Half a year ago, a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) man from Bnei Brak named Yehuda was driving on Highway 1 to Jerusalem. He saw a man standing outside a car on the side of the road with hazard lights flashing. Yehuda pulled up behind the car. The man, traveling with his wife and child, explained that they ran out of gas. Yehuda said he would drive to Motza, a few minutes away, to bring back gas. They exchanged phone numbers in case they needed to be in contact, and Yehuda left for Motza to get the gas.
He returned a few minutes later with a full jerry can.
The driver asked how much he could pay Yehuda.
“No charge,” Yehuda replied.
“What do you mean no charge? You drove there and bought gas for me. Don’t argue with me, please. Let me pay you for the gas and your time.”
“No,” Yehuda answered. “This was a mitzvah, and I am not willing to sell my mitzvah.”
“What? Are you serious?” the man asked. “I don’t believe this. Come here; I have to show you something.”
He took Yehuda to the back of his car and pointed to an old, worn-out bumper sticker that read: “Run over all religious.” (Dros Kol Dos).
“I am very secular and never met anyone haredi in my life,” he explained. “You are the first. I am so embarrassed by this sticker, and I want you to see me removing it.”
Yehuda told him not to worry, explaining: “We are used to it.”
The next day, the driver’s phone rang.
“Hello, this is Yehuda.”
“Who? Do I know you?”
“Yes, I helped you get gas on Highway 1 yesterday. I just wanted to make sure that you got home okay.”
“Oh, hello. Thank you so much. You saved us. We drove for a while with the gas you bought us and then filled up at another gas station. Thank you so much.”
“My pleasure. Now I can relax. Be well.”
A few days later, the secular man’s phone rang again on Friday afternoon.
“Hi, it’s Yehuda.”
“Hi Yehuda, how are you?”
“Thank God. I am well. Can I tell you a meaningful story you can share with your son on Shabbat?”
“Sure, why not?”
And thus, a new custom began. Yehuda would call every Friday afternoon to share a short story with a lesson that the guy could share with his son on Shabbat.
That went on for a few months.
During one of the weekly calls, the secular man asked Yehuda, “Isn’t Shabbat boring for you? No cellphone, no television, no car rides anywhere – isn’t that boring?”
“It’s actually a busy day for us,” Yehuda replied. “If you want, join us in Bnei Brak for a Shabbat. You can see for yourself.”
“Are you serious? You want me to come to Bnei Brak for a Shabbat? But I’m secular.”
“It’s not a problem. I will arrange for you and your family to have your own apartment so you can be comfortable.”
The secular man discussed the offer with his wife, and they decided it could be a an excellent experience.
Yehuda didn’t want the family to back out and wanted to host them as soon as possible. The problem was that the next Shabbat was Rosh Hashana. That is two days and too long. The following Shabbat was before Yom Kippur, and Yehuda wanted to focus on his Day of Atonement preparation. And he didn’t want to invite them for Sukkot since it would not be comfortable for them to eat in his small Sukkah, and the hot daytime temperature would be highly unpleasant.
The next option was Shabbat, Simchat Torah.
Yehuda thought that could be fun for the family – dancing, candies, etc. The problem was that Yehuda and his family had plans to visit his father for Simchat Torah. He didn’t want to trouble his father by having him come to Bnei Brak for the holiday.
Yehuda consulted with his rabbi, who suggested it would be excellent for the secular family to see him host his father for a family holiday. He encouraged Yehuda to host his father and find an apartment for the secular family for Simchat Torah.
And that’s what Yehuda did.
So on Shabbat Simchat Torah, October 7, 2023, Yehuda’s family and father were in Bnei Brak instead of next door to the Sderot Police Station, where his father lived.
And the secular family was in Bnei Brak instead of in their home in Kibbutz Be’eri.
Their home was burned to the ground, but they were saved and have remained in Bnei Brak.
One act of kindness.
Many lives saved.
As our soldiers courageously fight to eradicate Hamas, may we be inspired to perform acts of kindness to do our part in the collective battle of light vs. darkness.