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I Contributed and Merited Salvation – Stories of Salvation

Direct From Shamayim

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“I want to leave early enough so that we’ll have time to eat the seudas hamafsekes in Bnei Brak calmly. There’s enough pressure on erev Yom Kippur as it is; we don’t need to make things worse by running late,” Mrs. L said firmly. “I know I say the same thing every year but this year we’re really going to carry through, with Hashem’s help. We’ll leave early, arrive early and have time to get organized properly. Our entire Yom Tov will be different if we start off the right way.”

The best laid plans…

They did leave early, dressed and ready for the holiest day of the year. They’d remembered everything, from their machzorim to pekelach stuffed with goodies for the little ones. The family who would be hosting them was already setting the table for the seudas hamafsekes. Baruch Hashem, they had managed to be super-organized this year. The tape recorder in the car was playing the traditional Kol Nidrei melody and everyone truly felt the Yom Kippur atmosphere in their heart.

But in middle of the way, somewhere between Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak, the car broke down. The exalted atmosphere came to an abrupt end as Rabbi L removed his suit jacket and stepped out of the car to see what the problem was. He tried this and that, a push here and a shove there – nothing. They were stuck.

Faced with no choice, Rabbi L crawled under the car in his Yom Tov clothing to see what was going on there. He opened the hood of the car and poked around a bit. He wasn’t much of a mechanic, but as an experienced driver, he knew a little bit. Nothing. He couldn’t figure out where the problem was. The engine had simply stopped working.

Inside the car, the family did its best to restore the lofty atmosphere. The older ones spoke about teshuvah and vidui while the little ones did the traditional “Do you forgive me?” routine. As time passed, pressure began to mount. What was happening with the car? How long would they remain stuck inside?

Rabbi L. returned to the car in despair.

“I need to call a tow truck. After the car is towed, we’ll try to stop a passing cab. We have no choice. Erev Yom Kippur is no time to try and fix a car.”

They had a cell phone on them, thank G-d. What would they have done in such a situation fifteen years ago?

But even cell phones are not always the solution.

Calls to various companies yielded the same results: no one was working on erev Yom Kippur afternoon. The only time the entire country shuts down, save for crucial emergency services, is Yom Kippur. Businesses close in honor of the holy day the previous afternoon. The L’s tried a few companies as well as private towers, but no one even answered the phone.

Time was ticking by. They couldn’t just abandon the car! The children grew impatient. It was almost time for the seudas hamafsekes. What would be?

They kept trying to come up with additional phone numbers, to no avail. Friends did their best to help as well but no tow company could be found.

The children stepped out of the car to stretch their limbs. They began running about on the shoulder of the road, terrifying their mother, who got out of the car as well to keep a better eye on them. The sun beat down; there were no trees anywhere in sight. The kids’ black pants turned gray and then white. She bit her lip. Yom Kippur was approaching; some things were more important than clean clothes.

The host family sat down to begin the seudah. They felt bad but there was no point in them being delayed as well. In a weak voice, Mrs. L gave her children permission to eat the nosh bags she’d brought along. It was a mitzvah to eat on erev Yom Kippur, after all… It was a shame she didn’t have anything for the older children. The water bottles they’d taken along for the way had long ago finished.

Time continued ticking by and the pressure became unbearable. It was almost Yom Kippur! Yom Kippur! They had no seudas hamafsekes, no minyan, no anything!

Was there any chance that what they hadn’t been able to accomplish over the last two hours would suddenly work out? In another few moments, they’d have no choice but to leave the car, bid it goodbye – they’d probably never see it again - and try to hitch rides. Chareidi Yidden were no longer on the road anymore and there was almost no chance anyone would have enough space to transport their entire family. They’d have to send the kids in pairs, or even one by one, with strangers! They’d have to send them to neighborhoods as close to Bnei Brak as possible and hope against hope that there would be enough time to pick them all up and bring them to Bnei Brak before Yom Tov.

Ribono shel Olam! It was unthinkable.

“Do something, please,” sobbed Mrs. L, who had managed to maintain a calm façade until now. “I’m not sending the kids with strangers, not even if I have to spend Yom Kippur on the road. Maybe we should stop a car to ask for food. Maybe we should call the police!” Real panic set in as she envisioned numerous truly awful scenarios.

Her husband tried to retain his composure, but he, too, was on the brink of despair. What else could he do that he hadn’t yet done?

It was in this situation of near despair that they suddenly remembered Kupat Ha’ir. The thought was like a beacon of light.

With great kavanah, the entire family decided on a sum of money and Rabbi L called Kupat Ha’ir. They didn’t say where they were. They didn’t demand that their names be submitted to the Gedolim immediately. That would be ridiculous!

Their contribution raced up to Shamayim, rapped on the Gates of Heaven and pleaded for a yeshuah. Hakadosh Baruch Hu, in His mercy, extended His Hand and the yeshuos began to flow…

Not more than three minutes passed before in front of their astonished eyes they saw … a tow truck! A tow truck! Sent directly to them! Direct from Shamayim!

“Eliyahu Hanavi!” the children exclaimed. “Eliyahu Hanavi came with a tow truck! Hashem sent us Eliyahu Hanavi!”

The tow truck was empty. The driver was on his way to Bat Yam. The scene on the road had caused him to take another glance: a car stopped at an odd angle, chareidi children running about in the sun when it was almost Yom Kippur. Was there a mitzvah he’d never heard of to spend the holy day in a field? Even if so, where was their tent? Where was some basic equipment?

At the last possible moment, he saw a hand waving, begging him to stop. He pulled over, never dreaming for a moment that five children – and their parents, too - were sure he was Eliyahu Hanavi disguised as a tow truck driver.

“We’re stuck here,” he heard a pleading voice waft all the way up to his driver’s seat. Ten pairs of eyes regarded him with intense curiosity, curiosity stronger even than their distress. Would he help them? Was he Eliyahu Hanavi or just an ordinary tow truck driver?

“No, I can’t help you. I’m in a rush. I’ll ask my friend…”

But the friend didn’t answer his phone call, nor did another friend or the friend of a friend or even a tow company that the driver was sure would be open.

The driver knew a thing or two about cars. He leaped out of the tow truck and began tinkering with the car’s innards. After a few minutes, though, he shrugged. He couldn’t help them.

“Eliyahu Hanavi with a bare head?” one child whispered, his eyes wide. “How could it be?”

“Stop being so silly,” his sister whispered in annoyance. “He doesn’t have to be Eliyahu Hanavi; he’s just Hashem’s messenger, sent to us in the merit of our contribution to Kupat Ha’ir. Why did he merit being Hashem’s messenger? I don’t know. There must be some reason that we don’t understand.” She had no idea how right she was.

“I have to get to Bat Yam,” the driver said hesitantly, scratching his head in confusion. The family’s sense of hysteria was beginning to affect him as well. “It’s so late already. You want me to stop off in Bnei Brak first? But I don’t have room for all of you in any case. I can fit two people at most into the car and the little ones certainly can’t ride with me. You want to send the big kids with me while you stay here with the little ones?”

They didn’t know what to say. They merely looked at the sun with fear in their eyes.

“It’s erev Yom Kippur,” the driver said suddenly. “I’m a Jew, too. Let’s go. The two big ones – next to me. The rest of you – back into the car. I’m going to lift it up with you inside it and take you to Bnei Brak. But get moving: I still have to make it to Bat Yam before sundown.”

They did as he said. The driver expertly attached the cables and the car ascended onto the special ramp. The driver secured the car and they were off.

The whiny children sat up straight, beaming with excitement. They were living the ultimate adventure.

The tow truck sped through the nearly empty roads. The family kept its eye on the clock. Let’s just get there already. Let’s have a chance to eat something for the seudah hamafsekes. Let’s enter the holy day with some measure of yishuv hada’as.

Not another second was wasted. They reached their destination accompanied by the shocked stares of the few pedestrians on the street. The cables were released, the car was lowered to the street and the family burst out.

“How much do I owe you?” Rabbi L asked. “Of course, monetary payment is just a token of our boundless gratitude!”

“It’s erev Yom Kippur today… give me three hundred shekels. You got away cheap.”

Rabbi L breathed a sigh of relief. He’d been sure the driver would charge him an arm and a leg. He hadn’t dreamed of less than two or three thousand shekels. Even the “going rate” of a thousand to fifteen hundred shekels would have been hard for him to pay. His family lived frugally; every shekel was precious. The unexpected outlay had been causing him untold worry. Three hundred shekels! He really was getting away cheap.

His heart sang. Hakadosh Baruch Hu had appeared to them on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway and sent them a good messenger. He’d accompanied them all the way here and He would certainly be with them as they prayed for a good, blessed year.

If they still had any doubts, they were completely expelled by the phone call Rabbi L made after Yom Tov, which shed new light on the entire story.

Two days after Yom Kippur, Rabbi L phoned the tow truck driver to thank him once again. After he detailed his gratitude and that of his wife and children and wished him all the blessings in the world, the driver said thoughtfully:

“You know something? It’s a good thing I met you. My tefillin have been pasul for half a year now. I don’t know… I don’t live in a chareidi neighborhood and I’m very busy… I just never took the time to take care of it. I didn’t want to give them to just anyone. You know, a dishonest person might take the expensive pair of tefillin I received from my father, of blessed memory, and replace them with photocopied papers. But it’s a shame because I donned tefillin every day since my bar mitzvah until they became pasul. You seem like a responsible and trustworthy fellow. How about I bring you my tefillin and you take care of the matter for me?”

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