Today’s already long day came to a crashing end. Literally. During the Covid-19 pandemic every day is a long day when the kids are at home. Trying to squeeze some productivity in the busy holiday season with everyone at home will test the best of us and our patience.
I was getting ready to leave for my weekly Torah Class (on zoom these days) when I heard the bang. Unsure what it was, I heard one of my children – who shall remain nameless – mutter to herself, “uh oh!”
Not a good sign.
Then I heard another child say to this unnamed child, “oh man, you broke it! Tatty is gonna kill you.”
Definitely not a good sign.
Then I heard my wife say to me gently, “you are not going to be happy.”
It was now sealed in my mind, something bad happened.
And then I saw it. My child had knocked over my guitar and broke it. Literally broke the entire head off, it was now being dragged by the still-connected strings.
Now, I am not a super sentimental person, but this was my first guitar I ever owned, gifted to me by a friend and a gifted guitarist and the person who inspired me to learn to play and this was my little escape when I needed music of my soul to be louder than the noise of the world. Not a very expensive piece but valuable enough that the replacement would hurt a bit.
As my daughter – the culprit- came into the room, with her shoulders hunched, my blood pressure was peaking and the lava was starting to erupt out of my internal volcano. I was about to let loose a string of words not fitting for a rabbi at a tone not fitting for anyone.
And then I realized, this is my Esrog Moment.
They tell a story (I’ve heard many variations of this story, this is just one version) of a Chassid that struggled with extreme poverty back in the shtetl. He had few positions, much less possessions of value. There was however one piece of religious Judaica (Tefillin or a Candle stick) that had been bequeathed to him from an ancestor who was a Rebbe and whose Chassidim would pay top dollar for that item.
The wife of this Chossid badgered him endlessly to sell the heirloom and make a small fortune to alleviate their poverty somewhat. He would not hear of it. It’s value far exceeded some temporary financial relief. This was a religious item that had deep spiritual value and he couldn’t fathom exchanging it for mere money.
One day, this wife of this chassid came into her husband’s study and saw a most beautiful Esrog sitting on the shelf. They could not afford even the least expensive Esrog much less such a big and beautiful Esrog; Where had her husband gotten the money?
She noticed that the religious heirloom was nowhere to be found. She did a basic deduction and determined that her holy husband wouldn’t depart with his family relic for some cash, but he would do so to observe a mitzvah in the holiest manner possible. She could not contain her rage and she took the Esrog off the shelf and bit into it, ripping the pitum (stem that sticks out of one of the sides of the citron) off rendering passul (unfit for use).
Her husband the holy chassid came home and immediately saw the damage. He saw his wife and her tears and put two and two together. Rather than lose his temper, he simply turned his head to the heavens and said, “Ribbono Shel Oilam, Master of the universe, if it is Your will that I should not have an esrog to recite the blessing upon for this Sukkos holiday, then I accept it with love!”
An incredible lesson in patience and perspective. That was the story the fell into my head as I started to lose control over my broken guitar.
I told my daughter to come over to me. She walked over afraid and unsure of what reaction I was going to have. I simply took her head in my hands and gave her head a kiss.
She said, “I thought you were going to be angry with me?”
“Did you break it out of anger or on purpose?” I asked,
“In that case, mistakes happen, try to be more careful next time” I concluded.
We all have our Esrog moments. I have many Esrog moments. I don’t always rise to the occasion. This time I am thankful that I did. I am certain that she will long remember that kiss instead of whatever fury I might have unleashed on her.
This holiday, as Covid keeps us in close quarters we will all have many more Esrog moments.
Will we step up to the challenge and have the right reaction?