A Man’s Wages

Mr. K_____ is 80+ years old. He lives in a nursing home and attends our Synagogue, Mishna Ugamorah, every Shabbos and Sunday . He is important as we are happy to get 10 men for the Minyan. He comes at 9:30 AM and stays all day. He will eat either at my house or the Rabbi’s house. He worked all the years for Milt Gershowitz on the Montreal pop truck, delivering cases of pop in glass quart bottles, 12 to a case. I first met him when he was still able to live alone. He has since moved to the nursing home. He has only one or two living relatives and is not in contact with them. He talks about politics and only watches Fox news.

This past Shabbos, January 4, 2013, he ate at my house. During the meal he is contemplating his life and says, “I never earned a man’s wages.  As a result I could not get married and have my own kids”. He repeated himself a number times, “I never earned a man’s wages. I never earned a man’s wages. Nothing ever went right for me.”
I spoke to the Rov and what we surmise was that in the 1940s, he was in the Marines. He was issued a general discharge. The Rov was a Chaplain in the US Army and told me that in the 1940s and 1950s, in society a man was judged by his military service and if he was dismissed under a general discharge, it was held against him.  I sense that his entering the Marines was almost by accident and not really what he wanted or a stupid decision. Life often hinges on one act, on decision, one moment.

There was nothing I could say or that could be said.  My response was that we appreciate your effort in coming to our Synagogue and that there is huge merit waiting for him from God.   He is able towards the end of his life to come to pray, be called up to the Torah, participate as one of the guys.  This alone will pay him great dividends in the next world.

I have said this many times in the past.  This is one of the purposes of the Synagogue, to give everyone a place, a sense of belonging.  I love Synagogues that are robust, full of life, people talking, full of Torah.  Rabbi E. once told me that I would love his Synagogue.  He has no rules.  He knows me quite well.   I detest Synagogues with “Hakpodos”, heavy handed rules. 

The movie Back to the Future opens up with Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly with his family. His father lives in fear of his boss, they have a very modest home, and are losers in life. At the end of the movie after Marty McFly goes Back to the Future, history has changed, and his family now lives an upper middle class life in a gorgeous home and are winners in life. What changed? In the movie there was a pivotal scene which changed his father’s life. His future boss was the school bully. Originally, in the pivotal moment, his father does not stand up to the school bully and as a result lived his entire life in fear, downtrodden. When Marty McFly goes back to the future, he changes that moment of truth. His father stands up to the bully. His father now sees himself differently, as a winner, and his entire future changes.

Mr. K____ ‘s moment of truth did not turn out well for him. As a result a Man’s Wages . . . a Man’s Wages . . .

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