With all due respect to the many fabulous ecology enthusiasts out there, I offer the following disclaimer: This is not an essay on preserving the environment. Nor does it have any connection to those contemporary three R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle.
Mind you, my family and I are sticklers about recycling our plastic bottles and giveaway magazines despite the fact that there is no municipal enforcement whatsoever in our city. But the truth is that as much as we laud and respect these altruistic efforts that is not the topic of this story.
The “green” I am referring to in this column’s title is of an entirely different sort. And I must confess that I had not really given green much thought at all until today’s serendipitous happenings brought it into focus.
To begin, although we are, Baruch Hashem, blessed in countless ways, we have never been overly endowed with greenbacks (or Israeli shekalim of any color, for that matter). And, with apologies to all you wonderful moms the world over, we are admittedly less than exemplary at eating our greens.
There are other greens, however, that virtually personify our family in general – and our dear Abba in particular.
Ever since my husband was a young boy, he professed his loyalty to his favorite team, the Green Bay Packers. He stuck with them through thick and thin, exulting in their multiple Super Bowl championships and alternately grieving over their frustrating injuries and losses. Every cross-country trip included a visit to Lambeau Field, and our house has long-since been decorated in obnoxious green (and gold) Green Bay décor.
In the past few years, however, we have thankfully become acquainted with the most magnificent green of all. Abba decided to begin learning Talmud Yerushalmi on a daily basis; consequently, we have become intimately familiar with the sight of forest green Schottenstein Edition Gemaras on every desk and table in the house. Likewise, his congregants and talmidim would be hard pressed to recognize him without his ubiquitous oversized green tomes.
Baruch Hashem, my husband recently celebrated a very moving siyum on Shas Yerushalmi in honor of his father’s 34th yahrzeit. And, needless to say, he has since begun again – virtually without missing a beat.
Our home is in the center of the Holy Land, surrounded by (what else?) green hills and valleys. But, as luck would have it, my husband works in a yeshiva in Yerushalayim, some 40 minutes to more than an hour away. So he has the dubious distinction of being a reluctant daily commuter. Driving is more convenient, but very expensive and a tremendous waste of his precious time. As a result, he often opts to travel by inter-city bus instead.
Recently, he was on one of his bus days. Abba grabbed his computer bag, a cold drink, and (of course) his current mesechta. And he set off on the (green) Egged bus for the hour-long ride to the Holy City. He made the most of the commute by working diligently on his computer throughout the protracted circuitous journey. Before he knew it, his stop was announced. He scrambled to grab his belongings and disembark.
Unfortunately, in his haste to exit the bus, my husband inadvertently left his precious volume of Gemara behind. By the time he realized that it was missing, the bus had long since continued on its route, and my husband despaired of ever seeing his Masechet Ma’asrot again. Needless to say, all his sefarim bear his personalized Hebrew stamp. But although his name is prominently displayed, no contact information is included. So he was not overly confident regarding his beloved sefer’s prospects for a swift return. In fact, he was so distraught over his absentmindedness that he compounded his aggravation by inadvertently catching the intra-city connection traveling in the opposite direction!
Anyone who is even remotely familiar with this column knows that this tale cannot possibly end on such a bleak note. Indeed, unbeknownst to him at the time, the hashgachah pratis that characterizes these weekly stories was already beginning to fall into place – with Divine perfection.
While my husband retraced his steps and belatedly made his way to yeshiva, a young man from our neighborhood climbed the steps of the Egged inter-city bus and chose a seat in the back. Some time later, however, he inexplicably decided to switch seats to a location in the very front of the bus. That is when he noticed a very large volume situated beside the driver.
“What are you learning?” he inquired, his curiosity piqued.
“Me?” responded the driver. “It’s not my Gemara. It was left on my bus by a passenger on my earlier route.”
“Interesting color,” observed the young passenger.
“It has some English writing in it,” volunteered the bus driver. “There’s a name inside, but no phone number.”
Then, he elaborated, with obvious enthusiasm, “Actually, it’s a volume of Talmud Yerushalmi!”
“Yerushalmi?” repeated the passenger. “I only know one person who learns Talmud Yerushalmi. Do you mind if I take a look at it?”
The bus driver genially passed the large green sefer to him, and the young man eagerly opened it to the flyleaf.
There he saw a custom book stamp with a drawing of Yerushalayim and a very familiar name, that of the rav of his neighborhood shul. The name also happened to be that of his cousin – a.k.a. my husband.
Shaking his head in disbelief, he shared his discovery with the driver, who happily allowed him to take the lost & found tractate and reunite it with its rightful owner.
Bus driver and passenger bid each other a hearty goodbye, as the latter alit in the Holy City with the holy Yerushalmi tucked securely under his arm.
Then he slid out his cell phone, scrolled down the list of phone numbers, and called his rav.
“Hi, it’s your cousin Daniel,” he said. “I have your Gemara, and I‘ll drop it by your house this evening, b’ezrat Hashem.” Sensing the palpable relief on the other end of the line, he smiled. “It’s a long story. I’ll fill you in later.”
That evening, my husband and two of our sons celebrated a joyous double siyum in a small local fast-food restaurant, with our youngest daughter and I in attendance. Less than an hour later, when the five of us climbed the stairs back up to our apartment, tired but content, there was a large green Gemara propped on the ledge opposite our entrance – its unusual color the most beautiful we have ever seen.