Right Number

By Yoel Gold

A few weeks ago, I was asked to share some words of inspiration at a shul in another community. Afterwards, I was approached by Simcha Cohen, who asked if I would be willing to deliver some divrei chizzuk to his local shiur.
I asked if there was a story behind his request, and this was what he told me.
As a yeshivah bachur, Simcha had spent some time learning in the Mir. When he got engaged two years ago, he called his rebbe, Rabbi Eli Friedler, to invite him to the wedding.
But Rabbi Friedler turned him down. It was a long trip from Israel to Toronto; it would be bitul Torah.
Half-jokingly, Simcha threatened him: “Rebbe, if you don’t come, I’m not walking down that aisle!”
The next day, Rabbi Friedler called him back. “I asked the rosh yeshivah,” he said. “I’ll come, but on one condition: You need to make a kabbalah to go to a shiur every night.”
Since he had left yeshivah, Simcha had not had a consistent connection to learning. He’d started a business that ate up much of his time and attention, and without the structure of yeshivah life, it became an uphill struggle. “Of course,” he said.
Sure enough, Rabbi Friedler attended the wedding. Simcha tried to uphold his end of the deal, he really did. He kept his own learning commitments, but it was hard to find a shiur as he had promised. He tried many different shiurim, but nothing stable. He even tried to start his own group, but it failed to get off the ground. For a time he attended a weekly Chumash class, but there was nothing really pulling him to go, and his attendance fluctuated depending on his mood. Eventually the rabbi moved out of town, and that shiur, too, died.
Trying to keep his promise, Simcha searched for a new source of inspiration. He knew that for him to commit, it would have to be a shiur that held his interest, that was on his level. But most of the local shiurim were geared toward a more yeshivish crowd, and he often left feeling uncomfortable or out of his depth. He also struggled to find a regular class that accommodated his schedule. He could not find a place where he felt welcome, where it didn’t feel like a chore, where he wanted to come back, day after day. Nothing seemed to work for him.
After five months, Simcha was ready to call it quits. “It’s not working,” he told Rabbi Friedler. “I’m sorry. I can’t do this anymore.”
You can’t give up,” Rabbi Friedler insisted. He would not accept Simcha’s defeat.

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