“Endless” Story – Zucker Learns a Lesson

by Kobi Levy

BUSINESS WAS GOOD for Mendel Silver, the well-known philanthropist from the United States. He seemed to have that golden touch, and whatever he did was blessed with success, baruch Hashem. He could purchase an old, decrepit hat shop in an alley in New York City and transform it within half a year to a bustling wholesale enterprise. Why, ten years ago, he purchased a shoemaker’s workshop in Manhattan, and within a year it had expanded to a sandal factory with worldwide sales! Word was that he had at least ten profitable businesses, although no one could say for sure. Yes, things were going very well for Mendel Silver.

Despite his wealth, Mendel Silver was a simple, roly-poly, folksy type; he had a ready grin and a rolling laugh and lacked the regular airs most wealthy men put on. With him, there was no hanging around in the waiting room of his office for two hours for a measly ten dollar donation. His veteran secretary, Margalit Sheninson, had strict instructions: “Anyone who comes for a donation gets a minimum of one hundred dollars, even if he looks like a faker. And if I’m in the office, even in an important meeting, don’t make him wait more than five minutes. Let him into my office; I’ll talk to him and give him what he needs.”

Silver was a generous philanthropist, but he was no fool either. From time to time he would fly to Israel and make the rounds to several kollelim and yeshivos in order to verify that his donations indeed went towards supporting the Torah world. Incidentally, he never informed anyone that he was coming; he simply landed in Israel, settled down in a beis medrash there, and observed the goings-on.

His personal assistant was a young, energetic fellow by the name of Naftali Nachman Zucker. He accompanied Silver on all of his trips, taking care of the logistics. The two complemented each other well; Silver was a bit scatterbrained and disorganized, while Zucker was methodical, organized, and straight as an arrow.

Truth to be told, Silver was no great lamdan, and his daily dose of Torah consisted of a few chapters of Tehillim, a daily halachah, and some mishnayos. Zucker, on the other hand, sat down at one o’clock every afternoon, opened his Gemara, and began to learn out loud within Silver’s earshot so the latter wouldn’t forget what the sound and taste of Torah were like.

However, despite not being a scholar, Silver’s tefillos were definitely noteworthy.

“I don’t miss tefillah b’tzibbur, Zucker, you hear?” the wealthy man would scold his assistant. “Not Shacharis, not Minchah, not Maariv! I know that my world stands on three things: the Torah that I support; the chessed that I do secretly, and my tefillah with a minyan.”

Zucker, on the other hand, was less punctilious about davening with a minyan, and from time to time would grab a Minchah in the corridor, usually when Silver was out of the office for a meeting.

***

About two years ago, in the winter, Silver and Zucker landed in Ben Gurion Airport on flight 182 from New York. The time was one o’clock in the morning, and they needed to daven Maariv. There hadn’t been a minyan of frum Jews on the plane, and the two were rather nervous. Or, to put it more accurately, Silver was nervous.

“Let’s try and organize a minyan here in the airport,” he urged his assistant. But their efforts were futile, as the few frum people in the terminal had already davened.

“Let’s just daven ourselves,” Zucker murmured.

“Shame on you,” Silver chided him.

“Maybe we should go to the shtieblach in Bnei Brak,” Zucker suggested.

“No,” Silver insisted. “I feel a need to daven Maariv specifically in Yerushalayim. We have an early morning visit to make at one of the yeshivos there.”

“By the time we get to Yerushalayim, it will be almost two in the morning. I doubt we will find a minyan, even in Zichron Moshe…” Zucker grumbled.

“You’re a young, incurable pessimist, Zucker,” Silver retorted.

Zucker resigned himself to Silver’s whims; he was, after all, just the assistant, and Silver, the boss. They got into a taxi and headed for Yerushalayim. At 2:03 they entered Zichron Moshe. Deserted. Empty. Outside it was pouring heavily and a stormy wind whistled through the windows, blowing plastic bags and papers around eerily.

“Mr. Silver,” the exhausted Zucker whined, “be logical. It’s a winter night; the streets are empty. Everyone’s already davened Maariv. In order to get a minyan together, you’ll have to wake people up, and that’s gezel sheinah. Let’s just get it over with and daven ourselves. It’s no tragedy. We are anusim, forced into this situation, and thus are exempt from davening with a minyan.”

Mendel Silver paid no attention to his assistant’s whining and declared firmly, “There will be a minyan here, my boy; there will! I am going to go over to the aron kodesh and speak to my Father in Heaven for a few moments. He’ll send me eight tzaddikim for our minyan; you’ll see.”

Needless to say, Zucker was convinced that his jovial boss had simply gone a bit out of his mind, especially since the rain showed no signs of letup, and the thunder and lightning vied constantly for the upper hand outside.

The American philanthropist approached the paroches, pressed his face into it, and murmured quietly for several long moments. Then he turned to his assistant. “Okay, Zucker, my friend. Within ten minutes, we’re starting V’hu Rachum.

Zucker just smiled compassionately in the direction of his boss.

Silver walked out of the shul, dialed a number on his cell phone, and conducted an animated conversation for about five minutes.

Zucker was sure that his boss had completely lost his sanity.

“I don’t understand you, Mr. Silver. How do you dare wake people up at night? There’s a limit to the desire to daven Maariv with a minyan!”

“Calm down, my boy; a few more minutes and we’re starting…”

Now YOU end the story… Use the comments box below to tell us what you think should happen… Happy posting!

5 Responses to “Endless” Story – Zucker Learns a Lesson

  1. Mimi Spear says:

    A sudden flashing of lights blinded them momentarily. The pair turned their heads to the right to witness two police cars pulling up. Curiously, they watched the cops get out, confered briefly and nodded decisively. The taller of the two approached Zucker inquiring if perhaps there is a minyan going on.
    Increduously, Zucker tipped his head to the side. “Sir, we are actually trying to get together one.”
    “Well, how about we help you out there?” and he proceeded to let out six hapless yeshiva-looking fellows in handcuffs.
    Silently,they all filed into Zichron Moshe, with Zucker at the back shaking his head. A quick search for Silver, found him on the side staring incredously at the cop.
    “Meyer?” Mendel Silver asked.
    The cop turned halfways. No one had called him by that name for some years.
    “Hey, Mendel is that you?”and they fell onto each other.
    Story reveals that Silver the philanthropist and Meyer the cop used to be yeshiva buddies. Neither of them were the best learners. Although Mendel found his niche, his roommate had a more diffucult time. Eventually, Meyer was not able to keep up, and he decided he had enough. He fell in with the wrong gang, and gave up the ways of his parents. Before he left yeshiva though, Meyer informed his roommate Silver that no matter which path he takes, he will always daven with a minyan. Silver was duly impressed, and took it upon himself too. With that they shook hands and parted ways.
    “As you can see,I have been meticulous all these years over davening with a minyan” Meyer concluded.
    “Tonight, when we ordered these guys into our vehicles they begged for an opportunity to daven with a minyan, and how could I refuse them?”

  2. Chaya says:

    As Zucker was still shaking his head at his boss, thinking that he had clearly lost his mind, he saw two rays of lights shinging through the windows.
    “What’s those two lights?” he asked aloud.
    “Ahah, so my minyan has arrived!” Silver exclaimed in delight.
    “You wish! It’s probably some stray car roaming the street. You’ll see, it’ll drive straight past here,” Zucker said with a ‘no-it-all’ look on his face.
    Yet, the lights did not seem to be moving at all. Actually they had just been turned off!
    “I’m going out to meet the Tzaddikim,” Silver shouted as he ran out the door into the pouring rain.
    “Poor Silver,” Zucker mumbled to himself, “I really feel bad for him. He’ll be so disappointed when he doesn’t find those Tzaddikim of his.”
    Yet Zucker was curious about the car outside, so he ran to the wondow to see what was going on.
    At first he couldn’t really see anyone out there, because of the dark night and the rain which was now bucketing down. However, after squinting his eyes and peering very carefully out the window, he could make out quite a few figures, all wearing hats and long drench coats and all huddled around one person who was talking animatedly and waving his hands.
    “I think I’m seeing things,” Zucker muttered. “I don’t believe this. Are there really nine men standing there? What on earth is going on? What is Silver telling those men?”
    As he continued to stare, he saw them walking towards the door. A minute later all those men were piling in, drenched to the bone but all with triumphant smiles on their faces. However none of their faces compared to the ecstatic face of Silver.
    “See Zucker,” Silver began to say to a very shocked Zucker, as the Tzaddikim were taking off their coats and trying to warm up a bit, “a little Bitachon doesn’t hurt! No, it certainly does not hurt at all!”

    A year later, Zucker and Silver parted ways. Silver coninued raking in the money and supporting many Torah Mosdos, and Zucker opened up his own business. The incident on that rainy night was long forgotten, or so it seemed.
    It was on a hot summer day that Silver and Zucker were destined to meet again. Silver was on his way with his family to the Catskills, and typicaly stopped at a ‘Mincha stop’ along the way to Daven with a Minyan. It was almost Shkiyah and as the Chazzan was about to begin, a man suddenly hurried into the makeshift shule, yelling, “Wait for me. Please dont start yet! I absolutely cannot miss this Minayan!” Althought a bit annoyed, the Chazzan and the others agreed to wait a minute for the man to settle down and prepare to Daven. As the man quickly sat down , he looked at the man sitting next to him. They both recognised each other, and gave each other a smile and nod. Just before the Chazzan began to Daven, Zucker whispered:
    “Silver, you can now clearly see the fruits of that night long ago in Zichron Moshe. Boy, have I not forgotten it. I’m a changed man because of that night and now I finally am able to say thankyou.”
    And with that the Minyan began, and you could say that both those men Davened with an extra dose of Kavono that day.

  3. Chana Leah says:

    i had the same reaction as rivky, i also thought it was going to be the story about the minyan guy who paid the taxi drivers to come to the minyan… but the second ending, by chavi, is also very beautiful! i really liked how silver was able to connect and inspire zucker… many times the most important things we do are the things that we cant’t see the immediate effect of…

  4. Rivky says:

    There is a very similar story told over from Reb Pesach Krohn. THe minyan lover called a taxi company and said he needed 8 taxis with Jewish drivers. The company thought it was picking up a large family from a wedding. Instead he took all the drivers for the minyan. When he went to pay them for their time, they all refused payment as they were so impressed by his creativity in finding a minyan. They said it was their most inspiring maariv ever. for some it was their first maariv ever.

  5. Chavi says:

    Within thirty seconds a father and his three sons had walked through the door. They looked up and asked if Silver and Zucker were waiting for a minyan. Their eyes lit up when they heard the response. They had just arrived back from England on a delayed flight and had not gotten to daven yet. Two minutes later a prestigious looking man walked in with the same question. He was a surgeon who had been stuck in a surgery with various complications that kept coming up. Another minute passed before two drenched yeshivah boys came in. They had gone to the north for the day and had gotten very lost on the way back and had been so nervous that they had completely forgotten to daven. In the next five minutes, eight of the nine assembled men kept glancing anxiously at the door. But Silver just smiled a reassuring smile.
    And then, a young businessman walked in. He was excited to see the assembled minyan. He had worked extremely late that night in order to make a deadline and was going to daven by himself when he remembered that it was his father’s yahrtzeit.
    Zucker’s mouth dropped open. It was less than ten minutes and eight other ordinary people with ordinary stories had walked in to complete their minyan. How had Silver known it would happen?
    The next morning, after their early meeting, Zucker asked Silver to explain what had happened.
    “Well, it’s nothing really unusual. When I was much younger, business was really bad for me. I couldn’t make ends meet. It was a tough life for me, and I felt like I needed to change something in my life.
    Then, one Shabbos afternoon I went to the regular shiur that my rav gives before minchah. He told us a number of stories of how people had committed themselves to certain mitzvos and would never deviate from their commitment. He told us how these people’s lives were saved in miraculous ways, or how their lives simply improved. And, he mentioned how even in the most unlikely situations they were always able to fulfill that commitment. Whether it was kiddush levanah, saying tefillas haderech from a siddur, or simply having more kavanah while saying the brachah of Asher Yatzar.
    I thought about that. I knew that I needed to commit myself to something.
    You know how something will suddenly ‘hit home’ for you? Well, after minchah I sat down to say pirkei avos. I came across the mishnah ‘Al shlosha devarim ha’olam omeid. Al haTora, al ha’avodah v’al gemilus chasadim.’ That just resounded within me and I started to think. Torah. I’m not very good at that. Well, I can say tehillim and mishnayos. That’s what I was doing every day. But, if I can start to support Torah, now that would be a different direction I could take, but couldn’t afford. Avodah. Well, we all daven. I wanted something unique in that department. I was already working on my kavanah. And then it came to me. I would commit to always daven with a minyan. It was something I’ve tried to be careful about, but never committed to.
    And so that is what I did. It wasn’t always easy, but with time things did in deed change. As I began to prosper, I took it upon myself to try and fulfill the rest of the mishnah to the best of my ability. I started to support Torah institutions and do various chasadim secretly.
    Once I had made that commitment I’ve found that I never have to wait more than ten minutes for a minyan, no matter how unlikely the situation.”
    Zucker was intrigued. Indeed, he needed help in his life to. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to finally settle down and start a family.
    Silver noticed his thoughtful distraction throughout the rest of their trip. He, also, was not surprised at Zucker’s new commitment to davening with a minyan.
    He was, however, just as surprised as everyone else, when four months later Zucker had gotten engaged.

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