The police were everywhere, so everyone was driving safely and politely, except one person, who was aggressive and reckless. He almost caused a number of accidents as he switched from the left lane all the way to the exit for a service station. Unfortunately, I was aiming for the same exit and had to quickly swerve to the shoulder to avoid being hit. I followed far behind the driver as I exited the highway into the service area. I was wondering, “Who would be so rude and aggressive?” Imagine the shock when I realized that it was a religious Jew. Part of me wanted to go over, shake the man and yell at him for causing a Chilul Hashem – A Desecration of God’s Name. Another part of me was simply disgusted and did not even want to talk to him.
I went over to him and asked, “May I ask you some questions?” He responded with a big and warm smile, “Of course!” “You look like a very religious Jew who is careful with all the commandments,” I said. “I try,” he responded. “Is it hard for you to keep all the laws?” “Not at all.” “Why is it so hard to obey traffic laws, especially at the risk of causing a Chilul Hashem?”
“I can answer the first part of your question: I have to be conscious of so many laws in my religious life, that I need some kind of freedom, even rebellion. I feel safer breaking traffic laws than I would breaking one of the laws of the Torah.”
“I can’t answer the part of the question about Chilul Hashem because I never thought about it. Thanks for pointing it out.”
I stood there with my mouth open. I couldn’t believe his honesty, his acceptance of rebuke, and his actual gratitude for my having pointed something out to him. (I had him sign up for the newsletter.) I was standing there at the gas pump in shock until I saw him zoom away from the gas station almost hitting two or three other cars.
What a lesson in human behavior!
“I need some kind of freedom, even rebellion.” A part of me understands. A deeper part is saddened that so many people experience Judaism as restrictive and constricting. I feel that something is wrong if we experience the demands of our spiritual lives as demands rather than opportunities.
I hope we can continue to delve into the practical wisdom of the prophets and the laws, of the learning and the prayers, of the secrets and the stories so that we find it all nourishing and exciting.
Please join me in studying the Haftarah, The Music of Halacha, Table Talk, Forms of Prayer, Midot Hayom, Rosh Chodesh, The Torah Connection, Words Can Heal, Stories of the Baal Shem Tov and the Keter Shem Tov. I hope they enrich our lives so much that our new friend will not have quite so much trouble with traffic laws.
We have been having our own traffic issues with our website, as so many of you were, ahem, kind enough to point out with all the problems with the links in the previous newsletter. We apologize for not being able to post the links with the articles, and hope you will go to TheFoundationStone.org to check out all the new essays.
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg