Reb Moshe and Mr. Becker Team Up
At one point during my teen years, my family had a hole-in-the-wall summer grocery store, my mother’s idea and project. Of course, being children of that mother, we were expected to pitch in. From stocking shelves, to collapsing boxes, to taking phone orders, the only staff on board was us.
In our village Reb Moshe London of blessed memory was the Shul Gabbai/Shamash/Manager. Since he was caretaker of the synagogue, he felt that as such he was caretaker of congregants, too.He wasn’t a giant in size, actually quite an ordinary, grizzled senior in appearance, but he towered over others in deeds and kindness. He hosted itinerant wanderers, doled out charity funds, ran around doing favors for one and all and tried to find a kindness to do in every moment.
In the most unlikely of friendships, Reb Moshe hit it off with Max Becker, a retiree who came to our village just for spring and summer months. Reb Moshe and Max were complete opposites in temperament and appearance. Reb Moshe was careless in his dress, and his home was a cluttered mayhem. Mr. Becker was nattily and neatly dressed, tie, tie pin, starched shirt, sport jacket and cap every day. His summer home was spic and span, the floors glistening as if to proclaim, “hospital sterilization procedures used here.” Mr. Becker once told me he tried cleaning Reb Moshe’s apartment but got thrown out, because he dared to suggest some of the clutter be tossed. Yet, for all their differences and all their disagreements, these two men shared a passion for kindness. Since my family, hands down, had the most kids in the village, just about an even dozen, we were probably the most noticeable. Add to that our ultra-religious lifestyle, there was no way we could escape notice, and so both gents noticed us. They decided they, too, would have a hand in raising us. Reb Moshe became the most trusted of babysitters, as well as our steady Shabbos guest. Mr. Becker would only come over for tea. Both had quite a litany of do’s and don’ts to impart to us young’uns.
Now, with the grocery store my mother opened, these two elderly gents decided it was not getting off the ground without them, if they could help it. They bossed us, they prodded us, they told us where to place product. They tried to get a shift behind the counter. And Mr. Becker even hooked his cane around the boxes and tried shlepping it for us. There they were, solidly-set, carelessly dressed Reb Moshe and slim, neat Max Becker, both with their canes around a box, tugging, arguing, planning.
They drove me nuts!
And yet, they drove me to excel in Chesed, for they showed at every age, at every moment, there is a kindness to be done. Two elderly gents who were young in their take of how to get involved. Their eyesight might be failing in the literal sense from age, but their sight of looking to find out where to help was keener than any young person.
May their memory be a blessing, and may I merit to be able to bring Nachas to them by trying to emulate them every now and then.