lothes maketh the man,” which has been attributed to many authors, certainly resonates with frum Jews. We attempt to maintain a certain standard of dress for davening, and we all have special Shabbos clothing.
As a rabbi, I am “privileged” to wear a long rabbinic frock.
In the New York area, wearing a frock is somewhat commonplace. However, once you pass the Delaware Water Gap and continue west, a long frock stands out like a cowboy hat in a chassidish shtibel.
Five years ago today (15 Cheshvan), I was speaking in an out-of-town shul that had invited me to give a legal-holiday lecture.
I arrived early and made my way to a small local shul (not where I was speaking) to daven Shacharis. As the davening concluded, I noticed a man making a beeline for me. I was thinking, I’ll bet he knows me from my Mishpacha articles and he’s coming to compliment me!
But without saying a word, he removed two $20 bills from his wallet and placed them in my hand.
I was bewildered. I was speechless!
Then he said, “Hashem should help you.”
“Wait… I don’t understand—”
But before I could say anything else, my benefactor gave me another $20 bill and said, “There’s nothing to be ashamed of. We all need each other.”
I was stunned and confused, and hoping that no one else in the shul would decide to help me out. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. I attempted to pull myself together and decided I would donate the $60 to the shul.
I made sure my tie was straight and waited for my ride to pick me up and bring me to where I was speaking. I didn’t have to wait long, as my driver came in and said, “You must be Rabbi Eisenman. Welcome. I’m here to drive you to the shul for the shiur.”
Suddenly, from behind the mechitzah, a loud voice was heard. I looked up and from behind the curtain stepped Mr. Benefactor himself. This time he looked embarrassed and flustered.
“You’re Rabbi Eisenman? I’m so sorry, I didn’t know—”
I interrupted him and said, “You have nothing to apologize for. You obviously knew my shul could use money and you donated generously. You told me we all need each other, and indeed, you are correct, we do. So everything you did and said was fine. No apologies needed.”
The man protested and said, “But I thought you were someone else!”
“My friend,” I replied, “today, 15 Cheshvan, is the yahrtzeit of the Chazon Ish.
“Once the Chazon Ish entered a small shul near Vilna and noticed a Gemara on the table and began to learn. The gabbai of the shul arrived to set up the shul for the shiur between Minchah and Maariv. When he noticed this ‘guest’ using a Gemara reserved for the shiur attendees, he took the Gemara from the Chazon Ish, gave him a sefer Tehillim, and said, ‘Here, you can say Tehillim. The Gemaras are for those who attend the shiur.’
“When the rabbi arrived and showed the Chazon Ish great honor, the gabbai was beside himself with shame. As he went to ask mechilah from the Chazon Ish, the Chazon Ish looked at him and said with total sincerity, ‘There is nothing to ask mechilah for. You told me I should say Tehillim, which I should. And you told me the Gemara was reserved for the shiur attendees, which was also correct. There is nothing to ask mechilah for.’
“So, too, my friend,” I told the nameless benefactor, “you have nothing to ask mechilah for, as everything you did was totally correct.”
The man smiled and said, “What’s the name of your shul? I want to write you a check.”
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 785)