I’ve told this story years ago, back in the days of the old Shabbos House, and before Great Dane Drive was named, but the heavy rains and flooding on Thursday reminded me of this story – and it’s meaningful message.
There’s only one storm-water drain on Great Dane Drive (the road that leads of University Drive towards Fuller Road and Shabbos House). And the road is lined with pine trees, which release lots of pine needles which clump out and block the storm drain. So on days with heavy rain we’d look out the old Shabbos House window that faces Great Dane Drive and see the puddle over that solitary drain grow and grow, into a small pond or lake, and then begin rushing as a waterfall down the slope toward Shabbos House.
I (Mendel) would dash out in the rain, brandishing a metal rake (the plastic ones would not do) and splish and splash my way around in that deep puddle, sometimes well over my ankles to try and find that drain underneath all that water. Cars would drive by, drenching me with their spray (as if I wasn’t wet enough already) and perhaps not a little too curious about the strange sight of a bearded Rabbi frantically waving a stick in the midst of a supersized puddle. Did they think I was Moses trying to split the Sea?
Eventually G-d would answer my prayers and the rake would pick up some of the clumped up leaves, and create a small opening to one of the drain holes. I would yank and pull and try to make the hole bigger. From that point it would be less than a minute for an intense whirlpool to form, swirling and expanding, as the water literally got sucked down that open hole, small as it was. It would be a matter of minutes before that little pond was no more.
It hasn’t been an issue for a while. I called UAlbany’s Grounds Dept, explained the situation, and they have been pretty good about coming by quite often with the street cleaner (yes, street-cleaners are good for this kind of thing) so we haven’t had such a situation in a while. Until this Thursday. The dirt on the Data Center construction site wasn’t as protected or secured as it should be, and the heavy rains swept that dirt down into Great Dane Drive and over the hill into the old Shabbos House yard, and down all the way to the new Shabbos House – dumping sand onto our porous pavement parking area and into our storm water recharge basin. We were not happy campers. I spent much of the day on the phone, and the issues is still not resolved. Stay tuned on this matter.
But it reminded me of my rake-waving days in the big puddle, and the message I learned from it:
In the first paragraph of Shema it says, “these words should be on your heart.” ON your heart? Shouldn’t they be INSIDE your heart? The answer is that not always can we get these words inside our heart. Sometimes our hearts aren’t ready, sometimes we’re not there yet. But the verse insists that we continue to pile these words atop our heart, store them there, let them sit on the outside. One day, a little spiritual opening will happen, and then all those words will rush right in, as the waters piled atop the drain rushed in once I opened up a little opening.