(a post apropos to this weeks Parsha...)
The entrance to 14 W 45 Street in the heart of New York's diamond and jewelry district is small and unassuming. The best way to describe the elevator that ascends to Raphael Silver Repair & Antiques would be to describe it as a creaky "his and her" sized coffin. But once you arrive at your destination, you'll be glad you put your claustrophobia aside for a time.
The space is small and simple, as is the man at the helm. A small, white bearded, self-effacing "yid" by the name of Raphael shuffles softly from one antique vitrine to another, holding up specimens cramped within. His eyes gleam as he shows a particularly beautiful 100+ year old cup and he describes the "fine" engraving work. One would never guess that this wizened chossid is frequently commissioned by the White House to fulfill their silver gift needs (ALL their gift needs, not merely limited to judaica) and do complex engraving for presidents and dignitaries. Nor would one suppose that the Dupont family is a valued customer and that he currently has pieces behind his desk with lot numbers from the recent Tavern on the Green liquidation auction. Raphael's greatest achievements though, are the instances where he lovingly and expertly restores time ravaged pieces of synagogue "klei kodesh" to their original glory. And yet, if you commend him on his accomplishments, he will tell you that these are all "shtussim" and his true pride comes from his children - renowned poskim of our day.
On our recent visit to purchase and engrave Kosos for our granddaughters for the upcoming Pesach sedarim (we purchased one for our grandson already at his bris), he tells my husband that he often thought about getting out of the business. My husband replies, "But then when Moshiach comes, who will help with all the intricate silver work necessary for setting up the Beis Hamikdash?". Raphael's aging eyes brighten as he exclaims, "That's exactly what my father used to tell me".
I couldn't think of a better modern day Bezalel...