In Eretz Yisrael, religious Jews – singles, couples, and families – often travel to visit friends or relatives for the Jewish holidays. If they have a car, that’s great, and if not, the most common way of inter-city traveling is by public buses. The buses are usually packed with adults, children, babies, baby carriages, suitcases, hat boxes, wig boxes, and sometimes even food that is being brought to the hosts to help out with their preparations.
On the bus there’s talking, studying, babies crying, and so on. Some people are “plugged into” their phones or reading; others are trying to take a short nap, and still others are trying to keep their babies occupied and in a happy, non-crying mode so as to ensure a pleasant trip for everyone.
That’s when the bus is heading to its destination before the holiday. Coming back, after Yom Tov, there’s a lot more exhaustion, with the adults trying to keep their kids busy with snacks and their babies sleeping so as not to disturb the other passengers who now, coming home late after being away for a day or two, are usually very tired. Though most people try to stick to a schedule, packing up and heading out from their hosts often takes longer than expected – especially when there are young kids involved.
This true story happened just two years ago, the night after the second day of Rosh Hashana. Since they are both religious cities, a bus from Bnei Brak to Yerushalayim the night after Rosh Hashana has lots of families, including lots of young children – even late at night.
Thus, you can begin to imagine what a major bus stop – the one near the large red “Coca Cola” sign, a landmark at the entrance to Bnei Brak – looks like at twelve-thirty at night. Lots and lots of tired people. The adults are feeling uplifted and even exhilarated from the two days of Rosh Hashana, and the children are very happy from the family experiences, but are also very tired. Some can hardly stand up.
A quarter to one. The bus should come any minute. One o’clock and it’s not here yet. One thirty and no bus to Yerushalayim. People are calling the bus company – asking, complaining – and they get promises, but still no bus arrives.
There are buses to other destinations, but not to Yerushalayim. More time, more fatigue, more stress, more crying, and no end in sight. Many people start to think that they’ll have to go back to their hosts, wake them up and ask to sleep over in Bnei Brak. Oy vey.
Suddenly, a bus is seen coming in their direction and a wave of relief spreads through the waiting crowd. But the relief is short-lived as the bus nears the stop and the people waiting see that it’s Number 318 – heading to Rehovot. They are at their wits’ end. After a minute or two, two men get an idea. They get on the bus and start explaining the situation, how long they’ve been waiting, how tired and stressed they are, how hard it is for everyone, especially the kids and the mothers with babies in their arms. “Look what’s going on here,” they plead. “Please, please, take us to Yerushalayim!”
The driver listens and then says, “Are you normal?! You see it says that this bus is to Rehovot!”
“We know,” they reply, “but look what’s going on! Have rachmunus!”
Again the driver says, “How can you ask such a thing?! You see it says 318 to Rehovot! What do you want from me?”
They talk to him a few minutes more, and then suddenly the driver says: “You know what? I’ll take you to Yerushalayim! Tell them all that I’ll take them.” The two men are ecstatic as the driver changes the number and destination that appears on the outside of the bus to 402 – Yerushalayim. The people are thrilled and start boarding the bus, all of them thanking the driver over and over again. And they’re blessing him, telling him that Hashem sees what he is doing and that he’ll certainly have a wonderful New Year and a wonderful life as a reward for the chesed he’s doing!
Everyone’s on board with all their children and belongings, and the bus starts on its way to Yerushalayim. Some of the passengers fall asleep, and others continue to thank and bless the driver. The atmosphere on the bus is calm, quiet, and happy.
One of the passengers asks the driver for his microphone and begins to praise and thank him on the mike in the name of all those aboard, saying what a tzaddik the driver is. And, of course, all the passengers agree. Before long they will be back in Yerushalayim and they can’t wait to finally get home.
As the bus reaches Yerushalayim, one of the passengers gets up from his seat and approaches the driver. He thanks him again and then says, “Until now I was afraid to ask you, but now I want to ask: Aren’t you afraid to do such a thing? Your supervisor certainly sees and knows everything that’s going on. He’s sure to fire you! You won’t have parnassa. You’re not afraid to do such a thing?”
The driver bursts into laughter and says, “I’ll tell you what happened. My supervisor saw the situation – he knew exactly what was going on at your bus stop and he said to the drivers: ‘There are lots of people at the stop near Coca Cola waiting for a very, very long time for a bus to Yerushalayim. We need a 402 there immediately!’ Now, this isn’t the first time such a thing has happened and we all knew what would be awaiting the driver who would finally arrive to take them after such a long wait. There would be lots of loud voices, anger, complaints. It would all be justified, but still none of us wanted to be the object of their anger, stress and frustration.
“Then suddenly I had an idea. I said, ‘I’ll do it. Ani estader, I’ll get by, it’ll be OK. And so I took a bus and changed the sign on the front to 318 – Rehovot. And then, when I arrived and eventually took you to Yerushalayim, instead of getting a shower of anger and insults, I got appreciation and blessings. The bus company has no complaints against me; they’re relieved that I agreed to take you. And I was glad to do it because I had a drive filled with compliments and gratitude!”
I heard this story from Rabbi Elimelech Biderman who said we learn two lessons of emunah from this story. One is that when you think that things are going wrong, like the bus is going to Rechovot instead of Yerushalayim, be calm. Everything, including what looks wrong or unwanted, is being directed by Hashem! Rav Biderman elaborated, saying that the Torah tells and commands every Jew to be happy and always trust in Hashem. As he put it, “Get used to thanking and trusting in Hashem and being happy!”
The second message, he said, is that when you think you did something terrific and that’s how you got such good results – like the two men who probably were thinking, “Wow, look what we did – we convinced the driver to take us all to Yerushalayim!” – then, too, remember that whatever happened was not because you did such a great job, but because Hashem wanted it to happen. Hashem wanted them to get to Yerushalayim, and even if those two men hadn’t talked so convincingly, they all would have arrived in Yerushalayim anyway!
And so, we can all relax about everything, because it’s all from Hashem, and so everything is good and will be good – b’ezrat Hashem!
Naomi Brudner’s new musical discs for children and families, YOU ARE WONDERFUL! and SOMETHING WONDERFUL! will soon be in stores, b’ezrat HaShem.