Tomorrow night, we’ll be hosting the Biala Rebbe of Jerusalem, Rabbi Avraham Yerachmiel Rabinowicz, in our house. Some of our friends, and a bunch of random people we don’t know, will come over and ask the Rebbe a bunch of questions about basically anything.
It’s pretty random. Or, if you see it that way, it isn’t random at all — in that mystical hippie-like way, or that Rebbe-like way, that everything on Earth that happens is connected.
I first met the Rebbe when I was in yeshiva in Israel. One of our rabbis started taking up the habit of hanging out at the Rebbe’s synagogue each week during his visiting hours, every Wednesday and Thursday nights from 10 or 11 P.M. until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. I don’t know what he said in order to get us to come, but one night, we tagged along. There was a bunch of us. One, Dan, was actually his first cousin — separated by marriage and cultures and languages, since the Rebbe only speaks Hebrew and Yiddish.
Our appointment was scheduled for 10:30. Of course, this was Israel, where time runs differently than it does in the rest of the world. Also, just sitting in the synagogue was kind of like sitting in a hospital lobby in reverse — that is, instead of seeing all sorts of people in various modes of depression and despair, you’re seeing all sorts of people in various modes of despair and joy. People asking for blessings to have children, to meet their One True Love, to succeed in business, to find out what the hell they’re doing with their lives.
Mostly, if you couldn’t guess, I was in that last category, although at times, over my year in Israel, I fit into almost all of the other categories. (Almost. That having-kids thing was still way over my head, at that point.) I wasn’t sure about anything. Whether I’d gotten married (which I had a few months ago) for valid reasons, or just because we were Orthodox and we both figured we had to. Whether I should be in yeshiva or trying to get more writer gigs. Whether writing my memoir about struggling with dating girls and being Orthodox, which I’d sold to a publisher just before I left for Israel, was a bad idea, or whether it was going to help other people with the same issues.