Mussar from the Fix-it Guy

A glass of cold water? I offered the plumber.  He’s also the electrician and general fix it guy.  My landlord calls him for everything and so by now we’re on a friendly footing.

No, it’s kappur for me.


How do you say? Fast. I’m fasting.

Oh!  (Kippur!)

We compare notes, as he asks: You also?

Last week, on the 17th Tammuz — it was only from 4:00 am -8:15 pm.

Same as ours. Did you fast? he asks me.

I did, except I’m a bit embarrassed to compare the experience, as by three in the afternoon on 17 Tammuz I was possibly taking a nap, whereas at 3:00 pm he is unscrewing pipes with his wrench, and whereas the 17th of Tammuz is one day, followed by these 3 weeks — until the next one day fast of Tisha B’Av, Ramadan lasts 30 consecutive days (in case you didn’t know).

During Ramadan — he explains — he gets up at 3:30 am to pray and eat before 4:00 am, his regular wake up time.

Just like you — he says.

Sometimes — once or twice — 5 years ago I did – I don’t confess.

What was the fast about?

The first one — the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem about 2,000 years ago.

And the next one?

The destruction of the Temple, twice — 2,500 years ago and then again on the same day about 2,000 years ago.  How do you manage — Ramadan goes on so long?

Look — the Jews fasted forty days in the Midbar — so we can manage too.

Imagine — Jewish people fasting for 40 consecutive days!  Thinking — nice he thinks we could have handled that — I only say:

Moses did.

It’s not a problem for me, he explains.

My main challenge on a fast — is missing out on morning coffee.

On a regular day I get up to pray at 4:00 am, I have a coffee and cigarette and then I don’t need anything more until night.  Now I’m fasting fully — no water, cigarettes or food.

Your family must be happy — about the not smoking.

Yes — are you religious religious?

I am (try to be). How about you?

Not so much. A religious liberal (dati liberali) I call myself.

Do you pray?

Five times a day.

We pray three times.

No, you pray five also — you have Mincha and… all the rest.

Thinking — nice he thinks I could handle that, I only say — many religious people are constantly praying and learning.

Now he arrives at his point, with a smile, he accuses:

You’re spoiled.

We are?

Always complaining to Moses — even to God. You complained in the Midbar,  about crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land. You can’t fast without needing all sorts of special foods afterwards and …special treatment — you’re spoiled — that’s your problem! God was taking care of all your needs in the Midbar and all you did was complain!

True .That’s actually why we’re fasting — too.  It’s written in the Torah.   We have a tendency to be weak in faith and to complain — to try God’s patience.

You’re spoiled.

Who can deny (in these three weeks particularly) he has a point?

You’re right.


(agreed — let’s change the subject).

What do you say to someone on Ramadan — like Chag Sameach?

In Arabic?


Ramadan Kareem — because you are giving up so much, perhaps you will receive Kareem in return, or Ramadan Mubarak — it should  be blessed.

Why do you have Ramadan?

I don’t know exactly — one reason is to be aware of poor people — those worse off — to have empathy with them; another is to acknowledge the Koran is from above and another is to keep one looking down.  It’s very important not to be arrogant,  just like a Jew wears a head covering to remind him there is something greater than him, that God is above , so we are always looking down, seeking  to humble ourselves — that one person, no matter how powerful, is of no greater value than another .

That’s important to us too (I want he should know).  I’ve been taught — the rebuilding of the Temple greatly depends upon on how we treat each other.

By now I have a new faucet, unlike the old one — he demonstrates — it swivels.

I’ve come up a level, I boast, a trifle haughtily.

Yes, you’re really getting ahead he laughs agreement.

Ramadan Kareem.

And a meaningful Three Weeks to Am Yisrael.

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