Kupat Ha'ir – The Tzedakah of the Gedolei Hador Kupat Ha'ir is the largest volunteer based charity fund supported by Jews worldwide. Kupat Ha'ir is the lifeline for thousands of needy. With offices in Israel, the U.S., Canada and throughout Europe.
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I Contributed and Merited Salvation – Stories of Salvation

Without Getting Dirty

This story can be heard firsthand between 8:00p.m. -11:00p.m call: 011-972-52-7624571.

Looking back, they can’t understand how they behaved as they did.

True, it was erev Sukkos, the “hot season” for the sale of arba’ah minim, the source of his livelihood for the entire year. Every customer was important. Every Yid who stopped to survey his merchandise was potential parnassah; every hadas sold meant bread for the children. As soon as Sukkos was ushered in, his window of opportunity would close for the entire year.

And true, his wife had called over and over and over again, as if possessed. At first, she merely pointed out that it was late. Then she expressed her annoyance that he wasn’t home yet. A few minutes later she called again to beg him to please come home already! In the next phone call, she shouted that it was almost Yom Tov. Five minutes later, she informed him that in another moment, she and the children would unpack the suitcases and start cooking like mad. Two minutes after that, she wailed that even if he came home now, it was too late to travel.

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” he told her. “Wait downstairs for me with all the suitcases.” In the end, it was only after he sped to his house, picked everyone up and sped out of the city that he actually checked his watch.

A wave of fear overtook him.

It was very close to candle-lighting time. Too close. Soon they would be brushing with the danger of being mechalel Shabbos and Yom Tov.

He sped like a demon, pressing on the gas pedal with all his might. His wife was trembling with fear; the children sat in terrified silence. He gripped the steering wheel tightly with intense concentration, aware that he dared not miss even a fraction of a second. Nor could he place his family in danger. The roads were nearly empty. He flew like the wind, his heart pounding as each additional second ticked by.

The trip from Bnei Brak to Rechovot, when the roads are clear, takes approximately twenty-five minutes. If there were no mishaps along the way, they would make it by the skin of their teeth, moments before hadlakas neiros.

“Say Tehillim,” he told his family in desperation. His eyes darted between the road in front of him – please, Hashem, no police now - and quick glances at his family, sitting white-faced in the back, through the side-view mirror. He didn’t stop berating himself for the delay he could have avoided, for his lack of responsibility in setting out so late, for not having made an about face and returning to Bnei Brak, no matter what. Now the distance between the two cities was just about even in any case. He might as well forge ahead.

After Yom Tov, we’ll have to accept upon ourselves a good kabbalah, he thought to himself. Something instead of a korban. Traveling like this is inexcusable. Even if everything ends well, we’ll still be guilty of behaving improperly. Another turn - and a big traffic jam unfolded before their eyes.

A traffic jam – now?!

Words cannot describe the helplessness and despair the family felt. A traffic jam meant a delay. Every delay – even one of five seconds – meant lighting candles that much later. But they had to get to Rechovot before sundown; otherwise they’d be left stranded on the road!

Traffic inched forward slowly. The possibility of turning back and driving to the closest settlement dawned on them too late. Already a long line of cars snaked behind them. There was no way out now.

“Daven, kinderlach,” he urged. His wife sat in stony silence.

No one will be able to understand the yissurim of these moments, she thought to herself. There’s no question we deserve these yissurim but surely we’ve already received half our punishment.

They continued crawling forward. Time was flying; they were crawling. How do you make Shabbos on the road? What would they do about a sukkah? And Shabbos! Shabbos without candles, or challos, or anything! They’d sleep in the car and daven on the road. They had little children, babies. How would they manage?

“Let’s promise a contribution to Kupat Ha’ir,” his wife whispered.

“What should we promise? We’ll contribute if what? If the sun stands still in the sky? We’re not on the level of Yehoshua bin Nun, not even if we contribute to Kupat Ha’ir.”

“We’ll contribute if we reach a good place before sundown, somewhere where we can spend Shabbos and Yom Tov in a reasonable manner.”

“Okay.” They were still crawling. Sometimes they moved ahead a little bit faster, sometimes a little bit slower. The contribution remained hanging in the air. She insisted on committing to a specific amount. He gave his confirmation. Anything, if only we make it. Please, make the car sprout wings. Make us kefitzas haderech. Make the sun stand still. Whatever. Just make us arrive in time.

With him in the car was all the money he had earned selling arba’ah minim. It was his family’s livelihood for the entire year. They couldn’t leave all that money in the car and walk to a nearby neighborhood! They had to reach a safe place where they could leave the money.

He was so preoccupied with these thoughts that he missed the critical turn to Rechovot. Now he was on the highway until he’d be able to turn around and travel back a considerable distance.

A glance at his watch made it clear that the game was up. There was no chance. They reached the sand dunes at the entrance to Ashdod. There was sand to their right and sand to their left. Hills of yellow sand, turning golden in the light of the setting sun. Sand, sand and more sand.

They’d have to spend Shabbos in the desert, like Rav Ariel from the well-known story. Shabbos against the backdrop of the sand dunes, without even a tree for shade. There were cars in front of them and cars behind them. He was reminded of a dove fleeing from a hawk, a snake in front of it and a hawk behind it. All the poor dove could do was flap its wings in hope that the owner of the dovecote would save it.

How much did you contribute?

The question came from deep inside him. He was the father of this family. They were his responsibility and he had gotten them into this trouble. His wife said not a word about the dozens of phone calls she’d made before Shabbos, urging him to come home already. He was suffering enough, more than enough.

Where was the contribution? Hadn’t it succeeded in piercing the gates of heaven?

Even the contribution didn’t help, she thought to herself dismally. Hashem doesn’t want the tzedakos of Yidden who set out on the road when there’s a good chance they won’t make it before Shabbos.

The children didn’t say a word about not wanting to spend Shabbos in a distant neighborhood, far from Saba and Savta. They sensed the terrible tension in the car and were obedient as lambs.

Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, there was a junction. The sign read Bnei Darom – right and Hesder Yeshiva “Kerem Beyavne” – left.

“We’re making a right to Bnei Darom. The hesder yeshivah is probably deserted; the bachurim go home for Yom Tov. We’ll go right. Maybe we’ll find a family to take us in for Yom Tov.” He signaled right. If only those lazy cars would move already so he could make the turn! To Bnei Darom, to a family with a mezuzah on its doorpost. Maybe there were religious families there, or even chareidi ones. He had no idea. It didn’t matter. The main thing was that there were Jews there. The main thing was that they wouldn’t have to spend Shabbos in the company of the sand dunes of Ashdod.

Out of pressure and confusion, he turned left instead of right. When he realized what he’d done, he thought he would faint. Left was the hesder yeshivah. The place was bound to be empty on Sukkos. They no longer had enough time to turn around and get out. What else would happen in the next few minutes? What else? Where to now? The yeshivah courtyard? Should they spend Shabbos there? They lunged forward, burning rubber. Nothing mattered anymore. If the tires wore out, they’d be changed after Shabbos. Now they just had to get somewhere – safely. Just that.

“Where’s your contribution?” he hissed. “We keep going from bad to worse.” They arrived at the hesder yeshivah, expecting to find it locked.

A Yid came running over to their car.

“Bruchim habba’im, brothers! Bruchim habba’im! Quickly, quickly, hadlakas neiros… Stories later. Just get out and bring whatever you need for Shabbos with you!”

A woman and a few big girls came to help as well. They took the children and the suitcases. His wife ran to light the candles prepared for her. The baby was placed in a clean crib. The children looked around in disbelief… it was as if they were expected guests!

It was only after they had ushered in Shabbos and Yom Tov and were seated in a lovely sukkah that their hosts told them about the guests that had backed out on them at the last minute.

“We wanted guests so badly. Yom Tov without guests is not Yom Tov for us,” they said. “Hashem heard our tefillos!”

“Did you also contribute to Kupat Ha’ir so that Hashem would send us to you?” the esrog dealer wondered. “There really was no logical chance in the world that we’d end up here!”

“Where did you plan to be for Yom Tov?”

“We intended to be in Rechovot, but we left too late and I missed the right turn. Bnei Darom was the closest settlement but I was so disoriented under the pressure that I turned left instead of right.”

“Well, you would have found more families in Bnei Darom than over here,” their host said slowly. His eyes took in his guest’s shtreimel and the children’s curly peyos. “But I doubt you would have found even one family there where you would have felt comfortable. I’m not sure they use products with the same hechsherim you trust. Here, at least you can partake of all the seudos without changing any of your customs. Our family uses only products with the most mehudar kosher supervision. What a miracle you came here!”

What a miracle…

There was no logical way for them to get there. They wanted to go right. How awful they would have felt, imposing on a family unprepared for guests. How unpleasant it would have been for them to avoid eating foods that did not meet their strict standards. Instead, they turned left and appeared, like angels from heaven, at the home of a family who was waiting eagerly for guests, and who was careful to eat only the best hechsherim!

“It was worth contributing after all,” he said to his wife with a chuckle. “Tell Kupat Ha’ir that even if you find yourself in a deep pit – it’s still worth contributing. Even if it’s too late to keep yourself from falling, contributing can pad the bottom of the pit and keep your clothes from getting dirty!”

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