Weekly Chasidic Story #1110 (s5779-28/
11 Adar B, 5779)
The driver was a professor...and his passenger a rabbi.
Connection: Seasonal - PURIM!
Story in PDF
format for more convenient printing.
It happened one Purim in the early 1980's when Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz
-a.k.a. Schwartzie -- was working as a college campus Rabbi at UCLA [the
University of California in Los Angeles]. He was pushing for students to hear
a public reading of the Megilah [Scroll of Esther], but not a single
Finally, one Jewish professor agreed; the professor imagined that this would
take one or two minutes, but when Schwartzie started rolling a big parchment
to where the reading of the Megilah starts, the professor asked: How
long will it take? The rabbi replied: 15-20 minutes. The professor said that
he was in a hurry to go to his home in the town of Irvine and could not listen
to the reading of the Megilah.
Without thinking twice, Schwartzie said "Irvine? I have to get there too.
Can you give me a ride?"
The professor said yes, and Schwartzie got in the car. The town of Irvine is
just outside of Los Angeles, about an hour's drive away. As they drove, Schwartzie
said to the professor: Look, we have a long enough drive ahead, and it's a pity
not to do anything. I suggest that in the meantime I will read the Megilah
to you, and you will listen while you drive. The professor agreed.
they arrived in Irvine, the professor asked: Where do you need to go? Schwartzie
replied: To the bus station.
The professor then realized that Schwartzie did not have to hitch a ride to
reach this town, but Schwartzie took a ride just to read the Megilah
during their trip. Now the rabbi is going to the bus stop, to take a bus back
to Los Angeles.
At first glance, this story seems to have ended, and one may see the story
as something strange. What a waste of time on the part of the rabbi, to drive
in the car and read the Megilah to someone who does not want to hear
it. What's the point?
The plot thickens....
Thirty plus years roll by. Schwartzie passes away in the beginning of 2017.
Moshe "Mayshe" Schwartz, is a rabbi in the Boston area is in New York.
He meets a student in the Chabad Chasidic yeshiva there.
The young man asks Rabbi Mayshe: Are you the son of Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz?
Mayshe replies yes. The young man insists that he listen to his story.
"I grew up in an assimilated family. When I was nearly 20, I decided to
do Teshuva ['return' to Torah-true Judaism] and study in a yeshiva.
My parents got frightened. Their dream was that I would go to college, and studying
in yeshiva seemed like a nightmare for them. A fierce conflict developed
between me and my parents.
"At some point my parents suggested we have a 'family intervention,' to
which we will also invite my grandparents to discuss the crisis. Grandpa was
a respectable professor, and my parents were sure he would support their perspective.
"Grandpa listened to both sides. Then he turned to me and asked, 'What
yeshiva do you want to go to?'
"'A chasidic yeshiva' I replied.
"Surprisingly, Grandpa said: 'Well then, that's good. Go there.'
"My parents were truly shocked. What happened to Grandpa that he supported
such a move?
Grandpa opened up and told the story with Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz. He was the
professor who drove the car and heard the reading of the Megilah. Grandpa concluded:
'If this yeshiva educates for such values, for such devotion to other
people, to the point of dedicating hours for someone else to have a single mitzvah,
I am happy that my grandson will go to study in a place like this.'"
Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from a mailing of
Rabbi Mendel Schwartz, his father's successor as director of "The Chai
Center of Los Angeles."
Photo credit: Jewish Home LA.
Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz [1944 - 12 Shvat 5777 (2017)] was a staff rabbi
of the very first campus Chabad House in the world, in Berkeley (California)
and then Los Angeles. In the 1980's the widowed Schwartzie married Olivia, and
in the same decade they opened ChaiCenter, independent of Chabad, to give full
expression to his creative--and wild--ideas for adult education for "every
Jew that moves." Over the years he had a life-changing effect on thousands
of Jews. For the last two decades of his life, he was Ascent's "Summer
Rabbi-Scholar in Residence" - accompanied by Olivia, of course.
Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor
of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories
to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells
them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.
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("Under the Full Moon" vol 2 - holiday stories)
is now available
for purchase from ASCENT
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Book 1 of Yerachmiel Tilles's 3-volume set,
"Saturday Night, Full Moon",
is also available for purchase on
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