Did I ever mention that I detest the snow and what it does to inconvenience us and change so much of our lives? At the same time, I just have to also say that there is a special place in my heart for snow days.
Unlike the situation in Israel of a few weeks ago, when most of central Israel was paralyzed by snow, here we kind of take these snowfalls in stride. Yes, snow creates havoc in our lives, but it also gives birth to a healthy industry for diligent young men—and sometimes women—to shovel the snow from around our homes for a negotiable price. Last week’s snow was our first significant one of this season, and it has been quite some time since we had a considerable collection of the white stuff. The men with the shovels were so excited about this entrepreneurial opportunity that my front doorbell was rung at 4:40 a.m. last Friday morning.
I was already partially awake but the bell at that unusual hour grabbed my full and immediate attention. I jumped up from my bed to look out the window and saw three men bundled up against the frigid cold morning air standing at the door with shovels resting on their shoulders. My first reaction, after I realized what this was about, was to wonder what these guys were thinking. I admired their drive and initiative but, I thought, this was overdoing it. After all, for all practical purposes it was the middle of the night.
I don’t know if it was the same crew that backtracked later in the morning, but they got the job and did a very nice one at that. For a few extra dollars, they also removed the snow from our cars, so everyone was pleased. I know, you’re thinking that this sounds a little elitist, but, please, I’m not Bill de Blasio and I wasn’t just elected to anything, so I don’t have to deal with shoveling snow, especially if others are offering their services. No photo opportunities here.
My best memory of snow days from my childhood years is the excitement at first receiving the news that yeshiva would be closed for whatever combination of reasons; it really did not matter which, so long as the schools were closed, shut, sealed, and not opening. The other day, I curiously asked two of my six-year-old grandsons if they were happy that school was closed. They are in first grade and immediately nodded their heads in the affirmative. Either it is in their DNA or nothing much has changed.
And don’t get the wrong idea, it wasn’t that we didn’t like going to school. Most of the time, we had a lot of fun together there. But it is not that we particularly liked it, either. Put it this way: we were more or less at peace with the idea that we had no choice. That was our fate and that was the way it was going to be for a while. But then the snows arrived and the concept was deconstructed, stopped in its tracks, and turned upside down—you see, there really doesn’t have to be school and we can survive without it.
In those days, there were also other reasons for not having to go to school. In my elementary-school yeshiva building, it wasn’t unusual for the boiler to break down and for the building to be without heat. I don’t know if that happens today; I don’t think it does. It may have been because our yeshiva did not have enough money for a fuel oil delivery, or maybe an old boiler just plain went kaput. It didn’t matter that much; no school was no school.
I recall one time when there was a considerable amount of snow but a few of us decided to walk to yeshiva anyway, only to find, when we got there, that the boiler was broken and there was no heat. A lot of snow and no heat on the same day; isn’t that like double jeopardy?
Though it creates hazardous and difficult conditions, there is nevertheless peacefulness about the delicate whiteness of the snow. Falling at this particular time of year during the “shovavim” period that concludes in two weeks with the reading of the parashah of Mishpatim, those with some insight on the subject say that the white blanket covering our communities is an indication of forgiveness—a good sign. And for those places that don’t get much snow, perhaps we can say that they look to New York and Jerusalem for these signs.
Snow is one of those gifts from on high that we may be completely misunderstanding. Yes, as I said up top, it certainly is disruptive and a nuisance. That assessment reminds me of how radio and TV announcers talk about a rainy day. They usually characterize it as “awful,” “horrible,” or just plain “disgusting.” But where would we be without those rainy days? The rains are a blessing sent down to earth to allow trees, fields, and gardens to grow and provide nourishment for the world. Why would anyone call that type of event disgusting if they genuinely knew what they were talking about?
So perhaps snow is the object of both our love and our disdain. If you can love and hate something at the same time, then snow might be just the perfect candidate for that combination of contradictory emotions.
Snow and ice make it difficult to drive cars safely and, once the stuff freezes up, it becomes a hazard to walk on as well. And it totally stops air travel. I had a personal experience to that effect this week. Our plans called for us to be in what I like to call the second-holiest city in Judaism—Miami Beach—this week. I was hoping to be typing different words on another subject down south and then e-mailing them up north, but that just did not work out. Instead, I’m typing these words here in New York.
We were supposed to be on a JetBlue flight Sunday morning, bright and early with a 7:00 a.m. departure. I awoke at 4:30 a.m. to get ready to go when I noticed a missed call on my cell phone from JetBlue. The message was simple, clear, and to the point: our flight that morning was canceled due to whatever the reason was.
I had the same notice e-mailed to me, with the additional information that they had taken the liberty of rescheduling my flight for Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m. Okay, I thought, that’s interesting. I spent an hour on hold on the phone, hoping to explore other options, but it was a take-it-or-leave-it type of situation. So we were going to leave Tuesday. But not so fast, buddy. On Monday, due to a combination of technical circumstances, they canceled Tuesday’s flight. This time, after exploring the website and leaving my phone on hold for two hours, I was advised that they could get me on a flight on Thursday evening. No, we decided, enough of this pack-unpack, we are going–we are not going, yo-yo type of existence.
At that point, the problem wasn’t really snow anymore, though last week’s snow was the catalyst for all the problems. One thing we definitely did not want was to be stuck in Florida figuring out a way to get back home, because you never know whether or when it’s going to snow again.
The snow is so beautiful, I really can’t stand it. v
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