Yitzchak was tired. He was finding it hard to stay on his feet, but there wasn’t an empty seat on the Manhattan-bound train. Typically, he didn’t mind standing. But today he was utterly exhausted and wanted someplace to lean his head. It was obvious that he was looking for a place to sit as he squeezed through his fellow passengers. A kind gentleman, who didn’t look remotely Jewish, noticed and stood up to extend his seat.
At first, Yitzchak refused the man’s offer. He didn’t feel comfortable taking the privilege away from someone else. But it was clear the man wouldn’t sit back down, and Yitzchak finally took the seat.
A few minutes later, the man approached Yitzchak with a smile. “You’re surely wondering why I gave you my seat,” he said.
“Indeed, I am,” Yitzchak responded.
“It isn’t my nature – and probably not typical for most people to give up their seat to a stranger, but I’ll tell you why I did…” And the man unraveled his tale.
“Every morning, I wake up at 4 a.m. so I can get to work by 5:15. I work long hours, only coming home at six in the evening. I must be there every morning to open the doors for all the workers at the plant and I lock up at the end of the day. But it’s worth it, because I have a great job, with great pay.
Before I took on the job, I was warned that I must be there on time, every single day. If I ever come late, I would need to find myself another job. This didn’t seem like an empty threat – because I was told that the two employees who held my post before me were both fired when they had come late. So I’m ultra careful to be on time every single day – no exception!
One evening, I sat through a tremendous amount of traffic on my way home from work because of an accident on the road. I was exhausted by the time I got home and my whole night was off schedule because of it. I ended up going late to bed.
To my horror, when I awoke the next morning, my clock showed 5 a.m.! I knew it was impossible for me to get to work within 15 minutes, but I made a mad dash for my car. I sat inside and turned the key. But the car refused to turn on! This had never happened to me before.
Just then, I saw my neighbor – a practicing Jew just like you – come out of his house. He was holding his prayer bag. I ran over to him and asked him to help me. When he heard my plight, he reassuringly said, ‘Logically, it isn’t possible for you to make it to work on time. But there is a Creator. And nothing stands in His way. Ask Him to help you. With His help, everything always works out fine.’ This was the first time I had ever heard of such a concept. Such faith! The guy was confident that everything would be good – even in such a crazy situation. I uttered a prayer and ran to catch the train.
I was close to an hour and a half late when I got to work. I was sure to be hit with a barrage of complaints and accusations from harried workers who were waiting outside for such a long time. I even thought to myself how I would respond to the pink slip…
But then, the unthinkable happened. I entered the building, with its front door open wide. I couldn’t imagine who had opened it. A strong sewage smell hit me. I saw plumbing guys at work. Then I saw my boss. He was the only person from our company in the building. To my shock, he ran over to me, showering me with effusive apologies. ‘Last night,’ he said, ‘a pipe burst and caused loads of damage here. I sent a message to all the employees not to come today until the matter is taken care of. I feel bad that you didn’t get the message.’
I smiled widely at my boss and said, ‘It’s okay. Really. No problem.’ And I went back home. The first thing I did was knock at my Jewish neighbor’s door. I told him the whole story and concluded that I had no doubt it had all happened just to prove to me the true power of believing in G-d.
I wrote out a check for $18,000, my monthly salary, and gave it to my neighbor. I knew the only reason I still had my job was thanks to him. I wanted to pay him for teaching me the concept of true faith. Also, I felt that I had a new tool to use to make sure everything would go my way from that point on.
But he refused to take it. ‘It’s my mitzvah as a Jew to spread the Name of our Creator, and I don’t want payment for it. If you truly want to return the favor,’ he told me, ‘you can be nice to Jews who need your help.’”
The gentleman concluded his tale, then turned to Yitzchak and said, “Do you now understand why I gave you my seat?”