I wanted to move. I live in Memphis, TN, where shuls can be miles apart, and I wished to live closer to the Baron Hirsch Shul. The shul’s rabbi, Shai Finkelstein, is one of the finest people I have ever met, and I find the congregation to my liking, as well.
I try to go to that shul for as many weekday classes as I can, but it is too far for me to walk to on Shabbos and holidays.
The area near the shul has a lot going for it. There are two supermarkets that are well stocked with kosher food and one even boasts a kosher bakery. There are excellent clothing and house wares stores at the local shopping center. I could go on and on but I’m sure you get the idea.
Several months ago, I made a serious effort to find an apartment in the “better” area but, alas, the rents were too high. I felt that I was stuck where I was.
About three months ago, I was going by cab to my dentist. My trusty cab driver, Alex, was driving me there and at a red light noticed a forlorn-looking man in shabby clothes standing near the cab. I reached into my purse and found a dollar and a five-dollar bill. I automatically removed the dollar bill and reached out of the window to give it to the poor man when the words of a story I read many years ago came to mind.
In the 1800’s, the Russian czar conscripted young Jewish boys to serve in his army. Passover was approaching and the rabbi of one of the villages was determined to collect money for Passover food for those soldiers. The rabbi went to the home of a wealthy Jew to ask for his help, but he was adamant, stating that he was not doing well financially and could not contribute anything.
The rabbi pondered out loud, saying that he would go home and pore over his holy books to see if it would be permissible for a Jew to eat only vegetables on Passover instead of special holiday food. Hearing that, the rich man assured the rabbi that if the Jewish soldiers would be allowed to forego the standard Passover fare, he would be able to make a contribution. “No, No,” exclaimed the rabbi. “The vegetables are not for our poor soldiers. They are for you! In that way, you will be able to contribute a nice amount so that the soldiers can enjoy festive food.”
This remarkable story came to mind (as it has many times in the past) in an instant, so I put the dollar back and exchanged it for the five-dollar one, which I quickly handed to the poor man.
The cab driver then continued driving. I called the same driver to take me home. Alex has a lot of integrity and I asked for him rather than any of the other cab drivers, even though he is from Ethiopia, and sometimes I have a problem understanding him, and there are times that he cannot understand me. I said something that made Alex think that I wanted to go to a tobacco store, of all places. I was dumbfounded when he drove to the nearest tobacco store and stopped.
I managed to let Alex know that I did not want to go there; I wanted to go home. When Alex looped around to get back on track, I saw a beautiful tree-lined area and a sign with the name and address of the apartment complex that is located directly behind all that lovely greenery. In the seven years I have been living in Memphis, I’ve shopped in that area many times, but I never saw that sign before.