Friday, September 15, 2006

The man! My little tribute.

I'm frequently asked why I've never married. My response, much to the irritation of any male in the vacinity of my voice is, I've never met a man. Little boys, morons, pompous asses, weak-kneed yellow-bellied saps, a few homos, but not a man. That statement isn't entirely true. I've met two in my 6 weeks shy of 46 years and they were married and really old! One was my grandfather and the other was Rabbi Shmuel Wudowsky.

Rabbi Wudowsky was the coolest rabbi I've ever met. He was a great teacher and a firm believer in there being such a thing as a stupid question. Any student who sat under him can verify he wasn't shy about letting you know if you'd asked one! What is a stupid question? Not thinking about what you want to ask before you ask it. His point? Use your brain. Pay attention, because 90% of the questions asked were already answered in the lecture and you would have noticed if you were paying attention.

Elisabeth Elliot once said, "If you make a person think they're thinking - they'll love you. If you make a person think - they'll hate you." If ever a statement fit a man, it was him. R' Wudowsky had little patience with those who preferred to let others do their thinking for them. A lot of girls couldn't stand him for it. The rest of us loved him for it. It's one of the things that made him a great teacher.


It wasn't always easy to get on his good side, and for me it happened completely by accident or perhaps it's because I'm a freak. You see, CH operates by whenever I get there, I'm there. I, on the other hand, believe you're late for class if you arrive 10 minutes early. So, I usually arrived at school 30 minutes before it opened and would sit on the steps and review my lessons. R' Wudowsky also believed in arriving early and would sit in his car and daven.

Before long, R' Wudowsky took notice of my habit. One day I was late. I arrived just as he was walking up the steps. He looked down the steps at me and said matter of factly, "You're late!" I grinned and from then on it became a quiet competition to see who could arrive first. If I beat him, he would look out his car window and grin. If he beat me, I got a "shame on you" headshake.

This somehow lead to him asking me if I had a shadchan. I said no. He told me he wanted to take me on and to give him a call when I was ready. His wife was shocked. He had quit being a shadchan and was turning down everyone who asked. Now I was shocked, and felt deeply humbled and honoured.

Shortly thereafter, his heart began giving him trouble again. Then came the worst day of 5760. It was vav Tishrei and I sat waiting and waiting on the steps for R' Wudowsky to show. It was now past time for the school to open. Some twenty minutes later someone arrived with the news - R' Wudowsky had passed on.

Machon Chana was never the same after that. His absence showed who the strength of the school was - it was him. He left behind a wonderful legacy and the girls who never got to sit under him have been greatly cheated in their learning.

So ends my salute to the great one! Have a good shabbos everyone!