These days, the headlines in the Jewish world are marked by controversy and disagreement. From prayers at the Western Wall to news of fraud in Lakewood, the news has been explosive. The following is a somewhat more prosaic tale of explosion and detonation, but I can assure you, it has a happy ending. It all began on a sunny Monday morning, when my havruta (Talmud study partner) arrived at my home for our regular morning Talmud session. We opened our iPads, and began our studies. “Do not worry about tomorrow’s trouble”, we read in Tractate Yevamot, “for one does not know what today may bring.” The pages of the Talmud are full of aphorisms such as this, and we nodded our heads in agreement at the wise words of the Sages.
About a minute later, he looked up from his iPad, and said, “What’s that dripping noise?” Putting down the Talmud, I went outside, and was surprised to see a steady stream of water trickling down the side of the house. We continued reading, but, I must confess, my mind was elsewhere.
As soon as my havruta had departed, I scrolled through my iPhone’s contacts until I found a listing called ‘Udi Chromogen’. Udi is his first name, and Chromagen is the name of the company for which he works, that makes the ubiquitous solar water heaters that are on the roofs of most buildings in Israel. The water leak, I concluded, must be related to the solar water heater. People like Udi, who install things, are frequently called by the title, ‘installator’, in Hebrew. The solar heater is called a ‘dud shemesh’, (pronounced ‘dude’) and it uses the heat of the sun to warm water during the hot summer months. When I called, Udi promised that he’d be there in about 45 minutes, so I used the time to make a quick run to the store to buy a few groceries. On my way back, Udi’s assistant called. The water heater? “Hitpotzetz”, he chuckled. That means ‘exploded’, ‘burst’, or ‘detonated’, depending on which word one chooses from Google Translate.
By then, as per the Talmudic dictum, I wasn’t worrying about tomorrow – I was thinking only about that day. I gave Udi and his worker the go-ahead to replace the defective dud. Shortly before going up to the roof, Udi’s worker said, “You have some broken roof tiles. Would you like us to replace them?” Naively assuming that Udi carried a ready supply of roof tiles in his truck, I assented. Udi’s worker looked at me sympathetically, and said, ‘You’ll have to buy the roof tiles yourself. Bring them to us, and we’ll be happy to put them up for you.” “OK”, I said, but where does one get replacement roof tiles?” He replied, “Go to the industrial section of Bet Shemesh, where the building suppliers are located, to a store named Yifrach Brothers. Show them the broken tile, and ask for six new ones.”
Dutifully lugging the broken roof tile to my car, I arrived in the gritty industrial section of the city, and came across a large store, with the sign ‘Yifrach’. Carrying the roof tile, I asked the man driving the forklift truck if he had matching replacements. He shook his head, and double-checked, but to no avail. Nothing matched. The sun was beginning to beat down, and I called Udi again. “Yifrach doesn’t have them”, I reported. “Where should I go?” “Check out Sofri”, he said. “They should have them”. Obediently, I carried the tile to Sofri, about 100 meters up the road. “Do you sell replacement roof tiles like this?”, I inquired. “Roof tiles?”, the man said. “This is A. Sofri. We don’t sell roof tiles here. You need to go to N. Sofri.” “Where is N. Sofri?”, I inquired. “Go down another 100 meters”, he replied. By this time, the roof tile felt somewhat heavier than it had earlier. Arriving at N. Sofri, I asked “Do you have roof tiles like this?” The man behind the counter looked at me and said. “Oh, no. We don’t have this kind of roof tiles. You need to go to Eliran”. Somehow, I wasn’t surprised when he told me that it was just 100 meters away. Trudging down the street, I arrived at Eliran. I walked down the ramp of the store with the dusty roof tile, arriving at the counter, sweating profusely. By then, I was so exhausted that all I could do was point at it, and say, “Do you have this?” He peered at it once, twice, and finally said, “Yes.” I could hardly believe my luck. Before he could change his mind, I whipped out my credit card, and paid the princely sum of 38 shekels for the privilege. Driving home, I felt that my entire morning’s adventure, locating the source of the leak, calling the installator, and finding replacement roof tiles resembled one of those computer adventure games of bygone years which required the player to navigate through an imaginary world and complete a series of tasks, by issuing the proper commands to the computer, with the proper syntax. In my case, it was ‘call Udi’, ‘locate roof tiles’, and ‘buy roof tiles’. And let’s not forget the most important command of all that had to be executed upon my returning home – ‘pay installator’.
I returned home, delivered the roof tiles, and the water soon resumed flowing, drip-free. We even have two spare roof tiles. So, if any of you are short a pair, no need to visit Yifrach, Sofri – A or N – or Eliran. Just stop by, and we’ll be happy to give you one.