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August 21, 2014 / 25 Av, 5774
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Only In Israel: The Donkey And The Car

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The incessant loud knocking on the door startled me from my brief reverie. My husband had left to attend a chassanah in Yerushalayim just moments earlier, the kids were comfortably tucked into bed, and I was spending a quiet evening at home tackling sundry neglected tasks. The sudden pounding and muffled voices soon interrupted my plans for the lonely hours that beckoned. I hurried to answer the door while drying my hands on a kitchen towel haphazardly draped over my shoulder.

On my doorstep stood two of my husband’s favorite, albeit most mischievous, teenage students. They tripped all over themselves and each other trying to explain why they had come so unexpectedly and with such an unmistakable sense of urgency. I could not begin to understand their garbled shouts. Finally, they calmed down enough to relay the reason for their impromptu visit.

“Please, Rebbetzin,” implored round-cheeked Manny breathlessly. “We need you to give us the rabbi’s driver’s license and ID card. He just hit a donkey, and the police want his documents right now.”

“Come on, Manny,” I responded, smiling broadly. “You can do better than that.”

These two jokesters had played plenty of pranks in the past, and their credibility was below nil. Besides, this scenario was so ridiculously contrived that I was not about to fall for it. I gave myself a figurative pat on the back, priding myself for not being swayed by the proverbial “boy who cried wolf.”

Except, as it turned out, it was true. Every single incredible word!

My husband had been on his way out of our small, sleepy town en route to the wedding of a young man he had known when he was growing up in the U.S. The boy had endured a difficult upbringing, withstanding many challenges and disappointments, and was now, Baruch Hashem, about to get married and embark on a new chapter in his life. Although my husband’s schedule was already full-to-overflowing with family and work-related obligations, he decided that he wanted to participate in this long-awaited simcha. So off he went.

When he reached the town exit, he caught sight of the aforementioned two bachurim thumbing a ride at the trempiada (hitchhiking spot). He invited them to join him, and the threesome proceeded to drive through the adjacent Arab village. It was a moonless night, and there were no streetlights to light their way. The car’s headlights illuminated but a severely limited patch of the road ahead made visibility minimal at best. Suddenly a dark apparition appeared just ahead of them, followed almost immediately by a loud thud and an unidentified large object crashing onto the hood and windshield. The shaken driver and passengers had no idea what had hit them or, to be more accurate, what they had inadvertently hit.

Pandemonium ensued and the police were summoned. It turned out that my husband had indeed hit a donkey – with an Arab riding astride it. Neither the animal nor its rider wore reflectors of any kind, and my husband was unable to see them until their too-close encounter. The donkey had not survived the crash, and the Arab had sustained a slight injury to his leg.

By then, it was unfortunately too late to make the chassanah. So my husband and his passengers returned to town, still somewhat incredulous at all that had transpired since they began their journey. At the same time, they were extremely grateful to HaKadosh Baruch Hu that they had suffered no harm.

My better half felt terrible about missing his friend’s wedding but, Baruch Hashem, was able to somewhat compensate by attending and being the featured speaker at the main Sheva Berachos.

A few months later, my husband was summoned to court to appear before a judge for his part in the accident.

The courtroom was hot and stuffy. My husband mopped his brow yet again and slumped even lower in the hard wooden seat. He had been sitting in this uncomfortable position for what seemed like hours and was beginning to feel like he had been born and had spent his entire life in this very room.

Worse yet, although he was very upbeat by nature, he found his mood growing progressively more depressed with each case that came before the presiding judge. He could not envision the eventual Yom Hadin to be more intimidating.

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