2012 Camp Monroe Midos Message # 5
FOR BOOTS AND A SWEATER - A true story Many years ago in Russia, there lived two friends named Charlie and Paul. There was no school in their town, so Charlie and Paul learned with a private melamed (teacher). When the boys were twelve years old, their grandfathers promised them gifts if they learned a certain amount of Torah verses by heart. Charlie and Paul studied for many weeks, until they knew them perfectly. With great excitement they came to their grandfathers to be tested. “You have made us proud,” their grandfathers said. “Here are your gifts.” Charlie’s grandfather gave him a pair of warm boots for the cold Russian winters. Paul’s grandfather gave him a warm woolen sweater. The boys thanked their grandfathers and put on the gifts right away. Then they went out for a walk, enjoying their new gifts. As they were walking, they saw their friend Shlomie. Shlomie was very poor. His coat was thin and his boots were old. They did not keep him warm anymore. Charlie took off his boots, and Paul took off his sweater. They went to Shlomie and said, “We would like to give you these gifts so that you will be warm this winter.” Shlomie could not believe it. A brand new pair of boots and a warm sweater! “Thank you so much”, he told Charlie and Paul. “I will use these every day until the winter is over.” Charlie and Paul were cold without their boots and sweater. They ran all the way home shivering. The next time Charlie and Paul learned with their teacher, they asked him if Shlomie could join them. “His family won’t be able to pay you,” said Charlie. “Can he learn with us anyway?” Yes, he can learn with us,” said the teacher. So Shlomie joined them. Shlomie was living with his grandparents, and they could not take care of him anymore. Charlie wanted to help Shlomie find a place to live. He asked his father if Shlomie could come live with them. “I’m sorry,” said his father, “But we have a large family, and our house is crowded. We don’t have room for another person.” Charlie begged his father, but still his father did not agree. The only place where Shlomie could sleep was in the shul, where other poor people slept. The women of the neighborhood brought food to those who stayed there. Charlie said to his father, “Shlomie will be so lonely sleeping in the shul every night. May I sleep in the shul with him?” “Charlie, you have a comfortable bed at home,” his father answered, “Why would you want to sleep on a hard bench in the shul?” “I don’t want my friend to be alone. I know it will make him feel much better if I sleep with him.” “If that is what you want, then I give you permission,” his father said. When Shlomie heard what Charlie wanted to do, he could hardly believe it. “You are going to move out of your home to come live in the shul with me? Are you sure you want to do this?” “Yes, I am sure,” answered Charlie. And so, every night, Charlie and
Shlomie would lie down on the benches in the shul, where they would talk to each other, then say Sh’ma, and go to sleep. After a while, Shlomie moved to South America where he had relatives. He grew up there and went to work. He was no longer poor. He got married and always had enough money for his family. Charlie’s family moved to Israel. Charlie grew up and got married, but it was not easy for him to make a living. Sometimes he did not have enough money to support his family. Many years went by. It was Tisha B’Av. Jews from all over Israel had come to daven (pray) at the Kotel (the Western Wall), to cry over the destruction of the Temple. Charlie went there, too. Shlomie was on his first visit to Israel. He also went to the Kotel, and he was amazed at how many thousands of people had come there that night. Suddenly Shlomie heard a familiar voice saying the Kinnos prayers of Tisha B’Av. He knew he had heard that voice before, a very long time ago. Whose voice could it be? He turned to see where the voice was coming from. He looked at the man. Could it be? When the man stopped praying for a moment, he said to him, “Excuse me sir. Is your name Charlie?” The man just looked at him. “Yes, but who are you?” he asked. “How do you know my name?” Shlomie could hardly speak. “I am Shlomie,” he said. “Your friend from Russia. You gave me your boots and slept with me in the shul…” Tears of joy came to Charlie’s eyes. “Oh, Shlomie! It has been so many years…” They hugged each other and cried together, remembering their days as children in Russia. Charlie and Shlomie spent many hours talking about their lives and their families. When Shlomie heard that Charlie was having a hard time supporting his family, he said, “Charlie, you will never have to worry about money again. I never forgot how good you were to me when we were children. You gave up so much for me. Now I will repay you. I will send you money for your family every month.” Now Charlie has everything he needs. Every month, Shlomie sends him a check from South America to repay the favors Charlie did for him when they were young. They are still close friends today.
Stanley says, “we can encourage others by giving them our attention, friendship and advice. They benefit, we benefit, and… we never know how things will turn out in life!”