Ever since May, those who live in close proximity to our complex’ buildings in Jerusalem have been holding our Shabbat prayer services on the car park deck behind our building. We usually have around 15 men there, and another 10 women who join in from behind the railing that separates our lot from the building behind us.
This summer the weather has been warm, but the not overly oppressive, and since our morning Minyan lasts from 8:00 – 10:00 am, and our building provides shade, the experience has been quite tolerable. That is – until today.
Yesterday, Friday, the temperature rose to highest level ever recorded in Jerusalem, 109 F (or 42.8 C). And Shabbat’s forecast was for only a slightly less extreme number. So we began our Minyan this morning with a slight bit of trepidation. Only two of us were (foolishly/determinedly) wearing a suit and tie, but even though the rest of the men were ‘decked’ out in white shirts and slacks, none of us were immune to the heat wave pulsing around (and through) us.
There rarely are very many cars parked on that deck, as most use the privilege of underground parking that living in one of our three buildings provides. There were two cars parked at the far end, nowhere near our men. But there was one car parked in the middle of the deck, and our ‘congregants’ had to arrange their seating arrangements (taking care of proper social distancing), with consideration of the car taking up some precious room in the shade.
The Torah reading had concluded, and the reader was into the Haftorah recitation. This week’s portion was from ישעי’ה ס (Isaiah 60), and I was following along as he chanted. Suddenly I noticed some movement from the corner of my eye, and I looked up. A middle aged non-religious man, apparently heading for the beach in Tel Aviv, dressed in shorts, a tee-shirt and flip-flops, and carrying a water cooler, was making his way towards the car in the middle of our crowd.
I said to myself “Oh, no, now we will have to stop the services and make room for him to maneuver his car out”. But as he got closer to the car, instead of making his way to the driver’s side door, he stopped in front of the car, put his cooler on the floor and bent down beside it. “What is he planning to do?” I wondered. “Is he going to open the hood of his car and do something like change the oil now?” I conjectured.
But instead, he took out two large bottles of ice cold water, and about 20 plastic cups. He lined the cups up, and started filling them. Then he picked up two cups and offered them to the persons sitting closest to him. He went back to the row of cups, picked up two more, and offered them to the next closest two. And so on, and so on, until he had made sure that all those who needed some refreshing pick-me-up had just what they could use to make it through the grueling event. Of course, he was thanked profusely by those who were the beneficiaries of his kindness, but he just took it all in as a matter of fact, and when he was done, he quickly packed up his cooler and headed back (to the much cooler) indoors.
My gaze went back to my prayer book to follow the last two lines of the reader’s rendition. He was just up to פסוק כא (verse 21). And as I was listening, I read along, ועמך כולם צדיקים לעולם ירשו ארץ (And your people, they are all righteous; forever shall they inherit the Land).
Righteous people come in all forms and shapes. May we learn to show respect and honor to everyone with our good deeds, no matter how they differ from us, and then may we also be called Righteous.