I am accustomed to experiencing nissim when conducting grueling walking inspections of an entire eruv. Though challenging, such annual or biannual reviews are essential to maintain a continuous improvement culture and keep an eruv in tip-top shape. It is not surprising to discern Hashem’s helping hand in these situations since the Gemara (Yoma 38b) teaches that “Haba l’taher mesayin oto,” Hashem supports those who seek to purify. However, the circumstances before, during and after the July 8, 2021, Scarsdale eruv review were extraordinary.
The Scarsdale Eruv
The Scarsdale eruv is under the excellent care of Rav Nuriel Klinger, the very well-liked assistant rabbi at the Young Israel of Scarsdale. I was delighted to find the eruv in superb shape. We decided to make a few enhancements to the eruv, as we try to raise its standards each year (as advised by Rav Hershel Schachter).
An Intense Rainstorm
Rav Klinger and I worked meticulously but efficiently since the forecast called for heavy rain in the afternoon. We were finished with 90% of the walking review when the drizzle began. I suggested we go into a nearby store, call an Uber, and complete the eruv review on a more calm weather day. However, Rav Klinger suggested we carry on despite the inconvenience. We feared that if we did not seize the present mitzvah, we would not easily find another opportunity. Chazal teach: “Mitzvah haba’ah l’yadecha al tachmitzena,” do not delay the performance of a mitzvah in one’s grasp (Rashi to Shemot 12:17, citing the Mechilta).
The drizzle slowly became more intense, but we persisted. I drew inspiration by thinking of Israeli soldiers continuing on their mission of helping the Jewish people even in intensely inclement weather. We had a duty to complete for the Jewish community, and we were determined to do so with enthusiasm.
At the final few blocks, the downpour began. Despite the difficulty, we completed our task with care and without compromise. However, our clothes were soaked to the bone.
The Long Drive Home
At about 3:30, I began to make my way home. Scarsdale is approximately a half an hour’s drive from my home in Teaneck, and I was eagerly looking forward to changing into dry garments when I arrived home. To my surprise, the drive home took no less than two hours and 15 minutes! Unfortunately, roads were severely flooded by the intense storm. I was fortunate that my navigation system directed me home in a manner that avoided an even more extended trip home through the treacherous roads.
Can a Mitzvah Be Undone?
As you can imagine, sitting in soaking wet clothes for two and a half hours in a car is most unappealing. Moreover, I was eager to get home to learn with my children. I was tempted to regret completing the eruv inspection in the rain.
I immediately canceled the idea! One should never regret performing a mitzvah! The Gemara (Kiddushin 40b) teaches that just as regret (charata) helps undo an aveira, regretting a mitzvah erases the mitzvah retroactively. Thus, I resolved to be very glad I completed the eruv review with Rav Klinger despite the pouring rain.
Encouraging Minyan Attendance
There is more to the story. Since rain was expected, Rav Klinger and I considered reciting Shacharit very early to complete the inspection before the onset of the shower. However, we decided that one never benefits from missing a minyan.
One additional point: Before leaving for the Shacharit minyan at the Young Israel of Scarsdale, my two sons needed rides to the Shacharit minyan at Teaneck’s Shaarei Orah. I decided to take them despite it delaying my trip to Scarsdale (they could have walked, but I felt it essential to support their minyan attendance). Moreover, my younger son got a late start and could not join his older brother on the ride to Shacharit. Upon returning home, I saw my younger son leaving the house and beginning to walk to Shacharit. I decided to drive him as well, despite this delaying me even further. All this further pushed forward the eruv review start time, and in the end, we were caught in the rain as a result.
In the meantime, only a few minutes before I arrived home in Teaneck, a huge tree limb from a neighbor’s tree fell onto the street, crushing a car. The occupants were miraculously spared, and my older son Binyamin assisted in their rescue (two local news stations interviewed him about his successful efforts!).
Now we arrive at the most extraordinary part of this story. My son Binyamin noted that had I come home any earlier, my car would have been parked in the path of the fallen tree and would have been destroyed. Moreover, I, God forbid, could have been under the tree as it fell!! Thank God we continued to inspect the eruv in the rain! Baruch Hashem, Rav Klinger and I decided to pray with a minyan! Thank God I took the extra time to bring both of my sons to Shacharit despite it making me late! Had I not done these various mitzvot, I could have, lo aleinu, been at the very wrong place at the very wrong time!
Conclusion: Never Regret a Mitzvah!!
At Arvit, we ask Hashem, “V’haser satan milfanenu u’me’achorenu,” to remove the satan from before us and after us. Before we perform a mitzvah, the yetzer hara tries to deter us from doing the good deed. After we act correctly, the satan tries to convince us to regret doing a mitzvah. Therefore we ask Hashem to remove the satan from before and after us, meaning to help us conquer the challenges imposed on us by the yetzer hara before and after doing a mitzvah.
Never regret doing a mitzvah. Only good will come of it. I do not regret doing mitzvot that led to being very uncomfortable for three hours. The delay certainly saved my car. It may even have saved my life!
Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.