A twinge of nervousness mixed with anxiety quickly flowed through my entire body. Should we cancel the walk and begin the investigation? No no, it could surely wait an hour without any disastrous results (I hope…). We enjoyed a nice walk and a game of billiards at the recreation centre in our complex and about an hour and a half later arrived back home. Though I had been relaxed throughout the walk, I knew it was now time to get down to business.
I took all the coats and shoes out of the coat closet and put them in the living room. I turned on all the lights in the hallway and grabbed a mega flashlight. I took my tool box out of the pantry and set it aside next to the closet so I could get to work. I then tilted my head ever so slightly to the right and stroked my beard. My wife came downstairs a few minutes later to find me standing and staring at the closet. In as calm of a manner as possible, I gave her a rundown of the situation. “So what’s the plan? What are we (read: you) going to do?” Ettie asked. “Well, I don’t actually know," I managed to stammer, "I don’t really have a plan. I mean, what do I know about hot water tanks?”
So we called the local plumber that we have used in the past and got an estimate on the cost of a new hot water tank and new pipes and accessories, and the labour involved. It wasn’t cheap and given the time of the year, the earliest he could fit us in was the following Monday morning (a full week later). The problem was that since it was leaking already, our tank could potentially burst at any moment and 175 litres of water can cause a whole lot of damage (G-d forbid). Ettie called her father for his advice as he had previously managed a plumbing and electric company for 12 years. He advised us to drain the tank as soon as possible in order to avoid the potentially disastrous results of the tank bursting. He started to explain how to drain a tank: turning off the hot water tank electrical breaker in the pantry, shutting down the water to the tank behind the closet, connecting a hose to the safety valve on the front of the tank, unscrewing the valve with a screwdriver, etc.
I felt my face get flush and I guess Ettie noticed because she asked me what was wrong. “I’m not a plumber. I can’t do this, I’m too nervous. What if I make a mistake? What if I tighten the screw too much or loosen the knob too little? I can’t do it. What if I flood our house? What if I flood our neighbour's house?” Ettie began encouraging me, telling me how handy I was, and that she was sure I could do it. I looked at her and simply stated, “But I’m not a plumber!” To which she replied, “But right now, in this moment, you are. You’re the person who can take care of this right now, whether you like it or not. The perfect man for the job.”
So, at that moment, I became a plumber. I put on my work gloves, followed my father-in-law’s directions and within an hour and a half, I had the tank emptied and disconnected, my tools put away, and the coats and shoes back in the closet. After the job was done, while sipping a cup of tea, I thought about the experience; about the importance of recognizing the position we are put it in and using our abilities to conquer each challenge no matter how big or small.
I pondered this week’s Torah portion, Vaeira, where Hashem instructs Moshe Rabbeinu to speak to Pharoah and tell him to let the Jewish people go. Moshe responds to Hashem that he can’t do it. Just a few lines later again Hashem gently tells Moshe that he should go to Pharoah and tell him to let the Jewish people leave Egypt, to which again Moshe replies that he just can’t do it; that he isn't fit for the job. So Hashem lovingly encourages Moshe by telling him that he will be master over Pharoah, and essentially that Hashem would be with him, enabling him to do the job.
What an incredible lesson we can learn from this. If someone as great as Moshe Rabbeinu could possibly believe that he was not able to fulfill a task given to him by Hashem, how should we feel when we encounter challenges? It’s simple. We need to know that Hashem is, and will always be, with us throughout the entire experience, because the very fact that the situation has arose means that Hashem is asking us to overcome it and take the challenge out of Egypt and into the land of Israel. That is to use the challenge as an opportunity for self growth. In fact, there is no greater freedom than the ability to overcome obstacles that stand in one’s way.
So here we are. It's been nearly a week without hot water. We are showering at a friend's home, doing our laundry by my in-laws, and washing dishes in freezing cold water. However, the hot water tank has been drained and disconnected and my tools were put to good use. And for a short period of time, just over an hour, I embraced the moment, and I became a plumber. And while the moment came and went, the confidence that developed as a result will surely last a lifetime.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful Shabbos,
Rabbi Nuta Yisrael Shurack