From the desk of Rabbi Menachem Nissel
1 Menachem Av, 5763
Remember Yerushalayim? No doubt your mind is filled with sweet memories of this extraordinary city. The Kotel and its golden stones. The gedolim, rebbes and hidden tzaddikim. The stunning sunsets and inspiring vistas. And of course its taxi drivers.
Yes taxi drivers. One of the joys (and woes) of living in Yerushalayim is traveling by taxi. Eventually, everyone has a “taxi-experience” that could only have happened in Yerushalayim.
For example, before Pesach I was traveling in a taxi and the driver was saying wonderful and positive things about everything. He was thanking Hashem for the rains, lauding the beauty of nature, proclaiming that Klall Yisrael will prevail and so on. It was starting to get annoying. I am used to grumpy old drivers who constantly complain about, “If the government would only listen to me” or “did you see that crazy driver?” while simultaneously eating falafel dripping with rancid “charif” while asking me if they mind if they smoke. I asked him why he was so strange. His answer blew me away.
He explained that he worked for many years for a non-shomer Shabbos taxi company. During the boon year of the mid nineties, he was working ten hours a day, seven days a week. He noticed that no matter how hard he worked he had so many unexpected expenses that he always ended the month in the red. One day a friend challenged him to keep Shabbos, promising him that his financial fortunes would change. With nothing to lose, he started keeping Shabbos and lo and behold – he started ending the month with a profit. Furthermore, he rediscovered his marriage and the joys of parenthood. It deeply transformed his life and made him in to the incredibly optimistic person that he is today.
But his story does not stop there. He started challenging his colleagues at the taxi company to keep Shabbos, claiming that they too would see a profit in their income. One by one they tried it and one by one they were astonished to see their fortunes turn and they too started keeping Shabbos. Today, his taxi company is overwhelmingly shomer Shabbos. All in the merit of an “ordinary” Yerushalmi taxi driver that wanted to share his beautiful discovery.
What inspired me was how once my taxi driver hero recognized the new blessing in his life, he was propelled to spread the blessing further.
In the beginning of Parshas Lech Lecha, Hashem speaks to Avraham Avinu for the very first time and lays out the terms of contract between Creator and created. Hashem promises Avraham absolutely everything one could dream of in this world. And as Daas Zekenim explains, Avraham in turn has one simple command: “Veheyay berachah” – spread the blessing.
The challenge of a Jew in this world boils down to something quite simple. Recognize that Hashem bestows infinite blessing in your life. Then teach the world about HaShem until everyone recognizes He is the source of blessing.
Your year in Yerushalayim helped you focus on how blessed you are to live a Torah life. But you can’t stop there. You have to fan the flames and share the inspiration with others. Let your enthusiasm be contagious. Let everyone say, “What is her secret? How come she is so happy? I want to be like her…”
Make people excited about Shabbos. Fascinate people by studying Torah with them. Share the joy of yiddishkeit around. Perhaps you can even convince people to experience the beauty of Yerushalayim for themselves.
Just warn them about taxi drivers.