discriminating as that of a jeweler. The lulav was bent and splintered, its willow leaves-many having already fallen off. Never mind that Hoshana Rabba was a good week away! And the esrog wasn't much prettier either. A snapped off stem was all that remained of its pittum.
"This," thought Reb Schmeryl, "is a pri etz hadar?" overtaken momentarily by his own sarcasm.
Reb Geltmacher, impassive and becoming visibly anxious, began fidgeting lest he be
late for erev yontif.
"This will have to do," intoned Reb Schmeryl choosing the "best" of the
Too late to head home by horse and cart, Schmeryl looked tired, forlorn and quite
"Have you a place for yontif?" asked Reb Geltmacher.
"No ... regrettably not," responded a very beaten down Schmeryl.
"Well, the public inn is around the corner. With what you have left, you can afford
two nights," Geltmacher informed Schmeryl. "Oh, and the shul is just opposite the
Paying Reb Geltmacher and wishing him a "gut Yontif," off he trod to the inn.
Once signed in, Reb Schmeryl fell asleep, missing erev yontif.
Next morning, he arose and with arba minim in hand, hastened off to shul. Taking a seat as far to the back of the shul as he could, Reb Schmeryl, feeling ashamed, wondered what he would do come time for hakafos.
Then a hush! Every last soul arose when the Rav entered, carrying ... well-you can imagine-the finest arba minim Reb Geltmacher had had to offer. Something though was amiss. The Rav did not know what it was at first. Stepping back from his shtender, his prayerful focus interrupted, he began to search, winding his way through the aisles until finally ... there was but one seat left, the very last one.
"Reb ... Reb ...?
"Schmeryl, Schmeryl, Rebbe," rose Reb Schmeryl, managing to respond, albeit
"Reb Schmeryl, may I have the honor of using your arba minim with which to bentch
lulav and carry during hakafos, please?. Here you take mine."
Stunned but agreeable, Reb Schmeryl's lips turned up into a faint smile; the Rav's wisdom, for which he was particularly renowned, demonstrated itself once again incomparable, and Reb Geltmacher, well ... Reb Geltmacher was nonplussed, his chest deflated, his eyebrows knitted in consternation.
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|Reviewed by Micki Peluso
|Dear Mr. Busch,
I have had the great pleasure of coming to know you through the brilliant words of your son, Alan. I feel I know a bit about you and I love reading about Alan's life as your son--a son you must be very proud of, as am I. I wish I knew the hebrew words for this. I am learning some words through Alan, but it is not easy. I want you to know that I will keep you in my prayers, as I do Alan, with complete faith that God can heal you, but that His will will be done. I wish you love, freedom from pain and suffering and again I thank you for raising a son so devoted to his father and his family.
Micki Peluso, Staten Island, New York