The Hat

It’s time we paused for a few minutes to contemplate the amazing aspects of being part of the frum community that we take for granted. We are so familiar and so used to some of the “norms” that we simply don’t recognize the beauty and grandeur of being part of this massive beautiful network of brothers and sisters that is the frum community.

I had occasion to get a firsthand appreciation of that last week. The incident that I am about to share is not a “shock and awe” story, and not a miraculous occurrence, nor is it about a kidney donation or some other absolutely otherworldly chesed. Rather, it is a simple feeling of brotherhood that one can find in any frum community on any given day. I, however, have the distinct advantage of having a “shofar” – the ability to use the printed word to convey my feelings to a wide audience. Let this story serve as a microcosm of thousands of similar stories that transpire daily in the frum community.

My Hat?

We were preparing for a trip to an out-of-town chasunah a few hours from our hometown. Before embarking on the trip, I opened the hood of my minivan – a vehicle to which some of my children have appended the dubious appellation of “yeshivish” – to check the oil, the fluids and the belts. Then, after making sure all were aboard, we left.

The trip was progressing smoothly and we were availing ourselves of the opportunity to spend some rare family time together. As we passed one state line and then another and we were within an hour of our destination, it hit me. With a sinking feeling, I realized that I had forgotten my hat in my house. Not wanting to risk ruining the hat as I put my head under the car hood, I had left it in the house, fully intending to go back and get it.

So now what? Although I didn’t think the world would come to an end if I didn’t have my hat at an out-of-town chasunah, my teenage girls did…

So, the first order of business was calling other relatives who were also traveling to the chasunah to find out if perhaps one of them had their weekday hat in their car. The answers I got varied from “no” to “even if I did, you really don’t want to be wearing my weekday hat at a chasunah…”

Next order of business was perhaps finding someone who lived in the community where the chasunah was being held to see if they had a hat that I could borrow. We didn’t really know anyone there well enough to ask them to borrow a hat so what did we do? We started accessing the amazing frum network that virtually any frum person has. We called family and friends asking if anyone knew people from that community who could lend me a hat for a few hours.

The Overseas Connection

I was almost certain that my brother-in-law from Eretz Yisroel, who is a maggid shiur, has talmdim from that city, so we called him. He wasn’t available, but my sister-in-law said that she had a good friend from decades ago who lived in that city whom she would be glad to call. So a call was put in. The friend was surprised that her old friend who she hadn’t spoken to in years had called, but she was more than happy to offer any of an assortment of hats for my use. Once we determined that the sizes were close enough not to look too incongruous, she gave us her friend’s number and we called.

It’s funny calling a perfect stranger, but, in truth, she wasn’t a perfect stranger. My wife called and they started shmoozing. During the course of their conversation, she matter-of-factly told us that her husband had recently bought a brand new hat that he had not yet worn and we were welcome to use that hat. That second, I thought of the words of Chazal on the posuk of “kol cheilev l’Hashem,” where it is a special mitzvah to give “your best” for others. I thought to myself, “Wow! These Yidden are amazing! Here I am, a perfect stranger who contacted them while on the road via Beit Shemesh in Eretz Yisroel, and not only do they offer me a hat, but they offer me one right out of the box, never worn!”

The woman told my wife that they were leaving the house soon, so they would place an assortment of hats on the porch and we should feel free to take whichever one works best for us. She ended by giving us her cell phone number in case we encountered any difficulty.

So, we arrived in that city and punched their address into our GPS. I went onto the porch, picked the hat that fit best (one of the older ones), and we were off to the chasunah.

Amazing!

One of my children exclaimed, “Isn’t the frum world amazing?”

We have this amazing network of special Yidden who want nothing more than to be able to do another Yid a favor. Even though we have but a tenuous personal connection, they feel like our brothers and sisters and we feel the same way.

Amazing, indeed, but just stop and think: Aren’t you amazing, too? How many times have you had people call you up and ask if you have an extra room in your house for a Shabbos guest who is coming to town? The guest is a complete stranger, but to us, the guest is almost like family. There are few places in the world where such a thing exists.

We, however, are family. Our fellow Yidden are treated like family members because they really are like family. Our general default button is, “If I can do a chesed, it is an amazing opportunity. It is a zechus!”

On the way home from the chasunah, after dropping off the hat and thanking our benefactors profusely, I was thinking about this and had an amazing revelation. Recently, my two married children, who are both living in Eretz Yisroel, spent Shavuos together. I remember experiencing such a feeling of warmth and joy when I heard that the two of them were spending Yom Tov together, and that one had invited the other one over. On another occasion, the tables were turned and the other couple spent Shabbos with the first one. I thought to myself, “There is no better feeling for a father than seeing one’s own children getting along as brothers, living in harmony and looking out for each other.”

Klal Yisroel: A Nation of Brethren

On the way home later that night, I was wondering if our Father in Heaven was looking down at His children and saying, “Isn’t it beautiful how brothers and sisters stick together? Isn’t it magnificent when they are so eager to help each other and go the extra mile, just because they are siblings?”

Indeed, such unity, such brotherly and sisterly closeness, undoubtedly serves as a profound nachas ruach for Hashem.

We are now in the Three Weeks of mourning for the churban Bais Hamikdosh. We all know that that the reason for the second churban Bais Hamikdosh was sinas chinom, baseless hatred. Isn’t it beautiful when we, in the frum community, are there for each other in so many myriad, small and big ways to help ease the plight of one another, to pitch in when needed?

Yes, I know that we still have work to do on sinas chinom, but still, look at the klal. Look at all of the individuals in our community. People so want to help each other. People in our community are so kind, so giving and so caring.

Let us contemplate these beautiful attributes and try to extend them into every other area of our lives. In this way, our Father will look down at us with nachas and exclaim, “Ashrecha Yisroel mi kamocha. Am nosha baShem. Fortunate are you, Yisroel. Who is like you? A people delivered by Hashem.”