The first time I ran into the Rabbi who lived next door I went to shake his hand and felt his hesitation. Even though he stood over six feet in his big black hat, his hand shake was hardly noteworthy. Like a dead fish. Later I would find out that it was taboo for him to shake the hand of a female other than his wife. I had a lot to learn.
Something I learned from a friend was that on their Sabbath they adhere to a strict set of rules. One thing they cannot do is use electricity. All the lights are set to go on and off with timers based on need. Switching on the AC when it's hot isn't allowed on the Sabbath. So during a hot Saturday in late October (that hadn't been forecast btw), I went over to ask if I could do anything (hint hint) with their thermostat for them. See, it was okay for me to do it for them but I also knew through my savvy friend that they couldn't ask me for help. I had to offer. Strangely enough Rabbi A had just been discussing what to do and how they could persuade me without asking to come over and help them out. It was one time I am glad I listened to a prompting, because it was the first move on the way to a most interesting relationship.
One day I made a bold decision way outside my comfort zone. When the time had come for me to walk five minutes around the corner to the school and pick up my grade school children, my baby was still asleep. I hoped to find Mrs A at home next door and planned ask her to take the baby monitor to listen for her for a brief time while I snuck over to get the kids. Instead the Rabbi answered. Trying not to act shaken, I shyly informed him of my request. His question was classic. He asked if the need should arise for him to enter my home and get Big Girl out of her crib (she was about 7 months old at the time) would the look of him scare her? I had to suppress a grin and be honest with him. "probably she would be afraid of you sir" Here is what he looked like by the way...
I assured him that the chances of her wakening were slim to none and that even if she cried for a minute or two that I would be back very shortly. So without shaking hands this time, we had an agreement. They continued to help me in this way on occasions when I needed them. It was Mrs A who nick named Big Girl 'Bubulah' (Hebrew for little doll).
I also recall another deal that was of a much bigger nature. During Passover one year, I volunteered to be a purchaser of chametz for not only his congregation but two others in the area. For the duration of Passover that season I was the 'owner' of several people's summer house kitchens, left side desk drawers at the office, boxes in the garage, etc. In some cases, it was easier for them to sell me an unused kitchen in Ocean City for 10 days than to go clean and set aside everything with leavening agent in it. So they'd sell me the kitchen. It was the least I could do for them. We shook hands with a hanky between us to seal the deal. "Enjoy all your new posessions" the youngest Rabbi said to me on the way out. He was totally serious about it. Even though I never saw my new purchases I had a thick stack of contracts written out in Hebrew to prove my ownership and responsibility for each member's chametz. Or their kitchens with chametz inside... if you will. "Your beer is safe with me" was my Mormon reply. They laughed. (You know there is barley in beer right?) After my probationary ownership was up they came back and asked me if I wanted to make a payment on my property. My twenty dollar down payment was a steal really. I said the appropriate answer of "no" sold them back the items, got my $20.00 back, and it was a done deal. A deal I will never forget and one that makes for a great story with friends at dinner.
Tonight I found out that Rabbi Anemer passed away due to a stroke. My thoughts are with his wife and their congregation.