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December 18, 2014 / 26 Kislev, 5775
 
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The Taxi Ride


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I have been living in Israel for many years, yet there are still special moments that catch me by surprise. A series of such moments occurred recently, reminding me of how very lucky I am to call Yerushalayim my home.

After spending a successful morning shopping in the center of town, I decided to treat myself to a taxi ride home. The driver was a young, non-religious man in his early 30s. When I entered his vehicle, rock music blared from his radio.

I placed my bags around me, took out my Sefer Tehillim, and began to pray. The driver was watching me as I settled in the back of his cab. When he saw me starting to say tehillim, his fingers ceased their strumming to the beat of the music. Without any prompting, he quickly reached over and shut off the sound.

“Achshav yesh sheket. Titpaleli gam bishvili. (Now it’s quiet. Pray for me, too.”)

The traffic in town is in a state of perpetual chaos due to the laying of tracks for a planned light-rail system. After an interminably long time of waiting in a traffic jam, my driver shut off his meter. He told me not to worry; he would not take advantage of the traffic conditions to charge me an exorbitant fee. He told me that his income is determined by Hashem, and he was not worried about losing this extra income by doing the right thing.

The next day, I realized I might have inadvertently left something in the cab. I took a bus to the taxi company. In response to my query as to the existence of a lost-and- found corner, the manager handed me a key and directed me to a large, metal closet. When I unlocked it, I was so caught up with what I saw inside that I temporarily forgot to look for my missing item.

There were shelves stacked high with sefarim of all sizes: Gemarot, Chumashim, Tehillim and Siddurim. Men’s black hats, representative of just about every stream of Orthodox Judaism, teetered in a high precarious pile. All were waiting for their owners to take them home.

I asked the manager how long he allowed before removing the missing items to make room for more. Although he was not a religiously observant man, one could see the great respect and love he felt for these orphaned objects. He told me these items were his responsibility, and that he would keep them safe until the day they were retrieved and he merited the mitzvah of hashavat aveidah (returning lost articles).

I remembered my reason for coming here, and quickly found the item I had lost. I left for home with a smile of gratitude in having witnessed two examples of men who understood the importance of doing the right thing.

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A few seats away, I noticed a man with a Mishnah in hand, talking intently into a cell phone. I soon realized the man was participating in a Daf Yomi shiur, utilizing his traveling time well.

I insisted that one decoration, a dancing sevivon (dreidel) man, remain hanging in recognition of the chag. Some in my family questioned the appropriateness of this decision. Was it proper to have decorations hanging in what would soon become a house of shiva?

Shimon’s early years were not easy ones. His mother struggled to support both of them. She never acquired the knowledge needed to help her son through school years filled with homework and tests.

Chaim (not his real name) was walking down the street, feeling very discouraged. It seemed that lately, the news was filled with stories depicting the disparities, distrust and dislike between the different streams of Jews living in Israel. Much of it revolved around the different religious affiliations or non-affiliations that people adhered to. There were times when Chaim felt the situation was hopeless, with no way to bring people together as a cohesive group – despite their differences.

Like many religious Jews, our bookshelves contain a variety of sefarim. Among the sifrei Mishnah, the Gemara, the Chumashim, among others, there is one sefer that has special meaning to my family and me.

The rav was not a wealthy man, but earned enough to live comfortably. He earned his money by serving as the rav of a religious community in Yerushalayim. He also received some royalties from sefarim he had written over the years. He was well known, and many people approached him for a berachah, advice and help. They were not turned away.

Like many children, some of my grandchildren tended to rush through the berachot they recited each day. Somehow, the first few words were inclined to run together. The last few words often got swallowed up, especially those that were part of berachot made before eating something they really liked.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/the-taxi-ride/2011/08/17/

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