Every generation loves to tell the subsequent generations how different things were “back when I was a kid.” One of the things my generation will tell our grandchildren is that when we were kids the ShayneCoat hadn’t been invented yet.
Today, any time it rains on Shabbos, virtually every hat/shtreimel-wearing man walking to shul looks the same – like a black blimp with a black hood. But when I was a kid, we didn’t have ShayneCoats. Back then, if it was raining on Shabbos and you wanted to cover your hat (and you didn’t have one of those slimy gray fitted covers) you grabbed whatever bag you could find from your drawer and placed your hat inside it.
My father, adorned in his gray rain hat, loved to poke fun at the assortment of bags people wore [within the eruv] as they hurried to shul in the rain. He would often quip that you could tell a lot about a person by the bag he wears on his head in the rain. There were bags from various shopping stores and department stores, and of all colors. Now and then you would see a very religious-looking fellow wearing a bag on his head from a store he would never step foot in. You knew he grabbed the first bag he could find and didn’t bother to look at what it was before he ran out of his house.
The new ShayneCoat has put an end to all that individuality, and now all you see are the same trite (although quite effective) black hoods. Well, with one notable exception. It seems that I left my ShayneCoat in our bungalow at camp last summer. And just my luck, it seems to rain every Shabbos recently. So the last few weeks when I walked out of my house in a bright rain jacket, bearing a bag upon my hat, my children came running to the door to laugh at me. I tried telling them that this is what noble people wear in the rain, but they weren’t buying it.
As I was walking through the rain this past Shabbos, with a beautiful Wesley Kosher bag atop my hat, ignoring the cars that slowed down as they passed me (“You see that guy? Man, the Jews are weirder than I thought!”) I had a much greater appreciation for an anecdote I once read.
In his book Walking with Rabbi Miller, Rabbi Mordechai Dolinsky, a devoted disciple of Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, relates the following: “In my memory I am walking with the Rebbe, and dark, threatening clouds in the distance are closing in on us. Before you know it we feel actual precipitation, intermittent and gentle at first, then turning into a very wet downpour. All this is marked by an increase of action on the street, people running helter-skelter and being very vocal with their complaints. We continue walking together, and the Rebbe changes the topic and addresses the subject of the raindrops. He focuses on the vegetation, the colorful, flavorful fruits that we enjoy and indulge in, and explains that they are actually ‘coming down’ right now in the form of raindrops. Then he continues to enumerate other gifts of Hashem, including the wonderful world of sefarim that are in the making at this moment, as they are printed on paper that grows in the forest. He then points out that “people” are falling; all the new babies, our own children and grandchildren – Klal Yisrael, the tzaddikim!
“Now to see the Rebbe’s face – the joy, the excitement and ecstasy… It is one thing to sit in a dry, comfortable home, lecturing about the wonderful blessings of rain, repeatedly verbalizing this concept. But to be in the wetness of the rain pouring down, and then to be in a state of ecstasy, certainly reflects one’s true feelings.”
As the rain dripped upon the bag atop my head, and my toes began to wrinkle inside my drenched socks, I could only marvel at the appreciation Rabbi Miller had for every aspect of creation. Whereas most people are annoyed by wind, Rabbi Miller was excited about the benefits the world was gaining from it. The same held true for snow and cold weather.
It’s a great lesson to think about. But if you’ll excuse me I have to go out to buy myself a new ShayneCoat.