Message from Rabbi Hecht


Picture of Rabbi

Lag B'omer
May 12, 2020

Dear Friends,

Sholom and Bracha - peace and blessing to you all.

This past Friday night I felt very tired and almost fell asleep at the Shabbos table. That night I dreamed that I was being called to our Chabad Shul. I heard a sorrowful voice saying “Where is everyone why is my Shul empty. Where’s the music and excitement that I always hear?” I, too, need the people and kids to cheer me up. So goes the dreams that I have every once in a while. We need G-d and G-d needs us.

When Shabbos morning came I had the urge to go to Shul. The Shul was locked as no one goes there but my soul felt it needed to attend and say the prayers in Shul. The Mikvah was my first stop. The Kabbalists teach that a person should be like a Kohen when it comes to prayers, and a Kohen will go to the Mikvah before service.  So I gave it a try. I thought that living in such worrisome time it would do me good.

At the Mikvah I felt a strange was something new, a sad sprit was hovering over the pool. The room was very quiet and the waters were still. I entered the Mikvah and felt the water rushing forth, totally embracing me. It welcomed me with joy. Slowly and carefully I walked onto the Mikvah platform where I felt a strange sensation. The water was alive talking to me, hugging me like a long lost friend. I immersed myself and felt enveloped in union. Yes, I was in G-d’s swimming pool.

I remember how I built the Mikvah. I had a major problem where I needed rain water for the bottom holding pool. The builders did an outstanding job with the building but they had no control over the weather. The weathermen were reporting no rain for a few weeks or even months and here we had a Mikvah but no rain water. Then suddenly we experienced a miracle, a freak rain storm came to the South Bay area. It flooded the city and we had rain water. Now in order to make sure that the rain is kosher for a Mikvah it has to meet some criteria.

The roof has to be empty and dry. There can be no holding tanks or drains closed and the water has to be directed by a natural flow and not assisted by mechanical means. Simply the roof needs to run on a slant. The roof needs two drains, one higher than the other. When the rain falls from the sky the roof captures the water causing the rain to run to the lower drain. The water runs down the drain attached to a clay pipe with no stops or curves and falls directly on the floor onto a cement waterway that runs under the building. Then the water falls directly into the lower water pool that holds 180 gallons of rain water.  We then add city water to the rain water and attach a filter that cleaned the city water while the rain water stays in the bottom pool. The city tap water seeds the bottom pool of water and you add a few hundred gallons of clean fresh city water that is heated and filtered. And that is the Mikveh in a short description.

No water can be on the roof collected by any stopper the rain water must be free flowing...

Now when the storm broke out I put on a rain coat and sneakers, took a portable lantern, and told the family I’m off to collect rain water for our Mikvah. I had no idea what was in store for me.

On the second floor of the shul there is a closet that has a wooded ladder nailed to the wall and a small crawl space to the roof. There is a roof cover called a hatch made of heavy metal with a lock attached.  One has to be pretty strong to lift the roof latch and crawl up the ladder and set the latch to an open position. All this has to be done without slipping down that ladder or having the hatch roof cover close on top of you. So after I figured it all out I climbed the ladder and took my trusty lantern and climbed to the drain area becoming totally soaked.

I found the roof flooded as it had collected quite a bit of water and the lower drain was screwed tightly closed. In middle of the thunder and lightning I prayed that I wouldn’t fall off the roof and have the time to open the drain for the Mikvah water. I also needed to close the higher drain so we would get as much water as possible as I knew it was not every day that we have rain in California.

After I accomplished my goal of opening the drain and closing the second higher drain I started my trip back to the opening in the roof. I really wanted to get out of my wet clothing. Lo and behold in the darkness I could not find the latch leading to the roof. The wind was so strong that it blew the roof cover closed and there i was on the roof with no telephone. No cell phones were around in those days. Boy was I in a bind. Imagine, here I was on the roof in middle of a rain storm and a stuck roof cover. I was in a mess. I figured no one will ever find me, after all who looks up to a roof when looking for someone.

After a half an hour I was able to pry open the cover, crawl down the roof pathway, slip on the ladder and thank G-d for the miracle of survival and getting the rain water.

A few weeks later Rabbi Hendel, the Chief Rabbi of Montreal, came and checked the Mikvah and said “It’s kosher and you did a real fine job.” His letter and picture is in the Mikveh lobby room.

Anyway, after going to the Mikvah I went to daven the morning Shabbos services and the Shul was empty and very sad but I felt as long as the government keeps us closed and the people are safe I’ll do my part and bring some happiness to the Shul and Mikvah.

I end with best wishes and good health for all!

Your friend,

Rabbi Eli Hecht 
Regional Director
Feather and Quill