SHABBAT ROSH CHODESH ELUL - 5758
The "Short Stop"
One morning this past week, on my way to work on the "Jewish" Bus, I was saying the "Shemoneh Esrei," the "Eighteen (Blessings)," standing in the aisle of the bus, appropriately enough since this prayer is also referred to as the "Amidah," the "prayer to be said while standing." I felt that I had a secure grip on the luggage compartment, and was sandwiched neatly between two seats fore and aft, when the bus suddenly made a very short stop!
It seemed some "good-hearted" driver in front of the bus had slowed rapidly to let another vehicle onto the road, causing the bus driver to brake hard, sending some of the other passengers and myself sprawling, although I think I was the only one to make it all the way to the floor. I sustained some minor bruises on the way down, my tallis came off, and my Tefillin shel Rosh went flying. Since the Gemorra in Brachos permits someone traveling in a wagon to say the Amidah while in the sitting position, I think that it will be some time before I will be found praying on a bus while standing.
I pondered this incident while recovering my composure, and considered its possible relationship to the fact that this Shabbat was Rosh Chodesh Elul, the month leading to Rosh HaShanah, the Day of Judgment, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. I wondered if I had "lucked out," though I had never really heard of such a thing, in receiving an early judgment and an extremely light penalty for my misdeeds, and that perhaps this incident could be looked upon as some measure of atonement.
Then I went into a period of deeper musing on the term "shortstop," and re-visited some pleasant memories of my youth, when that term meant mainly an infield position between second and third base on a baseball or softball diamond. It was from there that I would confidently await a usually reliable (and in the case of the Camp Agudah softball team, when the shortstop was (the future Rabbi) Paysach Krohn, prominent author, lecturer, and expert "mohel," "one who performs circumcisions," who, in his present capacity, Please G-d, cannot make a serious error, always reliable) throw, as I manned my position at first base.
More seriously, I reflected on the frailty of human life, where illness and injury can strike without warning, such as I had just experienced on a trivial level.
Beyond that, as we reconcile ourselves on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, to the fact that our lives in this world are but a short stop between dust and dust,
Here I am, fifty two, Thank G-d! Yet I know, but I don't know how I got here. And sometimes it seems that "first base" was only yesterday, and that "Time flies" is an understatement.
Ribbono shel Olam! Master of the Universe! In this special month of Elul, when we strive to come closer to You,
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU[http://126.96.36.199/footer.html]