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Stranded at Sunset

Azriela Jaffe

The weatherman predicted a few flakes. But when those flurries snowball into a full-blown blizzard on Erev Shabbos, amazing things can happen — for both the hapless travelers and their last-minute hosts

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

It may have happened more than 30 years ago, but Rabbi David Shenker, director for Jewish Education Program (JEP) of Long Island and CampNageela, remembers that Friday in February 1982 as if it happened yesterday. Back then he was a 20-year-old bochur learning in Torah Vodaath, and he had the important job of driving Rav Nison Alpert ztz”l to Far Rockaway for Shabbos. Rav Alpert, a talmid muvhak of Rav Moshe  Feinstein ztz”l, was the rav of Agudah of Long Island.

The weatherman predicted a bit of snow, but nothing serious. When Rabbi Shenker picked up Rav Alpert from his home on the Lower East Sideat 1:30, they had plenty of time to make it to Far Rockaway before shkiyah.

But weather forecasters can be wrong.

“The snow was getting heavier, and I tried taking side streets because the main highways were congested. It was really difficult driving,” recalls Rabbi Shenker. “The Rav remained calm, but I was not. I had the responsibility of transporting the community’s rav in my car! With only an hour left till candle lighting, we were backed up nearKennedyAirport and traffic was at a standstill.”

They realized they weren’t going to make it to Far Rockaway in time. Rav Alpert directed his driver to pull off the highway to find a pay phone — this was in the days before cell phones — to call Rabbi Shenker’s parents and tell them not to worry. They would be walking the remaining seven miles.

Thus began a Shabbos adventure that Rabbi Shenker says he will never forget. And as with many such stories, the traffic-stopping snowdrifts piling up on the road turned out to be the starting point for a spiritual experience that was much deeper than the snow.


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