(Torah Portion Matos/Massai) Hey Taxi!
Contrary to the common expression, “Talk is cheap,” Judaism places a high value and responsibility on the uttered word. For example, taking a vow is taken seriously by Jewish law. Whether one expresses a personal prohibition on something that is otherwise permissible or if one makes a vow to undertake or accomplish something, he is bound by his word.
How far should one go, to uphold a personal commitment? The story is told of a person living in Israel who decided at his Bar Mitzvah that he would never Daven – pray – the three daily prayers without a Minyan – a quorum of ten men.
Some years later, he returned home from an out-of-town wedding at 3:00 a.m. and fell into bed totally exhausted. As soon as he had turned out the light, he realized that he hadn’t prayed Ma’ariv, the evening prayer. With tremendous effort, he dragged himself out of bed and started to dress.
He was then faced with the dilemma, where was he going to find a minyan at this unearthly hour.
As a resident of Jerusalem, he recalled that one place where one can always find a minyan is at the Zichron Moshe Shul.
He drove over to Zichron Moshe and found that it was open, but totally deserted.
Waking nine of his friends was not an option for two reasons. Obviously, he couldn’t startle them with a phone call so early in the morning and then selfishly impose an inconvenience upon them. Secondly, he knew that all his friends would have already prayed the evening prayer and a minyan for prayer requires that at least six of the ten men must participate in the prayers.
It then dawned upon him that taxis are open throughout the night and chances are the cabbies had not prayed the evening prayers. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed the number of a large local taxi company.
“Hello! Can you please send five taxis to the shul in Zichron Moshe?”
“Adoni (my dear sir)! It’s three o’clock in the morning! You think I have FIVE taxis? What do you think I am, a magician? …I only have four.”
“Okay. So send four!”
He then dialed the number of another taxi company. “Hello, please send five taxis to Zichron Moshe…”
Within twenty minutes, there was a procession of nine taxicabs parked neatly outside the Shul.
“Adoni,” said one of the drivers, “Why do you need nine taxis? There’s no wedding here, no Bar Mitzvah, nothing.”
“I want you all to turn your meters on and come inside with me. We are going to pray together the evening prayer. I need a Minyan to daven ”
They were all surprised by this unusual request and Yarmulkahs emerged from the glove compartments of the taxis, and the eclectic group of nine cab drivers and this man gathered in the Shul.
Despite being fluent in Hebrew, the drivers were not familiar how to pray. They didn’t know what to recite and when to answer etc. With a bit of coaching on this person’s part, all the cabbies participated and apparently enjoyed the opportunity to pray.
At the conclusion, the cab drivers went to their taxis where the meters were still running. The man pulled out his wallet, and said to the first taxi driver in the line, “How much do I owe you?”
“Adoni; do you honestly believe I would take money from a holy Jew like you who is so committed to his word and just gave me an opportunity like this? Do you know how long it is since I prayed?”
He moved down the line to the second driver and received the identical reaction… and the third and the fourth, all the way down the line to the ninth…They all refused to take a cent!
This is the resolve of one who expressed a commitment to a certain conduct! To this, the expression, “If there is a will, there is a way,’ is certainly apropos.
Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks