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I Contributed and Merited Salvation – Stories of Salvation

The Miraculous Journey

“Ricky, get the blankets!”
Ricky flew home with sparkling eyes and returned with a mountain of rolled-up blankets tied with string.
“Yanky, the coolers!” Yanky began loading the coolers into the trunk. Motty brought a stack of boxes downstairs in the elevator and the little ones began shlepping them to the open van.

It was six-thirty in the morning. Abba and the boys had just gotten back from davening vasikin and the Baum family was finally about to set out on the trip it had been talking about for the past three months, the trip for which the eight children had sat with astonishing obedience throughout three seudos every single Shabbos, the trip that was going to be the best trip ever.

This how it all began.

The Baum family numbers eight children, from age three months to fourteen years. The Shabbos seudos in their home used to be punctuated by bursts of laughter, petty arguments, hair pulling and unkind comments. Nothing Abba and Ima Baum did made the children understand the way a Shabbos table ought to look. Their irrepressibly boisterous bunch couldn’t sit through an entire seudah in peace.
“In every other house the children sit through the Shabbos table like menschen,” Abba Baum would say.
“I prepared such a rich and varied menu,” Mrs. Baum would complain. “Can’t you allow us to enjoy it?”
And the children really tried – but if the seudah didn’t begin with the usual argument over where everyone sat, a different one quickly followed about the size of someone else’s portion of fish or meat versus the complainer’s own.
“We don’t look at other people’s plates,” Mrs. Baum said, trying to lay down an iron rule, but the children’s eyes followed her carefully as she served the food, and even before the portions hit the plates, everyone knew their exact proportions.

The parashas hashavua turned into a terrible burden because the little ones were eager to tell what they had learned in kindergarten or cheder, but the olderones had no patience to listen to half-words or childish chatter. On the other hand, when the older children related their high-level Torah thoughts, the little ones would slip away from the table and begin World War
III in another part of the house.
In short, Abba and Ima Baum were at their wits’ end.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was a festive Shabbos the Baum family spent at the Weinstocks,
Mrs. Baum’s sister’s family. The seven Weinstock children sat at the table like good little children, sang zemiros beautifully and related the parashas hashavua with enviable sweetness. And throughout the seudah, no one got up from the table.
“If we have two months worth of wonderful Shabbos seudos like the ones at my sister’s house,” Mrs. Baum announced the following Shabbos, “I give you my word, children – bli neder – that we’ll go on a three-day trip and tour the Galilee come summertime!”
And when Ima Baum promises something, she keeps her word.

For the next two months, the Baum children made a superhuman effort to behave at the Shabbos table. If someone opened his mouth to complain, the other seven children glared at him until he fell silent. If someone tried to fight, the others skewered him
with their eyes until the threat of the endangered trip brought him back to his senses. For eight whole Shabbosos, the Baum home was filled with pleasant zemiros and everyone, from big to small, related what he or she had learned about that week’s parashah while the others listened with noteworthy patience.

The reprimands stopped, the punishments gave way to compliments and menuchah vesimchah descended onto the Baum’s Shabbos table and the entire household. Abba and Ima glowed with delight and prayed to Hashem that the beauty and pleasantness of the new format of Shabbos seudos would appeal to their children enough to make them want to continue even after the promised trip took place.
Throughout the two-month period, the children’s conversations revolved around the trip. Every guidebook that found its way into the house was devoured; every neighbor or acquaintance who had ever been to the Galilee was grilled and pumped for details. The kids spent hours poring over roadmaps, planning exact itineraries. When the time drew near, the Baums rented a small cottage in the Galilee that would be their home base throughout their three-day stay. Everyone pitched in with the packing and the big day finally arrived.
When the van was finally loaded, everyone took his seat. One more glance at the list… a quick check that everyone is belted properly, and Abba Baum turned his key in the ignition. The series of sputtering coughs he received in response did not sound good.
Abba Baum slid out of his seat and went to check the engine.
A long, collective groan went up from the children inside the van. Motty tried to crack a joke. Ricky made a face at him. Abba stared at the van’s innards and shrugged his shoulders.
“I’ll try again,” he said, climbing into the van. He stuck his key into the ignition, turned it… cough, cough, squeee-a-k.
He got out of the van once again.

The hours ticked slowly by. The baby began to cry; the little ones bounced in their seats. Ima Baum tried valiantly to keep her children’s spirits up.
There was no point in starting a three-day trip on the left foot.
“Should I take the van into the garage?” Abba Baum asked, sticking his head in the window.
“No-o-o-o!” the children wailed in protest. “That will waste the whole morning!”
“But we have to go all the way up north! It’s no simple matter!” Abba Baum was responsible for his children’s welfare – but he empathized with their disappointment.
“Maybe we should rent a van. It’ll cost another few hundred shekels, but what can we do? We promised the kids a trip during bein hazemanim!” Ima said.
Abba tried once more and gave in. He made one telephone call after another to car rental agencies he was familiar with.
He needed a big van – ten seats. No one had such a vehicle available. Apparently, the Baums were not the only ones who wanted to go on a trip during bein hazemanim.
It was nearly noon by now.
“Kids, should we go upstairs to eat?”
“Noooo,” the kids wailed again, close to tears.
“Abba, I think we should contribute a thousand shekels to Kupat Ha’ir,” Ima Baum said in desperation.
“We need a van that’s in good condition, that’s what we need,” Abba Baum said. “I’m going to call a mechanic to come here. Let’s see what he can do.”

A mechanic showed up in greasy work clothes. He listened to the motor and grimaced. “That’s a serious problem,” he said. “This van needs 24 hours or so in a garage.” For good measure, he opens the hood and takes a peek, but his expression only grows more severe.
“You’re wasting your time. Unload your packages and go in two days from now.”
“Two days from now” was Friday. On Sunday they had a family simchah. The kids were disappointed to the bone.
Ima Baum’s heart ached for them.
“Abba? Can we contribute a thousand shekels to Kupat Ha’ir?” she asked again.
“All right, go ahead and try,” he said. “It’s a shame your planting false hope in the kids’ hearts. But do as you like.”

Ima Baum took her cell phone and dialed the familiar number. She gave the operator her credit card number and specified the sum she wanted to contribute: one thousand shekels. The children listened intently, hope flickering in their eyes.

“Abba, try again!” they pleaded. Abba Baum entered the van reluctantly, turned the key in the ignition and – the van surged forward.
“Wow!” the kids squealed in delight, forgetting in an instant the nerve-racking hours of waiting and the failed attempts to start the van. The trip had begun!
“I’m afraid to drive this way,” Abba said to Ima on the way. “We have a family and we’re responsible for everyone’s welfare. It’s terribly irresponsible to travel all the way to the north with a van like this.”
“But you see it’s behaving beautifully now,” Ima said with a smile. “Listen to the motor; it’s purring like a contented cat!”
Abba shrugged in discomfort.

An hour passed. Netanya gave way to Hadera. Another half hour and Haifa was behind them. Suddenly, the motor began to sputter.
“You see?” Abba said. “What are we going to do now, stuck in the middle of no place with the kids and all the packages?”
“Fifty shekels to Kupat Ha’ir,” Ima Baum said calmly.
The motor moaned and groaned until Abba had to pull over on the shoulder. He leaped out of his seat and Ima dialed Kupat Ha’ir and gave the operator her card number once again. “Fifty shekels,” she said.

The kids stuck their heads out the window and called,
“Abba, the motor’s okay now; you can get in!” Abba smiled and shook his head. He entered the van, turned the key in the ignition and… the van took off.
“How much in damages?” he asked his wife with an amazed smile.
“Fifty shekels,” she replied triumphantly.
“We’re still driving with a broken van,” he noted sourly.
“With eight kids, which is the entire family.”
“There’s no guarantee against accidents, Rachmana litzlan, with a car in perfect working order, either,” she replied. “And here we’re traveling with the power of a nes. The van is traveling with the power of Kupat Ha’ir and that’s the best protection anyone could possibly hope for.”

Not far from Tzefas, the van began to cough again.
“You see?” Abba Baum said to his wife. “Don’t bother getting out of the car,” Ima Baum replied cheerfully.
“Wait a minute. I’m going to call and contribute and then you can try again.”
She dialed Kupat Ha’ir, rattled off the number of her credit card and said “Fifty.”
The kids listened tensely as Abba turned the key in the ignition and – the van moved forward.
“Wow!” the kids shouted in unison. “We ought to hang a Kupat Ha’ir sign on our van. We never heard of such a thing!”
“No, neither have I,” Ima Baum said, her voice suddenly filled with emotion. “You know, it gives me the feeling that an angel is accompanying us. This is nothing less than an open miracle.”

Abba said nothing. Ima knew what he was thinking, but she saw the whole matter differently. Very differently…
Abba knew what Ima was thinking, too. Time will tell which of us is right, he thought.

The cottage was waiting for them, clean and inviting.
The kids had their maps of the Galilee ready. They insisted on having Ima join them on every trip, for one simple reason: every time the van stopped – it happened twice or three times that first day and again the next – Ima would call and contribute to Kupat Ha’ir and the van would start behaving again.
By the end of the second day, Abba was so tense and nervous that he insisted on cutting the trip short.
“We’re leaving tomorrow morning,” he told the children firmly. “I’m responsible for you and I can’t endanger your lives with a van that isn’t running properly. Don’t worry; we still have vacation time left and we’ll make the last day up to you with a different trip.”

The following day, the Baums loaded their van once more and set off on the trip back home. There were two fifty-shekel stops along the way before they reached their home in Elad. Happy and content, the kids ran off to tell their friends about their adventures, especially the one about the van that traveled on “Kupat Ha’ir power.”
In the afternoon, Abba drove to his mechanic. “I brought you the van,” he said. “You promised me you could have it fixed in 24 hours.”
“Where was it until now?” the mechanic asked.
“I took it up north.”
“This van?” The mechanic was flabbergasted.
“Yes, we just got back an hour ago. Take care of the
problem, please. When can I come get it?”
The mechanic opened the hood and poked around a little bit. “No way this car made it up north,” he said with absolute certainty. “You can tell me whatever you like but this van is dying. It wouldn’t last until Bnei Brak. I saw it three days ago and I see it now. This
van was not up north.”
“But it was,” Abba Baum chuckled.
“Look, I’m twenty years in the business and if anyone knows cars, it’s me. This van couldn’t travel 100 kilometers without dropping dead.”
Abba Baum returned home and suddenly, he felt that he, too, was impressed.
“This was a very special trip,” he said to the children.
“Not everyone merits a trip like we did. We traveled by miracle.”
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