The Unexpected Phone Call
Yesterday, the day before today’s Israeli elections, a significant percentage of the Knesset called the Weisberg home.
“Shalom, this is Moshe Kachlon…” click.
“This is Beni Begin…” click.
“This is Yair Lapid speaking…” click.
“This is Naftali Bennett from….” Click.
“Shalom, this is Eli Yishai. I apologize for the recorded message…” Click
“Shalom, this is Binyamin Netanyahu….” The Prime Minister himself was calling, so I honored him with about 10 seconds of my time and then…CLICK!
In fact, I received my first phone call from an actual live human being only around 4 PM.
“Hi, this is Basya Cohen*! How are you?”
“Basya! How wonderful to hear from you!”
When I first met Josh around two decades ago, for several years he learned at the Mir Yeshiva every afternoon with Basya’s husband. He often joined the Cohens and their 12 wonderful children for Shabbat meals and when we got married, the Cohens made Sheva Brachot for us. Basya and her husband are very special people. Holy, gentle, sincere, good-hearted, enduring great self-sacrifice to enable Rabbi Cohen to continue learning full-time for over three decades. Real-life tsaddikim.
Over the years, as our family grew, we mostly lost touch with the Cohens. Though we still receive wedding invitations from them every year or two.
So when I heard it was Basya, I assumed that she was calling to invite me to a simcha, or, lehavdil, to a shiva, as she did when her father-in-law passed away around 2 years ago.
“Basya, how are you?” I inquired.
“Oh, b”H! Sora’le just had twin daughters.”
“And how are you doing?” she asked.
“Well, b”H, we also just had a baby boy three months ago.”
“Oh, mazal tov!….”
And we went around and around this way for 10 whole minutes. And I still couldn’t figure out why in the world Basya was calling me out of the blue like that….
“So what is new?” I tried again.
“Well…” Basya hesitated for a few seconds, “tomorrow is the elections. And you know, Harav Shteineman has said everybody should vote Gimmel.”
And then Basya spoke for a few minutes about defending the Jewish character of the State of Israel and being Mekadesh Shem Shamayim and how she really hoped we would vote Gimmel as well.
And I thanked Basya for sharing her opinions with me, and promised her I would discuss this weighty matter with Josh, and I wished her well. Click.
But as soon as I got off the phone I starting laughing. Gimmel? How ridiculous! My husband teaches at a National religious yeshiva. We send our children to National Religious schools. We hang a big Israeli flag outside our home on Independence day. While National Religious Jews will vote for a wide array of parties today, almost none would ever dream of voting for Gimmel, the largest party representing Ashkenazi Charedim.
But when I stopped laughing, I realized that while I’ve always felt a ton of respect for Basya, her phone call had upgraded my feeling for her to awe.
Josh and I have a lot of Charedi friends. And out of all of them, the last one I would ever imagine picking up the phone and expressing a political opinion would be gentle, sweet-hearted Basya.
But, it seems, this election year Basya feels very strongly that Gimmel is the best party for the future of the Jewish people. And she decided that while she isn’t responsible for the outcome of the elections, she is responsible to do her hishtadlus— to make her own small effort to follow her rabbis’ directives and to do what, in her eyes, is the right thing to do.
So she went through her phone list, and tried to find someone, ANYONE, she knew who would not be voting Gimmel the next day. And she finally found one. And she took a break from cleaning for Passover in order to do something that was awkward and difficult and completely in contradiction to her gentle, non-confrontational nature: convince a person from a different religious community to vote for the party she believes with all her heart is best.
So even though I will not be voting for Gimmel today, I do vote for Mrs. Basya Cohen. The woman who reminded me to push myself, even when it’s hard, to take one small step to perfect the world.
This video is a powerful reminder of the potential, widespread impact of one small deed.