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September 17, 2014 / 22 Elul, 5774
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The Benefits Of High Gas Prices

         People have been bitterly complaining about the rising price of gas. They feel their lifestyle is being threatened by the high cost of fuel. People interviewed by the media at the gas pumps are not shy in expressing their resentment and disgust, and how gassing up has hit them hard financially. Many admit that they are reconsidering their long-distance vacations, and complain that monies normally set aside for entertainment and recreational purposes will have to be diverted in order to pay for the ability to get to work.

 

         But every negative situation has a silver lining; one just needs to look for it.

 

         First, expensive gas will result in more people walking. Instead of getting into the car to drive half a mile to buy milk, bread or soda, people might be more motivated to save money and actually walk the 10-15 minutes to the grocery store. After doing that a few times, they might discover the enjoyment of feeling more energetic and happier. (Exercise releases the “feel good” hormones called endorphins.)

 

          I truly believe that if it weren’t for Shabbos, many heimishe people would never move their legs back and forth for any appreciable distance or time. At least Shabbos forces them to get reacquainted with the sidewalk.

 

          Here’s a true story: A friend of mine, bemoaning her expanding girth, pointed out (after I mentioned that in addition to dieting, exercise would help her lose weight) that she does exercise, as she often gets up from her chair and walks across the office to the filing cabinet or fax machine, etc. Since she drives to and from work, and rarely walks anywhere, she truly thought that she was actually “exercising.”

 

        Unaffordable gas might just save her life one day.

 

         Talking about saving lives, fewer vehicles on the road (because people are walking more often) means fewer distracted, inept or careless drivers causing tragic loss of limb and life. Imagine being able to cross the street at a busy intersection with a green light (and not feel that you should bench goimel) because you safely made it to the other side without being hit by a right-turning or left-turning car. Big-city dwellers and those living in Brooklyn will understand what I’m talking about.

 

         Imagine, as well, being able to breathe relatively fresh air as you walk to your destination – because there are fewer cars spewing their toxic exhaust at you.

 

         Another benefit is that people who share a sidewalk (as opposed to being separated by several tons of steel) have a much better opportunity to meet one another. Repeatedly seeing familiar faces can actually lead to the exchange of greetings, which might lead to a friendship – and who knows, maybe the lady one street over who you’ve become acquainted with has a nephew who would be perfect for your daughter!

 

         Speaking about shidduchim, the high cost of fuel might encourage in-town dating for out-of-towners (re: those living outside New York). Young people in sizeable heimishe communities may actually take a closer look at the local eligibles being redd to them – and actually go out!

 

         When I was in the parshah back in Toronto, it had become very fashionable for the boys to run to New York for shidduchim. We referred to them as “imports,” misguidedly believing the popular but misleading adage that, “The grass is greener on the other side.” Consequently the girls had to do likewise, in what was an expensive and exhausting necessity that, except for a fortunate few, is the norm in communities across North America.

 

         With soaring gas prices increasing the cost of flying and driving, young people may seriously look in their own backyard for their ezer kinegdo – resulting in many very happy and relieved grandparents who will be able to share their precious einiklach over Yom Tov.

 

         For example, my brother was smart/lucky enough to marry a wonderful girl who lived just doors away. His little ones would toddle back and forth from one bubby’s houseto the other, as we watched them from our front yard. They were fortunate to be loved and cherished, and to share magic moments on an almost daily basis with both sets of grandparents.

 

         No debating over which set of in-laws to spend the holiday with, no shlepping for hours by car with cranky preschoolers and bored 10-year-olds.

 

         While not everyone’s bashert is conveniently in town, at least there might be more motivation to try the home front first.

 

         So next time you’re at the pumps, don’t despair. Better health, cleaner air, more friends and even a shidduch might get you speeding on the road to a better life.

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