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Parshas Shmos - What Was he and He Thinking?                20 Teves 5782

12/23/2021 06:34:12 PM

Dec23

The winter, which is the rainy season in San Diego, brings more than flooding and traffic collisions on the ground; it also brings added pressure to a two-hundred-pound test fishing line, otherwise known as the eruv. As some of the local readership knows, (and now everyone will know) the eruv was non-operational last Shabbos due to the fact the line was broken and unable to be repaired before Shabbos.  To my recollection, this was only the second time in the seventeen-year history of the eruv being up that it was not Kasher for Shabbos use. There have been several close calls when we felt the odds of it getting fixed before Shabbos were small and advised the community to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I could write a book on the different situations we faced and the hurdles that needed to be overcome to ensure the eruv being up for the community. As I mentioned, all but one time before last week did we fail to fix the eruv in time. We were able to fix last week’s issue at the beginning of this week, but as of the time of this writing, the eruv is down - in a different location.

For me, personally, I take this situation to heart and feel the urgency for the eruv to be operational.  I feel almost as if I am letting the community down by not finding a way to get the job done. Obviously, there are certain factors beyond my control. I know the eruv going down is not something that I have the power to control. With this said, I know most people believe that I am responsible to assure that the eruv remains up. In fact, when someone in the community called to let me know he would not be able to come to Shul, I began to apologize. This individual immediately responded, “it’s not your fault!”   

Many people asked, “What happened? Where and how did it come down? Why didn’t it get fixed”? And so here is the history and timeline of last week’s events: The eruv typically is checked every Thursday morning so that if there is an issue, it can be addressed early Friday morning. Additionally, any time we experience inclement weather, especially after a windy storm, the eruv is checked immediately, sometimes during the storm itself. This happened on Asara B’Teves, Tuesday of that week. On Thursday morning I sent a text message at 8:50 am (as I normally do) to our primary technician Mike, who owns a sign company. More vital is the boom truck he owns which is essential for us to do the needed repairs. Mike did not answer my text. A few hours later, at 11:58am, I called him, but he still did not answer his phone. I proceeded to leave Mike an urgent voicemail. During this same time, I was receiving calls and messages from another Shul in town whose eruv was down, seeking the technician since we share the same service.

At 2:01 Thursday afternoon I received a call from Mike, who told me it would be impossible for him to fix the eruv this week. He suggested that I try to reach our back-up person. I immediately called our backup company (an electrical outfit) to schedule a service for Friday morning. Once again, I was unable to get through; I left a detailed message which usually creates a “ticket” for Steve, the technician, to get in touch with me. An hour crept by and now, noticing it was 3:02 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon, I grew a bit more concerned, I called Steve-the-technician directly only to hear that his phone had been disconnected. At 3:42 pm I received an email communication from ABM electric informing me that Steve no longer worked for them, and all the technicians were booked. The email went on to state the company would try to find someone who could be assigned this job at 4:45 am Friday morning. I replied in the positive, hoping they would try to find someone, but realizing that the probability of finding a “new guy” for this kind of work was slim. At 3:46 pm I sent out an email to the community informing everyone about the news we’d received from the College Area Eruv Corporation. Therefore, as time became an issue, I began to resign myself to the fact that the eruv would not be available this Shabbos. For a reason I cannot explain, I checked my email at about 10:15 pm and saw that I had received an email at 10:02 pm confirming a new technician would meet me in front of my house at 4:45 am Friday morning. At 4:50 am I received a call from John, the new tech. I went outside to greet him, but I did not have a good feeling from that first interaction. I realized that it was only five in the morning, but these technicians always start their day early. We drove out to the site of the downed eruv, I in my car and he in his truck: El Cajon Boulevard in front of Vons. I begin to explain to John what needed to be done.

At this point I told myself, “O.K., we got it! The Eruv will get repaired. It was a no- brainer.” Unfortunately, things did not go as planned, not because the job was too difficult (Steve could have done it), but rather from the first hiccup we faced, as the line got stuck on a pole and we needed to start over, this guy John said to me, “This is not going to work.” He repeated this one liner grumble a few times. Additionally, his lack of “seichel” did not help the situation. After several tries, combined with his lack of enthusiasm - to say the least - I was defeated. I finally came to the realization that our eruv would not be repaired in time for this Shabbos.

The final straw that led me to believe that this person did not really want to help us out was when we parted ways. I would sometimes give Steve a few dollars as a tip, expressing gratitude for helping. I decided that even though we did not accomplish the mission - it did not fail, it was aborted - I decided to give something to the new fellow for trying. He answered me with an abrupt “No thanks. I get paid by the hour.” More than what he said was how he said it. It’s hard to explain, but I clearly wondered what was going through his mind during this entire interaction.

The experience left me with two feelings. The first was when I thought the eruv would be repaired, knowing we had the manpower and that my perseverance had succeeded. However, as we say every day when davening a verse from Mishlei 19:21 "רבות מחשבות בלב איש, ועצת ה' היא תקום"  “There are many thoughts in a man’s heart, but the plan of Hashem, that shall stand”. The Malbi’m explains that a human being believes himself to be full of possibilities, potential modes of thought and courses of action, to choose as he wills. Yet the single counsel or plan that actually goes into practical effect is often decided by Hashem, overriding a man’s apparent freedom. I completely missed this important lesson at the very outset. Secondly, it was a subtle reminder that we live in a guest country where we do not know the thoughts of every person we interact with. We hope we are respected by all, but if we are honest to ourselves, we know this is not the case.

As we begin Sefer Shmos, the Jewish people start to feel the Galus – the exile. By the end of the Parsha we begin the redemption promise. The concept of an Eruv is to bind together. I hope and pray that the physical bounds of the Eruv not only create a closeness to the Jewish community, but to the extended general community of San Diego and beyond.     

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Wed, January 19 2022 17 Shevat 5782