| Shul with a View |

What’s in a Name?

Lonesome and convinced he had the status of a pariah, Michoel remained alone


The beis medrash pulsated with the sound of men learning away.

Michoel Rubin (name changed) took a quick look at everyone learning and quickly turned and left. He stopped off at the refreshment table. It was laden with pareve cheesecakes and half-eaten pieces of potato kugel, and a few bottles of Diet Coke, all capless. He moved on.

He walked outside onto the circular driveway of the shul. He could hear the 13-year-old boys bantering with the security guard and asking about his gun.

A few men were there as well, taking a break from the learning going on inside.

Michoel felt alone. He had no interest in schmoozing with the men outside, nor did he relish the thought of joining the vast majority of the men engrossed in the words of Abaye and Rava.

Lonesome and convinced he had the status of a pariah, Michoel remained alone.

It was in the lobby near the coffee station that we met. Michoel looked at me and, with obvious discomfort and a feeling of awkwardness, mumbled, “Gut Yontif.”

“It is a good Yom Tov to see you in shul!” I gushed to Michoel.

As the analeptic effects of caffeine, the world’s most popular stimulant, became apparent, Michoel questioned me with more than a bit of chutzpah; “Do you really care if I’m here or not?”

I ignored his question and asked my own. “Michoel, I’m looking for a chavrusa to learn Mishnayos Bikkurim with me. Can I interest you in learning together?”

Michoel was nonplussed. After all, it had only been a week since I’d gently nudged him into ending the impasse and compromising with his now-former wife, and give her a get before the situation became a cause célèbre and the talk of the town.

Michoel knew his marriage was over; it was just a matter of splitting the money and dotting some I’s and crossing a few T’s to conclude the settlement.

Nevertheless, his lawyer advised him to hold off on the get as leverage. Thankfully, I was able to convince him otherwise and not prolong the pain for either of them.

Now, as I stood before him Shavuos night, I represented the individual who had “forced him” to give in and caused his children to be with their mother for Yom Tov.

My presence annoyed him.

I again mentioned that I could use a chavrusa to learn Bikkurim, and he was my best candidate.

Finally, Michoel relented. We entered the beis medrash and were soon engrossed in our learning. After close to two hours, Michael said he would like to get some rest and daven at the later minyan.

I offered to walk him home.

We walked in silence.

As we reached his home, he looked at me. “Rabbi, thank you.”

I was shocked. For the past few weeks, a sense of gratitude to me had been the last thing on his mind.

“Right before we left shul,” Michoel told me, “I was waiting for you in the lobby. I overheard one man say to his friend, ‘Did you notice Michoel learning with the rabbi tonight? I told you Michoel was a good man. All those rumors about him making his wife an agunah were baseless. The rabbi would never have learned with him publicly if he was anything less than an erlicher Yid.’

“Rabbi, those words were a refuah for my soul,” Michoel said. “You were right in encouraging me to give the get. I no longer have a wife. However, I do have a sheim tov, and for that, I will always be indebted to you. Tomorrow is going to mark my new beginning.”

The first rays of sunrise were already visible in the east.

“Michoel, you’re right. However, there’s no need to wait till tomorrow. Today is already here.”

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 861)

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