June 14, 2024
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June 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

My shul is moving. To be fair, it’s been “moving” for about two years now. But it’s actually moving as I’m writing this. I’m supposed to be helping.

We’ve been in this location for about 10 years, give or take, but we have to leave, because the landlord keeps raising the rent, and the shul isn’t exactly a huge moneymaker, seeing as the only thing we really sell is aliyos, and it’s only for about 13 days a year to people who are already in the shul. It’s not like we post signs outside: “Now selling aliyos! Buy one hagbah/gelilah, get a second FREE on equal or smaller sefer!” We’d have random people coming in out of curiosity.

I’m not thrilled about the move. The new location is at this awkward distance from our house, where it’s more worth it to drive than to walk. And once we’re in the car, there are a lot of shuls in town where it’s more worth it to drive than to walk, though none of them have parking. This new location is going to be the only shul in town with a parking lot that holds more than five cars. In fact, that can be our slogan: “Come to our shul! We have a parking lot!” That’s not a great slogan for Shabbat and Yom Tov, but we can always then erase the board outside and replace it with aliyah sales. (“This week only: Help chip in to buy Chosson Torah for the rav!” Who are we bidding against?!)

But today I came to the old location one last time, on a weekday morning, to help with the move. Everyone who was available was asked to show up, so it was basically a bunch of guys who didn’t have to be at work for various reasons. Plus there were the movers, who were actually paid to be there. So the rest of us were supposed to … we weren’t sure what, exactly. Every time I started doing something, the movers would come back in and say, “Oh, we’ll take care of that.” Were we just supposed to be supervising them and answering questions we didn’t know the answers to? All the people who knew what we were supposed to be doing were at work.

We were originally told that we’d be putting seforim in boxes, but some mispallelim had shown up the night before and taken care of most of that, only stopping when they ran out of boxes. See, the thing about moving a shul is that on the one hand, it’s an easy move because there’s not a lot of stairs involved, but on the other hand, every box is full of seforim. And it’s hard to estimate how many boxes you need for seforim, because each box can only hold about six seforim. You know how when you put people together, they can accomplish more than they can individually? Well, there’s a similar concept with seforim: One sefer isn’t that heavy, but two seforim together weigh 90 lbs. This might sound like a lot when it comes to moving a shul of almost 2,000 seforim, but it’s very convenient later on, when Beit Din Shel Maalah is weighing your mitzvot against your aveiros.

“How many mitzvot do you have?”

“Well, I learned these two seforim…”

So someone set me out to drive around the neighborhood and find more boxes. It was recycling day, so I had to stay one step ahead of the trucks—far enough ahead to avoid having conversations I didn’t want to have. And by the time I got back, it was just me and like two other guys. So I started putting seforim in boxes, and the movers came back in and said, “Nah, we’ll take care of those.”

I think our job was more about trying to figure out how to get the aron out of the beit midrash. That’s what everyone was arguing about the first time I walked in.

See, years ago, when we first moved into this location, someone had built a beautiful, well-constructed aron kodesh frame around the safe we were using to house the sifrei Torah and the stand it was sitting on—so well-constructed that there was no way to take it apart, which was very unfortunate, because it was bigger than the doorway.

“Then how did they get it in?”

They built it in the beit midrash.

So the guy who’d originally built the aron showed up with a circular saw, and I was sent out to get boxes, and by the time I came back, the aron was in two pieces, and most of the guys had apparently hightailed it out of there.

But the day wasn’t just about boxing or not boxing seforim and cutting an aron in half and wondering what to do with all the half-eaten herrings in the fridge. There were also a lot of random things that we had to figure out what to do with—an assortment of unclaimed coats and vests and a shoe, a riding toy, leftover premade oil glasses from several Chanukiahs, two-year-old jelly beans, a Hatzalah kit, a bunch of brochures about talking in shul that someone was supposed to—I don’t know—passive-aggressively give out during davening, several cases of Shabbat toilet paper, and the contents of the shul’s unofficial muktzah drawer, featuring car keys and years and years of people’s change that they’d accidentally walked into shul with on a Friday.

And what are we supposed to do with all these aravos?


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published seven books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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