Recently, the Goldbergs called me to settle a din Torah in their house
I was always camera shy. Until I had no physical shul, that is. If necessity is the mother of invention, it was undoubtedly necessary to reinvent myself. The next thing I knew, I was in front of the camera, speaking to the world, putting out two chizuk videos per day.
Yet I still struggle with how to be involved in the lives of my balabatim when I don’t see them.
I am referring to the quick hello in the hall when you pass a quiet mispallel.
Or the few words of encouragement at the kiddush to a woman going through a divorce.
I sorely miss the quick smile when you pass them in shul and those kind, appreciated words, which I cherish, from a listener after my derashah.
These aspects of the rabbinate are simply impossible to replicate without being present in shul.
The lack of social involvement with my congregants has created a void in my life, and although I know I am not alone among rabbanim with this issue, the pain remains.
I never fully appreciated how much I need and love my balabatim and the entire rhythm of shul.
The times when I formerly craved to be alone, are now filled with longing to connect face-to-face with the people who are so precious to me.
Yet, there have been some unexpected silver linings that have come about, as well.
Take the Goldberg family (name changed). I have known the Goldbergs and their four boys for years. The two youngest boys, Raphi and Shmuli, both in mesivta, have always been rivals. The term sibling rivalry was created just for them. Over the years, they always vied with each other as to who would be the first to sign up to make a siyum on Erev Pesach. As both of them were baalei kriah, often I would notice their father having to choose who would lein that day for Shabbos Minchah.
Recently, the Goldbergs called me to settle a din Torah in their house.
The four boys also have three sisters, and as many homes have discovered, with everyone learning on the phone or the computer, there are simply not enough phones or screens to go around.
Raphi and Shmuli asked if they could have a Zoom din Torah with me. I had never done a din Torah over the computer; however, as mentioned, those who can adapt to whatever circumstances exist will succeed.
We chose a night after ten, and there we were, the three of us on Zoom.
The issue was night seder.
With their sisters needing three phones for their studies and the father needing the computer to do his daf, there was only one phone line left, and both of them wanted it to learn with their chavrusas.
Raphi carefully laid out his position on why he needed the phone; he had committed to finishing Maseches Shavuos by Shavuos.
Shmuli claimed he needed it to chazer Nedarim, which he was learning in seder alef.
After listening to both their taa’nos, I came up with the following psak: They should learn together: Maseches Shavuos until Shavuos and then Nedarim after Yom Tov.
This Zoom din Torah took place on Rosh Chodesh Iyar. On Lag B’omer, I received a call from their father.
I nervously picked up the phone, suspecting that fisticuffs were going on in their room.
However, my suspicions were unfounded.
The father was calling to thank me. He informed me that when he went into their room last night to tell them he had purchased another phone, they both refused to switch as they are enjoying learning together so much.
Dovid Hamelech must have had Raphi and Shmuli in mind when he said, “Hinei mah tov u’mah na’im, sheves achim gam yachad”!
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 815)
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