A couple weeks ago, TRS asked me to take the Rebbe's kopote to Milwaukee for him. The day before the wedding, I was a bit concerned that TRS hadn't mentioned the kapote to me when he saw me over Shabbos, but I figured that he had enough on his mind as it is, so I didn't call to confirm that he still wanted my services. I called Yisroel Shemtov and asked to arrange to take the kapote. As is his wont, he asked to meet me before forking over the kapote.
I met him in his shop and he continued the discussion exactly where we left it off at the TRS-le7 l'chaim, with the scintillating topic of my beard or lack thereof. This quickly segued into a discussion of my general lack of scruples, and a mutual outpouring of hearts.
While we were pouring out our hearts to each other, I happened to learn some of Rabbi Shemtov's kapote-related rules:
A member of the wedding party cannot take the kapote, as he'll be too busy with other stuff to worry about the kapote.
The bochur who takes the kapote must go to mikveh beforehand.
Nobody is allowed to touch the kapote besides for the bochur to whom it was given. The bochur puts it on the chosson before the chuppah and takes it off after the chuppah. The rest of the time, the kapote sits in the trunk of a car to which only the bochur has the keys.
There are a bunch of other rules, but here's the most important one: if you lose the kapote, you owe Yisroel Shemtov $50,000. There's some impoverished Jew who owns another one of the Rebbe's kaptoes, and he's willing to sell it for $50,000. So if you lose Yisroel's, he wants you to give him money to get a replacement.
It goes without saying that among the rules is the requirement that the kapote carrier be a scrupulous, G-d-fearing young man, which I plainly told Reb Yisroel that I am not. For reasons I shan't disclose in public, he decided to give me the kapote anyways, with the condition that I engage in certain scrupulous behaviors this coming weekend.
He only gives the bochur to kapote on the way to the airport, so we made up to meet at his house at 3:20, when he would give me the keys to the mikveh near his house, I would dunk, get the kapote, and hop off to the airport.
It was an interesting conversation, and I was rather excited about the whole business. I hopped over to my sister's house to do some laundry, borrowed my sister's laptop to check the car-rental prices in Milwaukee, and was settling down to check my email, when I saw the following line at the end of an email from TRS:
Also, don't worry about the kapote from shemtov, because I'm not getting it.
I called TRS, and he basically said that he wasn't getting the kapote because it was just too expensive. Yisroel charges $100, plus he'd need to pay for me to rent a car to keep the kapote safe in. And with all the bajillions of other expenses, he just can't afford it.
I said, "Oh well. At least I had an interesting chit-chat with the rabbi. N'nu." In truth, I was a tad pissed. It's no big deal when poverty keeps you from buying sushi or taking a taxi. But wearing the Rebbe's kapote is a big deal. It's horrible that somebody should miss out just because he's a hundred dollars short.
But... The story gets more interesting and cheerful. Stay tuned for tomorrow's installment.