A few years ago, a good friend invited me and Chani to his home for a meeting he was hosting. He told me that it could be very beneficial for me, and so we joined.
After the program was presented with great excitement and encouragement, a woman addressed the assemblage to relate her personal experience. I must admit that when it comes to these types of programs, I have a hard time following. There were, however, some key phrases she used that resonated with me; quips such as “It’s a no brainer” and “Have your money do the work for you.”
Even though the program was not for us, I realized that there was great wisdom to be gleaned from the idea of ‘having your money work for you,’ as I will now explain.
A number of years ago, after spending Pesach in Lakewood, NJ at the home of my in-laws, we lingered there for a day or two of chol hamoed. My in-law’s neighbor and dear friend, Rabbi Eli Oelbaum, invited me and our oldest son Shalom (then 9 years old), to join him at a chol hamoed learning program he initiated at a local shul. It was cleverly called “Greater Adventure.”
We accepted the invitation and were very moved by the program. There was a packed bais medrash full of young men, some with fathers and grandfathers, and many with chavrusas, learning with gusto for the better part of an hour. That was followed by brief divrei chizuk (words of encouragement) from a distinguished rabbinic personality, which was followed with a daily grand raffle, with numerous exciting prizes raffled off every day. After that first time, we almost always made it our business to be in Lakewood for some part of chol hamoed so we could join the program.
In 2016, with the encouragement and guidance of my rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Schabes, as well as the local rabbanim of our community and a few generous donors, we were able to initiate a similar learning program in our community in New Hempstead. It was truly gratifying to see over 50 boys learning Torah on a chol hamoed morning with fathers and grandfathers. More than one father expressed to me the same sentiment that I had conveyed to Rabbi Oelbaum after the first time we attended his program a few years ago: “It was so special. It really transformed our chol hamoed.”
A few years later, we branched out and included the Wesley Hills community with the backing of their rabbanim in the chol hamoed learning program. The learning program has become a beloved and central part of our chol hamoed experience. We can begin the irksome, “What do you think we should do today?” questioning, a few hours later. Often, my wife is able to decide the answer to that question before we return home from the learning program.
I thought about what a great zechus the program was, not only for our community but for Rabbi Oelbaum. The words that woman had uttered regarding that financial program are surely true regarding spiritual matters: “It’s a no brainer.” “Have your mitzvah do the work for you.”
What a wonderful idea. Just do something great and you never know who will be inspired to follow your lead. And if they inspire someone else, who knows what kind of merits it can generate for you and for so many others. It’s truly a Greater Adventure.