You’ve seen those cartoons of men faced with crises of conscience who are pestered by little angels urging them to choose the good path. Of course, it doesn’t only happen in cartoons. Even in real life such things have been known to occur. And when they do, the angels are generally real people, sans halo or wings. They come in all colors, shapes and sizes, but one thing they all seem to have in common is an uncanny ability to show up at the moment you least want to see them – yet they turn out to be just what you needed. Boruch and his wife Sandy found themselves blessed with just such a guardian angel. His name was…you guessed it, Rabbi Meir Schuster.
Boruch and Sandy grew up across the street from each other. They were friends throughout their school years and, after college, they decided to marry. Boruch graduated from Purdue University with a degree in horticulture and Sandy earned a master’s degree in special education from Washington University. Shortly after their wedding they decided that before settling down to their respective professions, they should broaden their horizons. And what better way than to backpack around the world? So they each worked two jobs, saved as much of their salaries as they could and a few months later, they were off.
After four months of trekking through Europe they found themselves in Israel on Kibbutz Maabarot, which some of Boruch’s relatives had helped start and develop. Boruch and Sandy were surprised to discover that, as Jews, they were the minority amongst a majority of non-Jewish volunteers whose primary interest was having a “good time.” During their stay on the kibbutz, they managed to take several trips to Jerusalem. It was in Jerusalem that they first met their guardian angel. Sandy’s sister was on a trip to Israel, and her group was planning to visit the Wall on Friday night. As Boruch and Sandy were searching for her there, they were approached by a tall, thin rabbi with a black beard, a black hat and a black suit. He introduced himself and offered to set them up with an observant family in the Old City for the Shabbos evening meal. To tell you the truth, I have no idea if they ever did find Sandy’s sister. What’s important is that they met Rabbi Schuster and from that moment on he would never leave them alone. The atmosphere created by the family and their forty guests on that Friday night greatly inspired Boruch and Sandy. They couldn’t stay for the whole meal however, as they had to make curfew at the Arab youth hostel where they were staying. They left their hosts and thought they had seen the last of Rabbi Schuster.
Upon their return from a trip to Egypt they were negotiating with a youth hostel about working for their room and board. They were standing just inside the Jerusalem bus station when Rabbi Schuster appeared, pulled them to the side and offered them free accommodations at a choice Jerusalem location. They gratefully accepted his offer and were taken to their lodgings with an observant family in an apartment in the Mattersdorf area. Things were going well until it became clear that there was a price to be paid for this arrangement. They were expected to explore their Jewish heritage. Not in the least bit interested, Boruch and Sandy quickly packed their bags and were out the door, only to be summoned back by the owner of the apartment as they were leaving. He told them they had a phone call. Boruch and Sandy looked at each other with wonder. No one knew where they were except… Yes, it was Rabbi Meir Schuster. He was calling with a new offer – an apartment in the Old City, with no strings attached. The apartment was the precursor of what is today the Heritage House youth hostel. It was maintained by a young religious couple and afforded Ch Boruch and Sandy the freedom they desired. Eventually they did try some classes and, with Rabbi Schuster’s persistent intervention, they at last found yeshivos which appealed to their interests. Oh, there were some rough moments. Boruch and Sandy had their backpacks on more than once, ready to leave, but invariably they would bump into Reb Meir who had just one more proposal. They lived in that apartment for six months during which time they became firmly committed, observant Jews.
It was then time for them to return home and explain to their families what had happened to their values and lifestyles. You’d think that in America, thousands of miles away from Jerusalem, as committed, observant Jews, their connection to Reb Meir would have weakened, but no. Boruch and Sandy decided to set up home in Chicago. Boruch became involved with a local yeshiva and they became parents of their first child. Rabbi Schuster was travelling though Chicago and Boruch offered to drive him around.. Boruch mentioned his doubts about whether he could ever return to Israel. He had begun to establish himself in Chicago and was feeling the ever increasing responsibilities of being a provider. He wanted to know what Rabbi Schuster thought he should do. Rabbi Schuster does not have a great reputation as a singer, but on that momentous occasion, he sang. The song was “Coming Home” by the Megama Duo. Whether it was the lyrics, the quality of Reb Meir’s voice or something else entirely, the song struck the right chord and Boruch and Sandy moved back to Israel. They are now resident of a religious community in Jerusalem where Sandy teaches and Boruch is on the administrative staff of a local yeshiva. On occasion, I have seen Boruch and Reb Meir together, and I can’t help but detect a bit of anxiety in Boruch’s expression. It’s as if he is thinking, “How will my guardian angel change my life next?”