Respect For Time
"You better be careful. He is going to monopolize your time.", someone told my wife back when we first started dating. I shouldn't have been offended by this statement because in all honesty I can be fairly obsessive about things at times.
Recently, it seems that my propensity for obsessiveness was manifest in my constant attempt to get through to speak with the Sudilkover Rebbe during his last visit to the United States this past summer. The Rebbe had told me then that he would like to make a weekly phone shiur with me to learn Degel Machaneh Ephraim. Needless to say, I agreed with his suggestion with great excitement.
The difficulty in making this shiur a reality was the fact that the Rebbe was always extremely busy, and people came to see him day and night. Invariably, whenever I would call he would tell me that he was with someone at the moment and that he would try to call me if he had a chance.
There were finally times when we were able to have this shiur over the phone, however most of the time it seemed like I was calling incessantly and just simply bothering him. I was quite cognizant of the fact that there was a fine line between being persistent and being a nudnik and I became concerned that I was becoming more of a nudnik.
During my last trip to see him, I saw a very thick stack of papers the Rebbe had on the table in front of him next to his seforim; each paper had the Hebrew name of a person who had met with him. The Rebbe told me that he understood that in his role as a rebbe he belonged to all of Klal Yisroel and that he made sure to take time to speak with whoever came to see him. He also told me that he had only slept six hours in the past two days, and that his last visitors had arrived at 1:30 in the morning and stayed until 5:30 that morning. In addition, he was still planning to see people later that evening.
With this new found appreciation for his schedule, I was ashamed of my past actions when I would call him repeatedly. In particular, I was ashamed of the time when I called him for a shiur and the Rebbe asked the person who was there with him if we could all learn together. This person graciously agreed and we had a shiur, however, in retrospect, I feel guilty that I interrupted a person's precious time with the Rebbe; perhaps this person had a lot of troubles and wanted to tell the Rebbe all the troubles in his heart. I will never know.
I do know that I did not show the proper respect and sensitivity for the Rebbe's time. I apologized to him during my last visit and he responded that no apology was necessary. He understood that when I called that the questions I was calling about were important to me, and that is why he made sure to take the time for me. Nevertheless, I have resolved to use more discretion in the frequency in which I contact him. This is not because I care about him less, but because I care about him more and have the utmost respect for the role he fulfils.