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03/17/2020 01:17:00 PM


Yaakov “Prez” Aspir

It was Shushan Purim. We had all just celebrated by hearing the Megillah and were still picking through our Mishloach Manot to find some hidden gems. We were aware of the news out of New Rochelle, but we had no idea in two days we’d make the unprecedented move to close our shul.

I went back and forth with the Rabbi as he was spending countless hours debating the halachic ramifications along with the medical necessity to keep our community safe.

I just finished a dermatology visit (with our own Miriam Libkind) and went to Central Avenue to run an errand. I visited my favorite tailor, Mikel, who always seems to get a kick out of calling me Mr. President. He chuckles and then upcharges me an extra 20% for special Presidential pricing.

After finishing up and heading home, I was driving down Washington Avenue when I hit a pothole (shocking to anyone who knows me) and busted a tire. I had to pull to the side of the road illegally in front of 234 Washington Avenue and put my hazards on. I was already feeling annoyed. Had just been on the phone with an overpriced attorney trying to get a contract out for work. In all honesty, the deal - okay, many deals - were not going smoothly for me and a general sense of panic was taking hold. AND NOW THIS. I didn’t want to be sitting on the side of the road waiting for roadside assistance. (Yes, I know there’s a chesed organization that can help but I pay for assistance so why use up resources that someone else can benefit from.) I didn’t feel like laying out another $200 for a new tire and I was just aggravated. I was on my way to spend time with my oldest son and go to the gym with him. Just so frustrating!

The Teitelbaums and several others passed by and asked if all was well. I told them I was fine. I was still fuming on the side of the road. I got out of the car and stood alongside it. Embarrassed by my careless driving, wondering if people realized I wasn’t purposely blocking traffic but needed assistance.

Then my whole day and outlook changed. The woman who lived in the house I was stuck in front of came over. I thought she would be upset I was blocking her driveway and I prepared myself to be yelled at. This wonderful (frum) woman approached, asked if I was okay, if I needed anything? Did I need to you use the bathroom in the meantime? Charge my phone? Need a drink? I was a bit shell shocked. Then I realized I was still on the phone.

The unaffiliated Jewish attorney I was speaking to heard this exchange and was truly astonished. He asked where had I broken down? Why were these people so kind? I didn’t give it that much thought at first. Later, with time to consider it all, I realized: This is what any one of us would do to help a fellow Jew (and hopefully – help anyone!) It didn’t stop there. During the hour wait, the children of the family EACH came out and asked if I needed ANYTHING whatsoever. Then the husband came home and asked the exact same thing. Now, I started to see what was so special about this occurrence. Why this happened to me. I thought it was terrible luck. As soon as I got off with the attorney, I called my wife, Yael, right away and told her that though I busted a tire, I leaned that Hashem’s chosen people are truly special. I was in awe. I went from being scared of what was happening around me and annoyed at the situation to realizing that when we all stick together we can move mountains (or at the very least 5000 pound cars!). I would give up my time, pay out hundreds of dollars and be embarrassed all over again to learn this lesson. Mah Rabu Ma’asecha Hashem, Mi Keamcha Yisroel. If we stay connected, supportive, and together…we will be okay.

Shabbat was incredibly uplifting. Gabe set the tone by bringing in Shabbat in a full suit (I made sure to change out of my sweats for Shacharit!). We davened loud and we davened hard. It was such a special Shabbat. I felt a sense of loss from separating from my dear community but was reminded how special my family is. Reminded what an incredible Rabbi we have that he could lead the charge to keep our community safe. No one gets to see the countless chesed hours he puts in for his beloved community, and it’s worth being the President of a shul just to see the soul of such a special man.

While I think it is extraordinary times to be separated, I also see extraordinary acts of chesed. People asking if they can help others who are quarantined in any way. It’s incredible to see and watch.

It’s hard. This situation is hard, no doubt about it. However, we need to do what we can to help one another. To give each other strength and chizzuk and physical help if possible.

I got my notice from Tomchei Shabbos that my week was coming up to deliver food to the needy. My first thought was, ‘wow this is still going on while everyone thinks it’s the end of the world as we know it?’

You know what? As I am confident we will unite and stay together - I feel fine.

By: Yaakov “Prez” Aspir

Mon, June 27 2022 28 Sivan 5782