“Let's table the discussion" is an Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children. (Dedicated to the Refuah Sheleima of Shalva Adina Bas Sarah Chana & Eliyahu Aharon Ben Yocheved Yetta Ettel).
Well known Frum philanthropist Howard Jonas tells of his initial business venture – a hot dog stand that he opened in front of Van Etten Hospital and across the street from a bar called the Tender Trap in the Bronx. He reminisces about how, on Sunday mornings, the bar was such a mess until a sweet elderly couple would come and clean the place up.
Jonas had made a nice impression on the couple and they were always happy to allow him to help himself to free ice. He tried to give them free hot dogs in return, but they were on salt-free diets and could not accept them. Desiring to repay the kindness, each Sunday without fail, he would bring the lady, the nicest rose he could find.
On a particular Sunday, Jonas, who was a young man, had his stand’s location ripped away from him by an individual with a professional cart whose 24 year old son pulled a switchblade on the much younger Jonas.
Jonas went to the Tender Trap and told the lady that if she saw trouble to please call the police. Instead, she went out to the new competition and told them to move on. The father-son team laughed and called her a nasty name before they told her to go back into her store.
Fifteen minutes later, 3 large Cadillacs stopped in front of the stands. Seven men emerged and one charged the stands screaming “Who insulted my mother?” The old lady’s son charged the stand, pummeled the son and convinced the new vendors to move with a deal that they couldn’t refuse.
He then bought his whole entourage a slew of hotdogs from Jonas and paid and tipped him well. He reminded him that “any friend of my mother’s is a friend of mine.”
Jonas contemplated his good fortune and success. He noted that success in business comes as a result of many different factors, most of them things we cannot control. Talent and luck come from Hashem and we do not control these factors. However, good character which he noted is also a crucial factor for success, can be developed.
In a famous comment from a midrash he cannot find, the author of the Ein Yaakov notes that there are 3 opinions as to what the most important rule (Klal Gadol) is, in the entire Torah. While one opinion notes that it is the history of the Jewish people (Zeh Sefer Toldos HaAdam) and another notes that it is the principles of civility (V’Ahavta L’Reiacha Kamocha), it is the third that is most cryptic. The third maintains that it is the Possuk of the Korban haTamid – Es HaKeves Echad Taaseh BaBoker. The author of the Ein Yaakov explains that it is the concept of consistency that is the most important Klal in the Torah. Consistency allows us to realize that there is continuity in the religion but also that there is much more still yet to be done (Es HaKeves HaEchad Taaseh Babakor V’Eis HaKeves HaSheni Taaseh Bein HaArbayim).
In life, we have many experiences that are “amazing” and “inspiring.” But what changes experiences from amazing and inspiring to “life changing” is the ability to apply them with persistence, consistency and continuity. That is not only true in the realm of specific Jewish practice – it is true for general Mentschlachkeit as well. The building blocks of human character – courage, empathy, loyalty, honesty, integrity, kindness, generosity and the ability to cooperate are all factors of life that can be worked on and cultivated best when they are worked on with persistence and continuously.
What areas of growth are YOU working on in YOUR life?
How are you working on achieving them daily?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and communities.