Summer vacation has begun. Everyone is making plans and has some kind of trip in mind. Who doesn’t yearn for a well-earned rest after a busy year? Traveling is exciting. We can all use a refresher.
What makes a Jew special is that even during breaks he carries his responsibilities along with him. Packing is not complete before tefillin are stored in his luggage – perhaps next to some tea lights for Friday night, a kiddush cup, and so on.
But there is more that he carries along. A Jew takes his values, his beliefs – the principles that define him – too. They accompany him wherever he travels.
The following story – which I personally witnessed – illustrates this fact. You may or may not like this story. To some readers, it may sound “extreme.” Nonetheless, it carries a powerful lesson – that sometimes all it takes is giving things we really believe an honest try.
Let me start by telling you that the hero of the story is not a bearded Jew with a black hat and jacket. He is a Jew who wore a colored shirt and a yarmulke – maybe what we would call an “average Jew.” As the story will make clear, though, he defied the definition and strengthens the principle that there is no “average” Jew!
We were traveling to Switzerland on a plane with a well-respected airline, and in close proximity to us sat a Jewish family – two parents and two teenage children. After flying for a short while, a film started playing on the screen. Unfortunately, the images displayed were, to say the least, distasteful.
As the nature of the images worsened, the father of the above-mentioned family couldn’t bear it any longer and turned to a stewardess. He asked her to please be considerate and stop the film. Politely, she explained that doing so wasn’t an option.
The father insisted, pleading with her that his children’s well-being was at stake. The images, he explained, could harm their souls. He elaborated on the damage and begged her to do something for the sake of his children.
The stewardess seemed touched by his eloquence. She went over to speak to her superior but came back apologetic, with – you guessed it – a denial of his request based on the fact that earplugs had been sold to whoever wanted to follow the drama on the screen. People had paid for the pleasure to see the film.
“How much did they pay?” asked the man.
“Two dollars per piece,” she answered.
“How many people bought earplugs?” he asked.
I followed the dialogue closely, curious to see how it would play out. “Approximately 100 people,” she answered.
On the spot, without blinking an eye, the man took $200 out of his wallet, handed them to the stewardess, and said, “Use any pretext to stop the film and return the passengers their money.”
The staff gave in. The sincerity of his plea won them over. They were literally flabbergasted by this man who spared no effort or money for the sake of his children’s spiritual well-being. With an apology, a voice on the loudspeaker informed the passengers that the film was being discontinued, and money for the ear plugs would be refunded, which happened a few minutes later as a stewardess walked through the aisles “buying” earplugs back from passengers.
The chances for the story to have ended the way it did were downright zero. Yet, this man’s sincerity prevailed over logic and crowned his enterprise with success.
Editor’s note: Rebbetzin Gross welcomes comments and questions from readers. She can be reached at RebbetzinGross.JP@gmail.com. If she believes the question relevant to a larger audience, she will – with the writer’s permission – answer the question in this column.