Moshav Tzafririm was founded in the 1950s by Jewish refugees from Morocco, Iran, Iraq and India. Located near the Elah Valley, the moshav sports its own winery and other tourist attractions. Though the moshav has been thoroughly secular for a generation, Belev Echad has brought about tremendous positive change in its work there over the last four years.
It’s In the Mechanics
Dudu was having a terrible day.
Truth be told, his days generally felt terrible. He worked as a car mechanic, employed by a hostile boss who made a hobby of viciously criticizing him.
After this particularly bad day, Dudu decided he needed some sympathy. He headed to his friend Yoav’s house, plopped himself on the couch, and started grumbling about everything and anything.
He wasn’t the only visitor to drop by Yoav’s house that afternoon. Seated on a chair beside the couch was Yoav’s friend Rabbi Nati Shoshan – a B’lev Echad activist.
Dudu, a staunchly secular fellow, eyed Rabbi Nati suspiciously.
“Hmph.” Dudu mumbled something about “parasites” and “it all comes down to money for you people.” Nati pretended not to hear.
Soon enough, the conversation turned back to Dudu’s ogre of a boss. Dudu poured out his bitter tale of woe while Nati nodded commiseratingly.
Though it came from an unlikely source, Nati’s sympathy hit the spot. Dudu felt a little stronger as he drove home.
A few months later, Dudu wanted to sell a used car of his. He put up some flyers with his phone number around town. A day or two later, he got a phone call.
“Hi, I saw you’re selling a car?”
Dudu launched into his sales pitch extolling the car’s virtues. At the end of it, the caller seemed highly interested.
“Sounds like something I want to see. Where do you live? What’s your name?”
Dudu rattled off his address. “I’m Dudu Cohen.”
There was a pause. Then a hearty, “Hey! I think I know you.”
“You do?” Dudu raised a suspicious eyebrow.
“Sure. I’m Nati Shoshan, remember me? We met a few months back at Yoav Ben-Tzvi’s house.”
“Ah.” Dudu nodded. “I remember you.”
“How’s it going? Have you found a better job yet? I’ve been wondering about you.”
Dudu was pleasantly surprised. He was about to say so, but Rabbi Nati jumped in first. “Just a minute. I’ll drive over. I want to see the car, and I’d love to catch up with you too.”
10 minutes later, the two were ensconced in Dudu’s porch, drinking seltzer. (“It has about six different kashrut stamps on it, is that kosher enough for you, Rabbi?”) They schmoozed for an hour, then for two. Dudu told Nati that no, he hadn’t managed to find a new job, and yes, he was probably going to go mad one of these days because of his monster of a boss.
Nati looked at him thoughtfully. Then he tapped his chin.
“Dudu, I have an idea for you.”
“You do? You know another garage that needs a mechanic?”
“No, no. I think you should start your own garage.”
“Me? Nah. How am I going to get customers?”
“That was part of my idea,” Nati said patiently. “You’re going to open your own garage. And you’re going to keep it closed on Shabbat. Actually, you’re going to start keeping Shabbat. And if you do, I’ll advertise for you. I’ll tell everyone I know about the excellent new mechanic in town.”
Dudu wrinkled his nose. “You think I’m going to do that?”
Nati shrugged. “It’s worth a try, no? You don’t exactly want to stay in your job.”
“That’s true,” Dudu sighed. He thought for a few minutes. “Ok. You have a deal. We’ll try it out. I’ll look for a place and let you know when we can get started.” He jabbed a finger in Nati’s chest. “But you better find me customers.”
“I’m sure I will. If you’re keeping Shabbat, G-d will send.”
Dudu found a suitable space and started paying rent. Nati networked devotedly, talking up the new business to every acquaintance who owned a car.
And the customers came.
One referred another, who referred three more. Soon, Dudu’s garage was humming with constant business.
“Rabbi,” Dudu rumbled into the phone one night, “I’m exhausted.”
“Oy,” Rabbi Nati tsked.
“And it’s all your fault!”
“Sure. You set me up with this wonderful business. I’m busy with clients from morning till evening. I’ve never made so much money. And no one is yelling at me! Nati, how can I ever thank you?”
Nati laughed. “I know how. Get a bunch of your friends to come to the garage once a week, and I’ll give a Belev Echad Torah class.”
How could Dudu refuse?
The class, given among tires and spare car doors, quickly gained popularity. It ran strong for two years, and it hasn’t stopped yet.
In that time, Dudu’s business boomed. His Shabbat observance – and other areas of his Judaism – blossomed. And he became a much happier, stronger person. When a rival mechanic sent the municipality knocking on his door threatening to close his garage due to a lack of permits, the new Dudu reacted calmly. He turned to Nati for support in overcoming this test, dealt with the involved parties in a calm, respectful manner, and patched things up beautifully.
With Rabbi Nati’s constant support, Dudu moved closer and closer to Torah. He started going to shul on Shabbat. He started spending less time with his bitterly secular friends, and more time with friends who supported his growth.
Dudu’s wife isn’t yet religious. But she religiously sets up a beautiful buffet of refreshments for Rabbi Nati’s class every week. She’ll tell you she’s even more grateful to Rabbi Nati and Belev Echad than Dudu is. Why?
“What do you mean? He’s a different man, my Dudu. He got himself a business and a religion, very nice. What did I get? A calm, happy mensch of a husband!”