As I turned around the bend, I saw him waving somewhat frantically, flagging me down. He wore a brown rain jacket and his daughter stood beside him carrying a small blue and green purse. She seemed to be about seven or eight. She looked tired, her light brown hair pulled loosely into two braids down her back.
I stopped, rolled down my window and asked how I could help. Were they ok? Were they sick?
“Thank you for stopping”, he said, keeping two meters distance from my car. “People won’t stop because of the virus and it is getting cold. I just want to take Raizie home before it gets too late. I dropped off food for safta after Shabbat went out, and I couldn’t get the car to start again.”
He held cables in his hand, and I slowly drove to meet the hood of his minivan with mine.
“Are you sure you are ok with this?” He called out not meeting my glance.
“Of course”, I replied.
“”Baruch Hashem,” he muttered and motioned for Raizie to wait in their van while he connected the cables. I offered for her to sit in the back, leaving enough distance to meet the health requirements and yet warmer than standing in the evening rain or sitting in their cold vehicle.
“May I Abba? “ she asked pleadingly .
He nodded and motioned for her to get in.
I turned up the heat ever so slightly to keep her warm. She smiled and began telling me how her mother passed just a few months back and how her abba was trying so very hard to take care of the six kids on his own. Her voice wavered. Such courage was demanded of her at such a tender age to speak of this incredible sadness. Some of her siblings were now grown and married. She and one older brother still lived at home. A sudden wave of sadness came over her like a cloud on a summer’s day. She became quiet and pensive.
“You must miss her very much”. I offered, choking back a lump in my throat.
She held her purse to her chest. “My imma gave this to me on my birthday last spring. This birthday during Pesach will be the first without her and it absolutely will not be a celebration at all with this virus.”
I asked her to tell me what she liked about birthdays and she began telling me about her friends Tehila and Brachi from school; how the teacher would invite the parents to bring in cake and juice and they would all join hands and sing in a circle.
By this time, her abba had connected the cables and managed to get a bit of a rumbling noise as the engine got going. The minivan was running again.
“Thank you ma’am “ he said to me with a sense of deep appreciation most usually saved for grand gestures or major events.
“Of course, you are welcome” I replied. “Shavua tov! Stay well. “ I said.
Raizie waved good-bye to me and smiled ever so softly. I waved back.
They got into their minivan, were about to drive off when the man turned back towards me rolled down his window a crack, and motioned for me to roll mine down too. There we were side-by-side, yet separated by the distance required, connected yet apart. Then he said something I’ll likely remember for many years to come.“In some ways this virus has made us so scared and panicked that we think of the rules of what we cannot do and forget what we still can do—that we have forgotten to be human—to look out for those in need. When I lost my wife z”l recently, I depended not only on the kindness of my incredible community but on the kindness of strangers as well. This virus has certainly changed everything. You were the only one who agreed to stop for us out of many cars who passed us out in the cold tonight. Your kindness will be repaid in blessings.”
He rolled up his window and drove off, faded from my sight and into the night. I stared ahead into the distance. There were very few cars out. I contemplated the serenity and calm on what was perhaps the quietest of Saturday nights I can recall in the two decades I’ve lived in this city. Eerie and beautiful.
And so it was in that moment that I was reminded yet again that perhaps it is not enough to simply stay at home and only venture out for essentials. Many of us at different times and occasions need an extra kindness and service—in times like these and perhaps more than ever!
Shavua tov from a very quiet Jerusalem.