Monday, May 24, 2010

Judaism and the Art of Automobile Repair

What did you do for Victoria Day?

Kollel continues despite Queen Victoria’s special day, of course, so we had morning seder and I delivered a shiur at our Women’s Summer Midrasha, but this afternoon I took care of some body work on a friend’s car.

I started painting cars after a fender bender with a tree some 12 years ago. That was my first collision [the tree’s fault, of course; it jumped into my turning radius at the last minute], and I dutifully took my car to a body shop, which charged our insurance several arms and legs to replace the cracked bumper. I was impressed that they could get away with that kind of off-the-highway robbery, and figured this would be a good career if I ever decided to leave the rabbinate.

Several months later, my fender was scraped in a parking lot – not enough to warrant going to insurance and paying the deductible, but well more than I was willing to fork over myself. So I read up on body work, and went to Pep Boys for sandpaper, primer and paint. A short while later, my car was as good as new (almost, anyway). Ever since, I’ve had a hobby of doing the small jobs myself. I dream of one day having a hydraulic lift and doing the real stuff.

There is a lot to be said for this sort of work – it brings a feeling of accomplishment, it allows me to sweat, it has the redemptive quality of using my body and overcoming an obstacle in a way that many cannot. Think rock-climbing or bench-pressing, but with a practical benefit you can appreciate every time you get behind the wheel. Think רוצה אדם בקב שלו מט' קבין של חבירו - One wants a single measure he produces personally, more than he wants nine measures produced by another. (Bava Metzia 38a)

So when I noticed a friend’s scraped up vehicle exterior, I pleaded for a chance to right the wrong. Months later, the friend relented; here are the results from the front bumper, the first picture right after I cleaned the main part of the spot and the second one of the entire painted area, post-painting:

I know, it’s not quite perfect. I didn’t want to scrape all of the paint off of the bumper, so if you magnify the "after" picture you'll still see the edges of the wound. Also, the contour of the bumper is such that I had a small bit of pooling at the left edge. [Note: The spot on the "after" picture that looks like paint on the headlight is just sun glare.] But overall, I feel pretty good. And so does my friend.


  1. If you're in NJ I'm happy to let you do mine:-)
    Joel Rich

  2. Time for a new blog: Rabbi- Have Tools will Travel

  3. Oy, have I got a shidduch for you! You can paint and do bodywork, and learn a tough sugya. I can rebuild old motorbike carbureters, and do general mechanical maintenance. And I love to learn.

    What say we open a motorbike repair shop? It'll need some catchy name...

  4. Joel-
    Can you take care of plane fare?

    I think the mohel already took that one

    R' Mordechai-
    Sounds great to me... Au-to Shma... Mechanics & Masechtos...