There is a store in Lakewood, New Jersey where I buy hats and shoes. This place has my extremities covered. (I guess the soul is my responsibility!) I want to tell you why I like this store. Mr. Aaron Yosef Schreiber puts his soul into this business. I like to patronize stores where someone cares. I dislike chain stores, where you can stand on line at the checkout for an hour and no one is interested. They get a salary with or without you.
Chain stores are an outgrowth of Western culture, which is ravenous for material things, like its progenitor, Esau, who said, “Pour into me, now, some of that very red stuff!” (Genesis 25:30) In that world, your credit card is more important than you, and our rabbis tell us, “There is no sanctity in things which are weighed or measured.” (Taanis 8b)
At Mr. Schreiber’s store, there is a real person. And he climbs ladders!
If you go to the back of the store, you will see shelves going literally fifteen feet in the air. There are thousands of shoes and hats up to the ceiling. Mr. Schreiber explained to me that most shoe stores have shelves in the back going up maybe six feet high. That is as high as the hired help are willing to climb. If the shelves would be fifteen feet high, everything above six feet would sit there until the end of time.
But Mr. Schreiber is the boss, and he is going to climb. He is up and down those fifteen-foot ladders probably hundreds of times a day! And fast! Why? Because it’s his store! Does he get tired? I imagine he’s wiped out by the end of the day, but he does it.
Reb Aaron Yosef is a human dynamo. His livelihood depends on it, but I think he loves it when his customers are happy. He loves it when a bar mitzvah boy goes out with a beautiful new hat and shining shoes and the father is brimming with pride at his son. Reb Aaron Yosef has nachas. In the chain stores, they don’t know what nachas is.
The other day, when we were in the store, my wife counted the shoes on display. She estimated there were literally one thousand! And they are all backed up by hundreds of shoes in the fifteen-foot-high shelves in the store-room, because you need every size of every model.
This is not an ad; it’s just the truth. But I want to make a point.
Rosh Hashana is a few days away. My friends, we have to climb that ladder. We have to be like Reb Aaron Yosef Schreiber. If we care, we are going to climb the ladder. If we know that we can make it only by climbing that ladder then we are going to climb the ladder. When you live like the surrounding culture – G-d forbid –your life is the credit card.
“We express gratitude before You, Hashem, our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers, that You have established our portion with those who dwell in the study hall and have not established our portion with idlers. For we arise early and they arise early. We arise early for the words of Torah while they arise early for idle words. We toil and thy toil: we toil and receive reward while they toil and do not receive reward. We run and they run: we to the life of the World to Come, while they run to the well of destruction, as it is said, ‘But You, oh G-d, You will lower them into the well of destruction, men of bloodshed and deceit shall not live out half their days … and I will trust in You.’” (Hadran)
I heard a brilliant explanation of Parshas Shoftim from Rabbi Yaakov Landau Shlita”h at Congregation Chanichei Ha Yeshivos (Lakewood) on the words “Tamim tehi’ye … You shall be wholehearted with your G-d.” (Deuteronomy 18:13). Rashi says, “Look ahead to Him and do not delve into the future. But rather, whatever comes upon you, accept with wholeheartedness and then you will be with Him and of His portion.” It all comes down to where we place our trust.
We can climb the ladder. We learned this at the beginning of our history. “And [Yaakov] dreamt, and behold: a ladder was set earthward and its top reached heavenward, and behold: angels of G-d were ascending and descending.” (Genesis 28:12)
We have to depend on Hashem. We are exhausted, but we have to know, “ha nosain l’y’aif koach … He gives strength to the weary” (Morning Blessings) Rabbi Landau says that you can immerse yourself in the secular media and drown in depression because the world appears to be one overwhelming crisis. If that is your world, G-d forbid, there is no hope.
But, on the contrary, we rely upon Hashem. We are going to climb the ladder. If we know that Hashem is going to help us … if we know the ladder goes up without limit … then we will climb, and Hashem will stretch out His Hand – so to speak – to pull us up!
Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are coming. We can climb to the top. Nothing can stop us. It is our life! It is our future! Moshiach is coming! The entire structure of emptiness around us is going to evaporate!
“Arise! Shine! For your light has arrived, and the glory of Hashem has shined upon you! For behold: Darkness shall cover the earth and dense cloud the kingdoms, but upon you shall shine Hashem, and His glory shall be seen upon you. Nations will go by your light, and kings by the brightness of your shine….” (Haftaras Ki Savo)
May we see it soon in our days!
Aaron Yosef Schreiber on the fifteen-foot ladder