Whenever I look over at the small sefer Torah in our first grade classroom at RYNJ, a famous saying always comes to my mind: One small pebble thrown into the water makes many ripples. To me, that “one small pebble” represents a larger-than-life icon of Shomrei Torah in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, Harold Wahl.
Harold was a World War II veteran who served our country proudly. He was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather. A founding member of our shul, he actually built the aron kodesh in our beit midrash and took very special care to repair all the siddurim when they started to show wear. He was loved by all the congregants.
After Harold passed away, his children cleaned out his house. The various books and sefarim they found were dropped off at our shul and put in the lobby for anyone who wanted them. My husband told me about the cartons, knowing that I loved to look for old books, especially in Hebrew, that I could benefit the boys in my class. So off I went to look through the boxes—never dreaming of the real treasure I would find.
At the bottom of the last box was a small sefer Torah in a faded orange cover. It certainly was not a kosher sefer Torah, written on paper and only 18 inches tall. But, for my teaching purpose, it was perfect.
I brought the Torah to my classroom and started looking around for something that could house our new addition and keep it safe. Chris, the head of maintenance, was in the hallway and I asked him if maybe there was a box or carton I could use. He told me he had an idea and would get back to me tomorrow.
When I went to my classroom the next day, standing at my door was Chris with a cabinet with a door and wheels. He had transformed a small cabinet into a beautiful makeshift aron kodesh. I was so thankful to him. Somehow he knew how important it was for our Torah to have an extra-special home.
The next morning before davening I told the boys we have a very special addition to our class. They started looking all around the room and then I wheeled in the improvised aron kodesh. I took this opportunity to talk about the Aron in the Mishkan and Beit Hamikdash as well as how to behave properly in shul. I then shared with them that while we always act appropriately in our class now, we have an extra added level of kedusha to be careful about each day. We must behave a little more special; we must be kinder to our friends; we must treat each other with a little extra kavod; we must be extra careful about how we speak, and we must try to do even more mitzvahs each day.
After I finished speaking, one of the boys asked where the Torah came from and I told them about Mr. Wahl and how proud he must be knowing we used his Torah every day when we davened. From then on, every day a child lovingly carried our Torah around as we sang Torah Tzivah Lanu Moshe.
As for me, I was so happy to be able to perpetuate the memory of this special man. I realized how many actions helped make this possible. The simple donation of no-longer-needed books led to the finding of a true treasure, which led to the building of an “aron kodesh,” to raising the awareness of how to act and how one should conduct themselves each day. We are so lucky we have Torah in our lives, as it elevates a person each day just by being in its presence.
One simple act of kindness can truly help make a difference in someone’s life. Like the ripples of one pebble. Just thought I would share.
By Honny Aron