Do you know those nights when it is cold and rainy outside and all you want to do is snuggle in your bed in warm pajamas? I do. But instead, I chose to go listen to a shiur being given by our Rabbi of 10 years, from our old neighborhood. A Rav that we have been inspired by and learned so much from. From his knowledge and guidance.
The experience I had on my first journey from Yerushalayim to Ramat Beit Shemesh that night was one like I’ve never had before.
I waited, shivering, by the bus stop with a massive crowd of people. When the already-filled-to-capacity bus pulled up, everyone tried to get on at the exact same time. The driver turned us away and directed us to the approaching bus. Mayhem ensued. I pleaded with him to let me on since everyone else had dissipated. Thankfully, he let me on.
Relief. Out of the rain. Next stop, Ramat Beit Shemesh.
The bus was packed. Every seat occupied. Ninety percent with men. The aisle was full too. I was all the way up front, trying to balance myself during all the twists and turns, uphill and downhill, so as not to land on top of one of the seated passengers. Definitely a good use of core muscles- no need for Pilates that night!
It was quiet except for a few quiet conversations. And that’s when a very exciting and enlightening exchange took place. Between the bus driver and me. A very sweet, older gentleman. I think he may know my entire life story now. Israelis are so intrusive, I mean inquisitive! The kindness he showed me was overwhelming. First, he offered to hang up my coat on the back of his seat. Then he offered to stop the bus to take out the plastic chair from below for me. Each time, I declined, not wanting to have him or the rest of the passengers go out of their way for me. I think he was just happy that someone would talk to him and not ignore him. To show some gratitude to the person driving everyone home at the end of a long work day. I can’t think of another reason why he’d want to go to so much trouble.
Then he found out that my stop would be the last on the route. Since he had never heard of that private street address, he decided that instead of ending his work day, he would drive around until he located the street. I, of course, tried to turn down the kind offer, but he wouldn’t hear of it, not wanting to leave me off in the dark, rainy night. He rolled down his window and stopped people walking their dogs or honked at passing cars to ask them directions. I looked at my watch. The shiur would have been starting already. I told him, “It’s really ok, you can let me off and I’ll call the hosts to direct me.” He was reluctant, but agreed.
As I was getting off the bus he said, “I am really happy that you were my passenger today. You made my trip so pleasant. Please stay safe.” And I looked at him, and said, “I am really happy that you were my driver tonight. Thank you for everything you did tonight. Your actions and kindness went above and beyond.”
When I left the bus, I couldn’t help but smile. I was even more surprised when I met a girl on the street who stopped me and said, “Are you Tova, the person that just got off the bus?” Perplexed, I answered, “Yes?” She saw my confusion written across my face and said, “Oh, the bus just stopped and asked me where Rechov __ is. I told him I live there and he wanted me to show you how to get there.” I couldn’t believe it. Even after he dropped off his last passenger, he was still trying to help. She directed me to my destination and I made it just 2 minutes late for the inspiring shiur given by Rabbi Sobolofsky. What a special zechut to hear him speak!
On the bus ride back to Yerushalayim, with another driver that clearly didn’t care for conversation at 10:30pm, I took the quiet time to reflect on all the events that took place over the course of the night. How fortunate I am to live in a country that is so diverse, yet bound together by such tight bonds. The bus driver had told me that he has so many children and each one is on a different religious level. I told him that it doesn’t matter- we’re all Am Yisrael, Am Echad. We’re one nation- meant to be unified.
Not only did I have the opportunity to hear from a wonderful Rav that night about mitzvot, I also experienced mitzvot being done by another gadol. Someone that looks to help and do as many mitzvot as he can, including helping someone on her first bus ride from Yerushalayim to Ramat Beit Shemesh.
May we all have the opportunity to help and inspire others, and show our appreciation to those that help and inspire us.