When I received news of his passing, the visual that immediately came to mind was that of his face at the news of his father’s passing. By Divine Providence, I had slept over that night – and awoke to the scene of Rabbi processing the loss in real time. It was very raw but in a strange way, also calming. It lent an air of acceptance and procedure to an otherwise incomprehensible occurrence for a pre-teen – I don’t remember the date but I could not have been bar mitzva yet.
But that look of consternation – not anger – just a raw grief coupled with immense disappointment (as I recall it), reminded me of another event that I remember fondly with immense Hakoras Hatov to this day.
Our 6th grade class was tasked with raising funds for a tool shed in the Rabbi’s house – as well as to fund a class trip to Toronto. Some context: The penguins were deep into playoffs – perhaps even Stanley Cup round. And some texture – at Niagara Falls, while intently gazing at the phenomenon, Rabbi’s arms suddenly took hold of me as he triumphantly proclaimed, ” I saved you!”. Of course, I was fine the whole time – but somehow it felt like indeed he did save me.
Anyway, let’s just say, that of the many childhood features that stayed with me, I’m not particular fond of sales calls today – and I certainly wasn’t effective at age 11-12. A family friend had rachmonus on me and that was the extent of my bike-a-thon fund raising haul. There was no monies for the toolshed, probably insufficient even for the cost of the trip itself and most certainly not enough for any spending money.
Rabbi Rodal was a nice guy – so I was hoping in the back of my mind he would find a way to “take care of things” for me. I didn’t give it too much thought – but as we packed into the van in front of PZ – I handed him my envelope and asked quite frankly if I could use some of the funds from the trip cost for my own spending wishes ie “canteen money”. I wasn’t particularly cognizant that there were classmates mulling around – but there were – and Rabbi (with that same expression/face I remember from his father’s passing” raised his voice and let me know in no uncertain terms that that was out of the question – he needed this to cover the cost of the trip itself etc etc.
Sometimes a patch hurts. Sometimes there is accompanying shame and embarrassment that prolongs the suffering of the initial sting. This was not one of those times. I was saddened and slightly embarrassed – but I knew he was right – and as the trip wore on, I came to terms with the reality that I would not have any spending money – and that was that.
At one of the rest stops, Rabbi caught me alone – in the parking lot and discreetly handed me the envelope with all of the cash I had given him for the cost of the trip. All of it. He then explained that because the others were standing next to me (at PZ), he had to reject my request as he did so that no one would feel it was unfair etc.
I was floating. And it wasn’t just the money. I felt a love. A wise, deep love.
At different times of my life, this story came to mind. I don’t think I ever thanked him (outside the original moment). But I am immensely grateful for his wisdom and for that particular act of kindness and the lessons it conveyed. So thank you Rabbi Rodal. May your memory be for a blessing.
And may G-d’s blessings rain down upon your family. Apparent and abundant.