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It Makes No Sense—Part Two

In part one of this series of articles, we shared a situation that was happening at a certain yeshiva.  Leibish Latecomer was a perfect reflection of his name, as he showed up to davening late day after day.  Rabbi Moskowitz, the principal, was going to use Leibish as the example of how to apply a principle that makes no sense but really works wonders.  The first part of the experiment was to follow the plan that the rabbeim prepared for what should happen when Leibish would come late.  The first day he was late, Leibish lost one recess period, the second day he was late, he lost two recess periods, after a certain number of absences, Leibish’s parents had to come to school for a meeting with Rabbi Moskowitz, and on and on with increasingly severe consequences. 

As Rabbi Moskowitz had predicted, nothing changed.  The consequences did nothing to get Leibish to school on time.  At this point, the rabbeim were in agreement with Rabbi Moskowitz that these particular consequences didn’t do the trick.  Why that was the case puzzled them!

Before we move along with part two of the plan, allow me to share one peculiar consequence.  After davening, with Leibish having been twenty minutes late that morning, Rabbi Moskowitz invited Leibish to go out and have a hot chocolate drink.  I know this part really makes no sense, but when you hear and understand this theory, this consequence will make perfect sense.  You are right that it would surely not do anything and on the contrary, it would reinforce and reward his late coming.  This will be clarified when the entire theory is explained.

Rabbi Moskowitz was now ready to set part two of the plan into motion.  He informed the rabbeim that beginning the following day, nothing would happen if and when Leibish came late to davening.  “I will make believe that I don’t even notice him walking in late,” explained Rabbi Moskowitz.  The rabbeim protested and predicted that nothing would change about his coming late.  “If he didn’t change his behavior when he had all those consequences, what makes us think that he will change now,” the rabbeim challenged Rabbi Moskowitz.

Rabbi Moskowitz promised that they would receive an explanation, but they had to be patient and watch how things played themselves out.   

As expected, the next day Leibish was just as late as usual.  Rabbi Moskowitz shared glances with the Rabbeim, but nothing was said to Leibish.  While he was expecting Rabbi Moskowitz to inform him of his new consequence for the day, none of that happened.  Rabbi Moskowitz walked past Leibish and made it seem like he didn’t even notice Leibish.

The following day Leibish was late again and that continued for many days, until one beautiful day.  Leibish’s mother and father had to fly out of town and they were leaving on an early flight and as a result, Leibish was forced to be in school at 7:45.

When the Rabbeim entered the shul that morning, they were shocked to see Leibish there so early.  They approached Rabbi Moskowitz and asked him if did anything different from the past that would explain why Leibish was on time.  He responded that he didn’t do anything different and that he was just as surprised as they were.  The Rabbeim proceeded to probe Rabbi Moskowitz and they were curious to know if anything would happen differently now that Leibish made it on time.  Rabbi Moskowitz responded that something was going to happen to Leibish but he just wasn’t sure at this moment what it would be.  Since Leibish caught him by surprise, he needed time to think of the best course of action.

Throughout the day Rabbi Moskowitz thought about different possibilities for how to do something for Leibish’s timeliness that morning.  One possibility was to take him out for lunch, one possibility was to give him a gift certificate to his favorite store, one possibility was to give him extra recess, and one possibility was to even have him miss recess.  Yes, miss recess for being on time.  Can’t you hear the principal saying, “Leibish, since this morning you showed me that you are capable of being on time, you will lose your recess today because of all those other days that you were late”?  If this response doesn’t make sense, just add it to the list of things that need to be explained when we finish the whole story.

That day was not out of the ordinary and because Rabbi Moskowitz got busy with other tasks in the Yeshiva, he forgot to follow through and do anything with or for Leibish.  At 8:30 that evening Rabbi Moskowitz remembered that nothing happened with Leibish for coming on time that morning.  He couldn’t let the day end without handling the matter.  Finally, after months of school, Leibish made it on time and that had to be handled properly.

Rabbi Moskowitz phoned Leibish at home and got him on the other end of the line quickly.  Following was the dialog:

Rabbi Moskowitz:            Good evening Leibish, this is Rabbi Moskowitz.

Leibish:                        Good evening Rebbi. 

Rabbi Moskowitz:            Leibish, I wanted to ask you if you know what my job is and what I do all day.

Leibish:                        That is easy.  Rabbi Moskowitz is the principal and Rabbi Moskowitz makes it possible for everything to function right and helps people solve their problems.

Rabbi Moskowitz:            Leibish, you are so right and that is very perceptive of you.  Well, let me share something with you.  Today was a particularly difficult and challenging day.  There were some problems that were difficult to solve easily.  In short, I had a difficult day.  However, there was one thing that happened that made it much easier for me to handle the difficulties.  Would you like to guess what that was?

Leibish:                        Did it have anything to do with my coming on time this morning to davening?

Rabbi Moskowitz:            You bet!  Your coming on time made me happy and it made it much easier for me to accept the challenges of the day.  I am calling to say thank you and let you know how much I appreciate what you did for me today.

Leibish:                        Thank you rebbi!  Have a good night. 

That was the extent of the great prize or consequence that Leibish received for coming on time.  Would you like to guess if he came on time the following morning?  No, his parents were not out of town; they were home that morning.  If you guessed that he was in school at 7:50 the following morning, you are right on. 

That morning after davening, the rabbeim approached Rabbi Moskowitz and inquired as to what was the actual reaction the day before for Leibish’s coming on time.  They were sure that he must have gotten a really huge prize because he was on time for a second day. They were shocked to hear that all that Leibish received was a phone call from his principal the night before.  They were more than shocked to hear that all Leibish was getting for his second day of being on time was a thumbs up from Rabbi Moskowitz.

It was now February of the school year and Leibish had made it to school on time for two consecutive days—Leibish made history in a huge way!  Are you curious to know what happened on day three and thereafter?  Well, to hear the rest of the story, you will have to wait until next issue. To be continued

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