Eight or nine years ago I was offered the chance to participate in a very early Talmud class. I live in New York City, and at the time I was attending a synagogue where I had a bit of a reputation for being a schnorrer [beggar]. R. B. was very frum [pious], but he loved French language and literature, and this had been enough to convince him I was a worthy addition to his group. We set a date. It was a winter morning, and the address I’d been given—although I didn’t know it at the time—was the home of a diamond merchant who welcomed friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to study every weekday at 5 a.m. I walked from the Upper West Side to the south side of the park and, as luck would have it, within a block I ended up at a hotel instead of the apartment building I’d been looking for. I wasn’t quite awake, I’ll admit, and I didn’t know anything about my host’s building. I was therefore unsurprised to find myself in a rather pompous lobby where the receptionist answered my query without hesitation.
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