Sunday, 6 February 2011

Only in a Religious Neighbourhood in Israel…

Is anybody in the "frum" world really working on themselves? Finding oneself in a place like Israel and travelling on buses regularly (amongst other close-contact "sports" in Israel) can make one wonder if anybody actually cares about the other. If you've been lucky enough to travel on an Israeli Egged bus or the like, you'll probably have fond memories of people pushing, shouting and yelling (Ah… there's no place like home!) You'll probably remember the good times of the bus driver even punching a hole in your bus ticket two or three times (by accident of course!) or punching a hole in a "combined city" ticket on the wrong side (causing you to forfeit your entire two-way ride!)

And then of course, you may remember the good times of having asked a bus driver to please tell you when a particular stop is (so that you could get off course!) and found yourself to be the last person on the bus with the driver reaching his final point and now asking you to please get off (only without using such pleasant language.) Should you ask why he never mentioned anything about your real stop (that you had asked him to let you know about) he may come back with a variety of excuses, all told over in that special Israeli talk – which can often sound like shouting to those coming from many other countries.

It's all in the name of real Jewish friendship of course! 

What of those who go home that night – only to think over about their days – and realise that maybe they actually were in the wrong?! What would they do?! What would be the chances of meeting up with the person they had "bumped" into on the bus that day – or even meeting the driver to perhaps apologise for having shouted at him?! And what of the driver having realised that perhaps he had actually done something wrong?! In fact, the Chofetz Chaim teaches a similar idea when it comes to having spoken badly about another in public. One can never really do Teshuva – repentance – because one would be required to find every person who heard the bad talk – and let them know that one had erred – a practically impossible task!

Living in the religious area of Beitar Illit does every now and again provide some very important life lessons for us all, and as I opened the weekly "Shavua Tov" magazine (which is sent free of charge to all residents of Beitar – sponsored by the advertisers) I noticed something I've probably never seen in my life before. The person had taken out an advert costing some 300-500 shekel (about $90) to share something with the entire city. It read:


On Wednesday 28 Shevat at about 3:30
on bus 1, I embarrassed a person on the bus
It was clear that I made a mistake in calculating the change
I request forgiveness
And I hope that no other mistake will come through me again

The Driver"

As I read that last line in particular, it made me aware of something truly unique about the greatness of a Jew – a bus driver – who is focused on growth, focused on Torah – because Beitar Illit is in fact a Torah city. What lead to the initial mistake and how the driver did not check and double check before embarrassing the passenger – I don't know. But it was that after-the-fact behaviour that caught my attention in this particular case!

It's something that seems to only happen in a city filled with Jews – where even the bus drivers are Torah scholars. Where even after an event such as this – they can think over matters again, and realise that they may have been in the wrong (perhaps just over a few aggarot) – and who can then be prepared and actually do so – to pay for an advert costing some 300-500 shekel – in order to ask forgiveness from someone they may never see again!

When last did you see such an advert in your local newspaper? When last were you ever prepared to post such an advert if you'd ever hurt anyone?!

Such is the greatness of Torah and the greatness of a Jew and the beauty of Israel.


  1. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. It's a powerful message. Makes one reaslise there is so much more beauty to Torah than most presume. It takes a lot of courage to ask for forgiveness and tremendous humility to be prepared to do the right thing even though others (other passengers who might have witnessed the incident) can work out who the driver was.
    May we all merit to put making peace be the primary goal and to do so within the ways of Torah.



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