Bolok 2014: Special Edition – Norman Bigel

| July 3, 2014 | 2 Comments
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262Warmest mazel tov wishes to Zena and Norman Dachs, nearly mishpocho, dedicated Oisvorf readers and followers whose granddaughter Jayme, daughter of Karen and Michael, will be wed later this evening to David Chapler. May the bride and groom enjoy at least 70 years of blissful marriage. Why 70?  Read below.
Raboyseyee and Raboyseyettes: 


Happy Birthday Norman Bigel

The talis zekil (bag) 

84 years ago this coming shabbis a young Norman Bigel celebrated his bar mitzvah on Parshas Bolok, the very parsha we will be reading this coming shabbis. The year was 1930. Norman will IY’H (with God’s help) turn 97 in three days, on July 6th.  That’s many decades ago. And as we Yiddin say, biz-hindred-in-tzvontzig (may he live in good health till 120).


The Oisvorfer had the great pleasure of having Norman and Alan, one of his three children, at the shabbis tish two weeks ago where he charmed and mesmerized the family with his elegance and storytelling; his memory of events dating back 60, 70 and 80 years is crystal clear and mamish gishmak. As an aside, Alan, though quite youthful himself, is just north of 65. Norman is a fine gentlemen who loves shul, shabbis and everything Jewish. He was more than happily married for 70 years to his sweetheart Ethel whom he met at a dance in Boro Park; my how the times have changed. They knew each other for 75 years. Their courtship, mostly through the mail while Norman, an officer, was in the service flying around the world, lasted five years. He was smitten from the very first dance. “I met her at a dance and we never stopped dancing” recounted Norman just last night when the Oisvorfer stopped off to say hello and to find his bar mitzvah picture seen just below. He sorely misses Ethel who passed away towards the end of March, just a few short months ago at the age of 93.
As an aside, he truly enjoyed the eishes chayil’s cooking. For his upcoming birthday, she promised to deliver a fresh potato kugil; he is blessed with an excellent appetite as well. The Oisvorfer only met Norman and his son Alan a few months back? How? Over a talis and this is how it all unfolded.
A few shabossim before Pesach, the Oisvorfer, at the urging of the eishes chayil, found himself davening at Congregation Beth Sholom here in Lawrence, New York. Grada the Oisvorfer davens there daily, really enjoys the Rabbi, the lectures and why he doesn’t daven there more regularly, ver veyst. In any event, we divert from Parshas Bolok in which the Yiddin are, as was Moishe just last week, involved in yet another form of shtekin abuse. Of course you recall that in last week’s episode of the ‘not quite Promised Land worthy Yiddin’, Moishe hit the rock and got punished; this week, the Yiddin are shtekin abusing the Moabite shiksas while getting rid of rocks, if you chap. In one of the wildest stories the heylige Toirah will ever tell us, of course with much additional color and efsher some embellishment by the myriad medroshim who were all over this myseh, a number of Yiddin will have sinned by combining shtekin abuse and avoido zoro, always a lethal and deadly combination. How many? We don’t know but 24,000 were dead by the time the parsha is over. That last tidbit found at the very end of the parsha. And how many times has the Oisvorfer told you that the RBSO typically gets
rid of real troublemakers almost immediately; this last batch lasted but 9 pisukim, not even 1 full aliya! Time permitting, avada we would love to cover that topic one more time. Of course, you can find extensive coverage of Bolok at
Zicher you wouldn’t want to miss the amazing story of how the second generation Yiddin, those slated to enter the land, entered some other areas first, if you chap, which they did. How could this happen? Simply stated, the heylige Toirah will tell us that they were seduced by the hot shiksa Moabite mydlich. Nu, efsher we can kler that the Yiddin were affected by the severe desert heat, ver veyst. In any event, you can read previous posts on Bolok, by clicking here for Bolok 2013 or here forBolok 2012; it’s mamish worth your time.
Ober this year, and this week, we will celebrate Norman’s birthday; we will divert from the parsha and tell you instead the givaldige story and circumstances of how the Oisvorfer came to meet Norman Bigel. Why? It’s being told this week for several reasons. Ershtens, it’s a feel good story with a happy ending: this week’s parsha does of course deal with that subject, if you chap. Moreover, the myseh (story), unlike many medroshim which could zicher be emes, though a healthy number are mistama meant just to teach us a lesson, is 100% emes; not one detail is exaggerated.
We are creatures of habit and it so happens that whenever the Oisvorfer does daven at Beth Sholom, he always finds himself seated in the same section. His chaver Jay used to sit in that first row of the last section, mistama for the extended leg room; we call these the bulkhead seats. On this particular shabbis morning, over on the aisle and mamish just to the right, a distinguished looking gentleman was stationed in his wheelchair while his son was seated nearby. Except for shabbis morning salutations, if that, no other words were exchanged. Both the gentleman and his son were perfect strangers. Veyter: later that afternoon, at the pre-mincha class, the Oisvorfer was back in shul, in his favorite seat and so was the gentleman and his son. The son recited the mourner’s kaddish following Mincha but was also busily moving around. He was obviously looking for something. He was checking the pockets of the benches immediately nearby. He was seemingly agitated that the item he was seeking went missing. Eventually curiosity kicked in, the Oisvorfer asked what item was being sought. Said the son: “my dad’s talis bag is missing” Shoin! And the talis? That he had but the zekel (talis bag) was nowhere to be found. Wanting to help perform the great mitzvah of hashovas avaydo (returning lost objects to their rightful owner) avada one of the 613 mitzvois the RBSO handed down, and one of the 72 we will learn when we hit parshas Ki Say-Tzay, the Oisvorfer joined in the search but the zekel was not to be found. Who would take a zekel? Meyla (it’s understood) when coats go missing. Why? Because es-farshtyzich (it’s logical) that shul is sadly a perfect venue for those looking to upgrade their outerwear. Ober a talis zekel?
We’re obligated to return lost items? So says the heyligeToirah: (Devorim22:3) …So shall you do for any lost article of your brother that may become lost… you shall not hide yourself.   In a few weeks, we’ll efsher explore this law and its numerous nuances. Veyter: Shabbis was soon over. They left zekel-less.
During the week, the same gentleman and his son were in shul and when asked, reported that the talis bag was still missing. One shabbis later, it was still missing. The Oisvorfer left for Pesach and returned 10 days later. That very first shabbis afternoon, again at mincha time, there they were, father and son. Again the question was asked about the missing talis bag. Both father and son remained exasperated that the bag was still missing. By that time, the shul had sent out an APB on the missing talis zekel, ober it didn’t turn up. They were clearly frustrated. Nu, the Oisvorfer suggested that the search be expanded to other areas of the shul and specifically the bima which in Beth Sholom has two deep storage areas. The son agreed and together we meticulously emptied both storage areas. Many talesim and other goodies including empty zeklich (talis bags) were found, ober none matched the description of the missing zekel. The son was thankful for the suggestion, concern and assistance. Veyter, ober halt kup (pay attention), the story takes a twist.
We fast forward; It’s the second shabbis after Pesach. At the YILC (Young Israel of Lawrence Cedarhurst), a neighboring shul a few blocks away, the shabbis morning program included a scholar in residence who would be discussing the Yiddin’s rights to the Land of Israel. So happens that the gentleman was well credentialed and gave an excellent lecture. And it so happens that the shul honored him with an aliya to the Toirah. He was given shlishi, of course a choshova aliya; he followed the Oisvorfer who as a Levi was up there for the second aliya. When the scholar was called up, he approached the bima holding his own siddur which was opened to the brochos for the Toirah reading. He placed the siddur down and looked into it as he recited the blessings before and after the reading. This struck the Oisvorfer as quite odd and on several counts.
Ershtens, a professor that knowledgeable certainly knew the brochos by heart and wouldn’t require a siddur.  Moreover, even if he didn’t, the shul, as do most, had a laminated set of brochos just to the right of where the Toirah rests. Why? Just in case an individual, younger person or anyone else needs to peek in. The Oisvorfer very much wanted to ask the professor about this oddity, he was however, following davening, surrounded by a group of well-wishers vying for his attention. He, not the Oisvorfer! The topic of why a gentleman so knowledgeable would utilize the siddur to recite the proper brochos was briefly discussed with a fellow reader ober no conclusions were drawn. Later that afternoon, at approximately 7:15 PM, back at Beth Sholom for class and mincha………. like clockwork, the son arrived wheeling his dad. As an aside, Norman, though his legs are quite weak, can walk with some assistance. They would catch the tail end of the rabbi’s speech and were, of course, early for mincha. Since the Oisvorfer’s entire relationship with these gentlemen was limited to a hello, gut shabbis and did you find the talis bag yet, the same question was asked and the same answer given: No!  By this time, some 5 + weeks had passed since the bag
went missing. During that time the shul sent out at least 1 and perhaps 2 emails to its membership asking if someone had inadvertently taken the talis bag. By its description, blue velour with the name Nachman Bigel embroidered in Hebrew lettering, it didn’t sound like an overly priced bag; seemingly, it must have had other value.
Alan, totally exasperated related that his dad was getting upset at him. Why?  Because the good and dedicated son, was beginning to doubt that his father really had the talis bag with him on the shabbis it went missing.
Yet another turn of events: at sholoish seudois, following a short lecture, and just before bentching, the rabbi, after making rounds at a few tables, as every rabbi should,stopped off at the table where the Oisvorfer was seated. The rabbi asked how the visiting professor did at the other shul. That prompted a retelling of the story of how the professor came up to the bima carrying his siddur and how he looked into it before reciting the blessings. The Rabbi was asked whether he knew of any halocho or minhag (ruling or custom) that could be the basis for his behavior.
Said the Rabbi: perhaps there is a minhag not to recite the blessings by heart even though one knows them. The rabbi further suggested that this could especially be the case for bentching and other prayers. In other words: it’s better to recite davening and other prayers from a siddur. Shoin and case closed. Seemingly the professor had the right idea; maybe looking in was better than not.
It so happened that it was a bit too early to daven maariv. Sensing the continuing frustration of the son and father over the missing talis bag, a new idea came to mind. Let’s expand the search. The Oisvorfer told Alan that the shul keeps a healthy number of benches, exactly matching the ones we see regularly, for overflow crowds. And recalling that shabbis when the zekel went missing, the crowd was taka larger due to a special event. Where were they kept?
Shoin, the Oisvorfer approached a shul macher (busybody) and asked where the shul stored their extra benches. The macher escorted the Oisvorfer to two dark rooms where indeed he found perhaps as many as 12-15, maybe more, additional seating benches. The macher suggested we come back following evening services, turn the lights on and do a thorough check. But the Oisvorfer was determined and checked in the dark. Many do their best work in the dark, if you chap. Though taka dark and though many were double stacked, each bench was meticulously checked. It wasn’t meant to be; the search came up empty.
Maariv began: All were seated except one person. That person was davening without a siddur and was also strolling up and down the last aisle of the shul. When he reached the very front of the shul, he turned around and was making his way back. On the way back, he suddenly recalled what the rabbi had said. He recalled the rabbi suggesting that efsher it’s taka best to look into a siddur while davening. While pondering this thought, the gentleman, still on the move, passed by approximately 25 siddurim and chumashim that were left on the backs of benches. Randomly mamish, or was it, he selected a siddur. As he lifted that particular siddur, he noticed a blue talis bag. He removed it from where it had seemingly been hiding for 5 weeks. It was embroidered with the name Nachman Bigel. Heaven had spoken. The person walked another 8-10 feet and placed the talis bag on the lap of the son, who stared at it in disbelief before showing it to his dad. That person was the Oisvorfer.
At the appropriate time, Alan Bigel informed Rabbi Hain that the talis bag was back. The Oisvorfer filled in the details about how the rabbi’s suggestion of looking into the siddur led to its return. The rabbi pointed upwards to heaven.
So happened that following maariv that evening, it was time for kiddish levono (blessing the new moon). Many were assembled on the front portico including Norman Bigel happily holding onto his talis bag. When asked why this talis bag was so dear to him he told the Oisvorfer that the talis bag had very special sentimental value; his wife Ethel, who had recently passed away, mamish weeks before, had given him that bag as a gift. A few tears were shed.
And so it was that because the visiting professor followed the Oisvorfer up to the Torah, recited a brocho from a siddur, that this topic came to be discussed with the Rabbi of another shul, who suggested that it’s better to look into the siddur and it so happened that the Oisvorfer while walking up and down the length of the shul, suddenly remembered the conversation, randomly selected one of the many siddurim that were in the bench pockets and was able to return a lost item.
Coincidence or was the RBSO involved?
A gittin Shabbis-
Feel free to send Norman a happy birthday greeting. All messages will be passed along.

Yitz Grossman

The Oisvorfer Ruv

Category: Yitz Grossman, Yitz Grossman Torah

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