Esther Feinstein

Absent at the Wheel


Love your fellow as yourself. 

It’s a nice Torah quote, but easier to remember in the cozy confines of one’s own home. Helping for real takes the oomph of effort and a jumping leap of faith! 

Breaking out like a jack-in-the-box of one’s comfort zone, climbing the hero ladder takes  a deep-seated effort! 

Sometimes, the back-and-forth argument that one has with oneself, whether it is easier to leave G-d holding the bag and return later when things settle down or be right in the cross of fire, leaves an impression either way.    

Pesach was coming! This very holiday brings, as a tradition going back to Mount Sinai, fear and excitement to many mothers. It’s the nail-biting fear and worry of knowing what work lies ahead. 

Her Head peeks around places most forgotten, and she prays that the kids will agree to clean their rooms. Every mother’s need for inner peace is remembered loud and clear on Passover Eve with a few helping hands and many hats to trade off in the process. 

As always, the days seemed to merge into each other, one day toppling the next, but time had to stand still no matter the reason because once again, the mitzvah of Mikvah came my way: a mitzvah that is so special to each couple with a monthly honeymoon, and at other times remained what it always is- a G-dly mitzvah

Hopping in the car, two over-excited little boys in the back thrill to come at night and spend time with their mommy and tatty, regardless of the long drive. 

Time had wings all its own, and instead of bouncing around like a toddler, time seemed to fly.

 I floated out the Mikvah doors! We were eager to reunite after our two-week wait. Already on the way back, earlier than usual, it seemed like a present that was special just for us. The kids were fast asleep, which allowed time together to catch up from the things we had missed. 

A screeching on the brakes broke the magic: the grins from ear to ear faded, and no more whispered conversations, for we became jolted into our new reality: a torrential downpour with a drunk driver at the helm! 

The cars slowed down, but some still played the dangerous game of splashing their tires on the mini waterfalls as they tried to be first and ahead of the others. 

The danger I thought had calmed itself down was just beginning; the car ahead of us began the swerve dance, swerving to the right, scrapping its side, then just as fast going to the left and hanging on its railings, linking arm-in-arm as two best friends catching up while running endlessly at full speed ahead. 

My thoughts were simple: we must escape this drunk driver and get home safely while still in the storm. 

I peeked at the rabbi, my husband, positive he felt the same way as me. 

“You alright?” My eyes turned and took themselves off of the swerve-dancing for a moment. I inquired, “Do you want to stop somewhere so this storm can take its course and hopefully calm down before the morning?”

“Actually,” he said, not taking his eyes off the road, “I need to do something.” 

Confused, I just watched as my husband phoned the police and was put on hold because we were not the first to contact them about the drunk driver. Finally, he was told the first caller hung up and asked if he could please stay on the line. 

I was still confused, “What is going on!?” I said aloud, realizing that we just became a part of some sort of bad movie in which we didn’t know how it would turn out. 

Most of the cars either got off at the exit or slowed down, except for us chasing the drunk driver while keeping some distance. 

We just became the Chabad police, online with the actual police, waiting for instructions.

 The drunk driver kept dancing in the rain until I heard my husband saying in a devastated voice, “There he goes…,” the car crashed into the railing for the millionth time; a big slam was heard, but miraculously he wasn’t dead and kept on dancing. 

He finally went off the exit, and I helplessly watched as all the other cars got to go home! Sitting there silently, I understood that this is what it was all about on shlichus: it’s about helping, right!? 

The driver pulled into a back street next to a gas station, and we pulled into the gas station’s parking lot. Thinking it was over because we told the police his location, I got excited to feel I could breathe again! Until I heard our engine turn off, and my husband got out of the car! 

What felt like our only distance from the driver and our safe place had just vanished. 

“What is he doing?!” I trembled, my mind like a blank screen, but just as fast, it returned with alacrity and pushed out overflowing emotions.

 Shocked. Worried. Alarmed. I was barely processing but wildly aware of what this decision of his was.

“Honey, what are you doing?” I said hesitantly, trying to sound in control but failing miserably, kids still sleeping and trying to keep them that way. 

“His engine is still on; I’m going to go see if he is alright!”

“What?!” I said, surprised and worried like a Jewish mother always is. 

“I’ll be back soon. It will be okay.” He sounded promising. 

“He could have a gun! Please be careful!!” I pleaded as the car door shut in agreement with the rabbi; it seemed only I wasn’t on the same page. 

I was thinking to myself: at least life is never boring! I was worried but told myself he was right. Someone had to help this man. What if he was hurt or badly injured?

It was almost midnight when my husband, a Chabad rabbi, approached a drunken driver. It seemed the swerve dancer’s car turned off; there was a small conversation; then, the rabbi headed over to our car and hopped right back in. 

The police came and asked us to fill out a police report and took over from there. At this point, my kids were jumping around in the back and screaming excitedly that they saw the police and asked if they could play with them. 

I bribed the boys; if they were good and returned to their seats, they would get something special. After 15 minutes, it finally worked. 

Finally! We were on the way back home. Hopefully, no more drunk drivers we have to save, and by holding our breaths, we will be ready for Pesach in a few days. 

Looking at my husband, I understood that certain things I will never fully comprehend. We think we have seen it all or know it all when it comes to one’s spouse, but many times he can keep on surprising you. 

This was that moment: his love for helping people: saving lives. It didn’t matter who it was; that person was special to the rabbi, and he would do whatever it took to help out. 

I had a lot to learn after so many years of shlichus, giving and helping, and building a community together, realizing how much growing I still had to do, and glad that we were safe and finally home!

About the Author
Born in New York state into a family on Shlichus, Esther was formally trained in Chabad institutions in America and Canada as an educator and community leader with the lifelong goal of helping an under-served Jewish populace. She and her husband, along with their children, have been serving the local community, as well as the Northeast Wisconsin region, for over a decade, providing for any and all needs of everyone's personal journey with G-d. Her recently released book - "The Lamplighter: Experiences of a Chabad Rebbitzin" - chronicles these experiences and is available for purchase through Mosaica Press at
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