It is not very often we have the opportunity to read about a Rabbi born and raised in Manchester, UK, but suddenly finds himself the Rav of Glasgow’s largest Orthodox Shul. There is an opportunity to do so this week and I encourage you to go to your local newsstand to purchase your copy.
I am referring to a very special Rabbi who I have been learning with along with other men just like myself for the past eight years. His name is Rabbi Michoel Fletcher and the March 10th Edition of Hamodia’s Inyan Magazine carries his story titled “Just Doing His Job”. Rabbi Fletcher describes the challenges he faced after being appointed the Rav of a large secular community in the country known for, among many things; kilts, tartans and bagpipes.
He invited me to preview this story which describes how he had to deal with many questions that came up from his community requiring a special person such as Rabbi Fletcher to answer. Since he was a very young Rabbi, he had many variables to consider before giving his decision on a wide range of topics. He needed to consult with various Gedolim to satisfy himself that any decision he would make was in accordance with Halacha.
The article does a good job taking the reader on a unique journey looking at those situations he faced and the process Rabbi Fletcher had to go through in arriving at his final answer to congregants. In the majority of those cases, his congregants were satisfied. However, in certain cases, Rabbi Fletcher had to “do the job of a Rabbi” and stick to the demands that Jewish law places on every Jew.
I Wish I Had Grown Up In Such An Environment
Rabbi Fletcher’s article describes a situation in Glasgow that sounds more like the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park where I grew up and was featured in the Coen Brothers movie “A Serious Man”. The only Orthodox Shul with a proper mechitza separating the women and men was three miles away from my parents’ home. It became difficult to walk there on Shabbat during winter when temperatures would fall to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
Because Orthodox Shuls only began appearing in my suburb after I entered High School I missed the opportunity to have the benefit of learning from a Rabbi such as Rabbi Fletcher in my early years of school. Therefore, I totally understand the challenges Rabbi Fletcher must have been faced with in Glasgow.
A Personal Story Confirming Why Rabbi Fletcher Was Well Respected In Glasgow
The Hamodia Inyan article makes it quite clear that Rabbi Fletcher had to constantly come up with new unique ideas to gain the confidence and support of the community. In other words, Rabbi Fletcher had to show his congregants he could come down to their level if he had to, which helped gain their support. He wanted to be doing Mitzvas for Shul members and showing them that life should include enjoyable moments as well.
One of those enjoyable moments took place when Rabbi Fletcher came to our daughter’s wedding soon after I began learning with him. He appeared to be a very serious person. Our whole family and all who attended the wedding would be getting a very big surprise.
The time came for dancing with men and women dancing separately. Rabbi Fletcher must have planned well in advance what was going to happen next. He comes to the dance floor with many cloth napkins (serviettes) in his hand. He then suddenly releases them and instead of falling to the floor in one big pile, they were tied together to form what looked like a jump rope.
So I, like mostly everyone else, thought Rabbi Fletcher would take one end and find someone else to hold the other end, which is sometimes done at weddings here.
But instead, Rabbi Fletcher takes both ends and begins jumping “rope” in perfect time to the music. It was quite a sight to see such a learned Rabbi jumping, dressed in his long black coat.
But that is the type of person Rabbi Fletcher is – always willing to help in so many different ways,
Thank you Rabbi Fletcher for all you have taught me during these past few years