May 20, 2024
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May 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

My Mind, My Heart and My Hands  Will Always Be Connected With the Almighty

When I was about 12 years old, I made a three-tier end table in shop class. I designed it myself and made it with no instruction or help from anyone. I have it to this day, and looking at it now I can say that it is a fine piece of mahogany furniture. Every detail is flawless. and I made it with the hand tools that we were given to work with, even a hand-crank drill and a very thin band saw for cutting circles. In other words, not a single tool was powered by electricity. I still can’t believe my workmanship, with those primitive tools, at such a young age.

During the summer before I made that end table, I went to a lumber yard in our area and asked if I could have some scrap wood. I said that I wanted to make a small shoeshine box so I could bring home some money by shining people’s shoes. I showed a picture that I sketched of it, and the man in the yard took me over to a scrap barrel and said that I could take any of the wood from it. I never forgot that man and his kindness to me.

I enjoyed making that shoeshine box with a slightly angled foot and heel-stop that functioned also as a handle for carrying the box. I included a little flip-open door for keeping the shoe polish, brushes and the rest of the paraphernalia inside and out of sight. All of this I made in our backyard with my father’s tools from our garage.

I was thinking that my price for a shoeshine had to be very reasonable if I wanted to stay in business. I made the box, but it turned out to be an unfulfilled dream. My mom said “No!” to this whole idea of mine. She said that she didn’t want me doing this kind of work and insisted that I go to Hebrew School in the afternoons instead, and as time went on I realized that she was right because I then had the time to study for my bar mitzvah.

I will always remember Rabbi Steinberg, who taught me my lessons with the musical notes “Mah Pah Poshtaw,” etc. from ancient Hebrew. I know by heart some of the Haftorah, including the nigun, melody, exactly how he taught it to me. I’m sure he would be proud of me now, because I can still sing the words almost like a cantor.

“Ahdovo-or ahsheh-eh-eh- hehr dibehr Adonnoh-ohoy El yeermioh hue Onovee -hih hee hih hee lohvoh-huh huh voho Ahl key say Lehyayaysh ofzeh oohmem shahl tichuh bichuhl dohor vuh doh-or.”

When my bar mitzvah service ended, two ladies came over to me, smiling while pulling me down to kiss me. It seemed awkward because I was six feet tall when I was 13. What they said to me I’ll never forget; it was a touching compliment. They said that they never heard a bar mitzvah boy sing the way I sang. They said that they just had to come up and tell this to me. And I just have to say “thank you” again to them now, in the beautiful place they are in, honoring them with respect, by writing about them here.

Getting back to my end table in school, when it was dry from the stain and varnish and I was to take it home, I was told that a shop medal, which I had never heard about, was given to a boy who made a foot bench in our class. When I joined the crowd that was looking at his foot bench and his medal, my eyes glanced over to the teacher who at that very moment was looking directly at me, I guess to see my reaction. I know he read my mind; I could see that bench was far from perfect. I made no comment about it to anyone, I just slowly turned and walked back to my work table.

When I was leaving to go home, holding my end table tightly under my arm, the teacher called me back and said that the shop medal should have been mine, but because of my constant talking in class he gave it to the other boy. I reluctantly told him that I was fine with his decision, and his telling me that the medal should have been mine was as good as getting it.

The talking in class that he accused me of was my asking him about the tools that were on shelves there, tools that I had never seen before and wanted to know what their purpose and function was. Instead of him answering my questions and encouraging me, it seemed that he became annoyed, but one thing I did know was that I had made the best piece of woodwork, not only in my class, but in the entire school.

I almost forgot that he had given me expensive mahogany wood for the making of my end table; he gave no one else hard wood to work with. He knew that it would not go to waste with me.

I couldn’t help feeling happy for that boy as he proudly showed everyone his medal. He really was a nice kid, unassuming in nature with almost childlike enthusiasm. It was right then and there, like a message from God, that I realized that boy was special, and it was then I understood what the shop teacher must have seen and felt about him, because I felt the same way: a boy who deserved to receive a medal for his work and be praised for it. I could just see that boy’s smiling parents being happy for him while saying how proud they were of him. I realized that the shop teacher had his heart in the right place concerning that boy.

At home, my Pa said, “You made that!” while shaking my hand vigorously, then hugging me, as my mom looked on with a contented smile.

When I think about this now, I feel soothed and humbled and glad that it all turned out the way it did.

By David S. Weinstein

 

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