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To Make A Difference: The Minchah Man

Yisroel Besser

Shaul Cohen, Geulah, Jerusalem // Nominated by Gavriel Hefter

Thursday, September 20, 2018

 Mishpacha image

I

believe that you should interview the white-haired man with a kippah srugah who stands outside of Zichron Moshe every day before shkiah. The man must be in his high sixties or low seventies and he still stands there every day. He performs a service that is a major help to all who come daven there: he announces where the next Minchah will be held, and controls the throngs that come to daven with much skill. He also arranges for all the different shtiblach to be used to their full potential. Who is this man who stands out so conspicuously from the regular Geula residents and still always helps the oilam? How does he do this every day even in the heat of the Yerushalayim sun? Lastly, how does he keep a perpetual smile on his face?

 

There’s a way the sun sets over Yerushalayim — more sudden, it seems, than elsewhere.

Something shifts. The construction workers are putting away their equipment, and the barber on Rechov Ishtori Haparchi is standing outside, scanning the street in the early evening quiet, wondering if he should close up.

Avreichim from the great yeshivos hurry through the streets, eyes lowered, intent on reaching homebound buses and shuttles.

Traffic from Geula winds upward, a trail of men carrying seforim and swinging shopping bags headed toward a building that manages to be both prominent and unobtrusive. It looks like a hundred other shuls, but there is something solid about it, something steadfast and sure.

There is no door to Zichron Moshe, so you’re inside its narrow center hallway almost as soon as you turn the corner onto Rechov Chofetz Chaim. Older Yerushalmi men shuffle in with slow dignity. Bochurim from Brisk, their hats at an impossible tilt, slip in behind them. Two large Gerrer chassidim stride in, frowning, and a dignified rosh yeshivah, immaculate in his frock, looks for an opening.

Minchah time is approaching, and all roads lead to Zichron Moshe.

In the middle of the commotion stands a man with a large white kippah srugah, dressed in a navy-blue plaid shirt and cotton pants. His hair is white, his eyes black and focused, but there’s a hint of mischief there, too. He stands in middle of the hallway, like a Manhattan traffic cop at an intersection, and raises his finger.

“Minchah be’alef.”

Shaul Cohen is his name, though he offers the information without turning to look at me. He’s busy now.

“Minchah be’beis,” he tells a thin, pensive teenager.

He listens to my flood of questions — why he does this, who inspired him, for how long he’s been doing it — and responds with an impatient shake of his head.

“Taggid li, tell me.” He turns to face me. “Does a Jew count his mitzvos? Should I make notes every day about all the good things I did?” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 728)

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