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The Right Place at the Right Time

On Purim morning, I was very excited with my plan to learn Maseches Megillah after shul

 

Life was good. I was learning in kollel in Eretz Yisrael, and my wife and I had just had our first child.

In our small apartment building, all four tenants were young kollel families, each with one or two children. For Purim, all the men decided to daven vasikin to allow our wives to hear the Megillah after us.

On Purim morning, I was very excited with my plan to learn Maseches Megillah after shul. I davened vasikin and then took over the baby to allow my wife to go hear the Megillah. My son Meir was six months old, and I was sure he would nap, and I could spend the next hour deeply engrossed in the Gemara. My wife would be so proud of me when she returned and found I’d already covered three or four blatt. I could picture the wide smile she’d have on her face when she saw I’d utilized my time productively.

As I cracked open my Gemara there was a knock.

I opened the door, and standing there was my next-door neighbor, Shimon, holding his two-month-old baby.

“I am so sorry to bother you. However, I think I shluffed during the vasikin minyan and missed a word of the Megillah. Can I please leave my baby here so I can hear the Megillah again?”

How could I say no? Anyway, I figured his two-month-old would sleep.

I opened my Gemara again. But before I’d read the first word — “Megillah” — there was another knock.

There stood another friend from the building, his toddler in tow.

“Please, help me for the sake of my shalom bayis! I overslept. Can you please watch my child so I can hear the Megillah now? If I have to go later, my wife will be so upset with me.”

I nodded, and he ran down the stairs. I hesitantly took the hand of the child and brought him inside. But when I attempted to let go of the child’s hand, he began to scream.

Now I had two babies (neither of them my own) on my lap.

As I attempted once more to learn, there came the irritating buzzing of an Israeli doorbell.

To my surprise, there stood the last remaining member of our kollel apartment building. He had two children with him, one in his arms and one on his back.

“I am so sorry, however, I think in the word, ‘v’ha’achashdarpanim,’ I coughed and missed the vav at the beginning of the word and only heard, ‘ha’achashdarpanim.’ I wasn’t yotzei the mitzvah. Can you watch my children so I can hear the Megillah again? I can’t go later as I’m starving and need to hear the Megillah in order to eat breakfast.”

I just stood there as he placed one child on my shoulder and the other in my arms.

I now had five children in my makeshift gan. Needless to say, between giving bottles and finding pacifiers and holding two children in my arms and one on my shoulder, I never did see the inside of the Gemara.

All the men returned the moment the Megillah was finished and collected their children — all before my wife came home.

And then came the moment of truth.

When my wife came in, all she saw was me about to open my Gemara as my son slept soundly next to me.

“Wow, you look so tired. Is everything okay? If I didn’t know better, I’d think you just ran a playgroup for the entire neighborhood.” She smiled as the inconceivable suggestion sank in.

I sat in silence, my face revealing neither confirmation nor negation. I simply quoted the pasuk in the Megillah: “And who knows if for this exact time you have reached this royal position?”

She looked at me quizzically, but I would say no more.

My personal Megillah was now complete.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 801)

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