The minivan pulled in at the first stop. The driver looked at
his timetable and saw that he had five passengers to collect
as well as one parcel for delivery. This was his last run
before Shabbos. He had planned the trip to be in time for
mincha where he would be able to sit next to his
father while davening, something his father looked
forward to each day. Then he wanted to return home early to
help his wife prepare for Shabbos. She was recovering from a
bad bout of flu and was feeling weak.
No one approached the van. After five minutes he called the
first number on his list. "Oh, yes, they've just left.
They'll be there soon." The next number rang and rang until
an answer-phone gave out an automated message.
Just then two yeshiva boys arrived and began putting their
baggage in the back of the van. A mother with a stroller
arrived moments later, folded the stroller and sat down with
a child on her lap. The van was now ten minutes behind
schedule when a man came running up with a large iced cake.
"Here, my wife said it is all arranged with you. The address
is on the box and if you call before you arrive, they'll be
waiting downstairs for you."
Now it was fifteen minutes after the arranged departure time.
A man and woman waved at him and walked towards him at a
"Why are you so late?" he asked.
"We aren't late. You always leave at least fifteen minutes
after the time you tell us. We are exactly on time."
Yitzchok, the minivan driver, gave a bitter laugh but decided
not to waste any further time talking. The phone rang and a
plaintive voice said, "Where are you? We are waiting in the
sun and the children are getting very restless."
"I'm coming, I'm coming," he shouted into the phone.
This angry reaction was the last straw for Chana. She had
rushed to get the children ready on time. Her husband had
left her a day earlier to do business in another town and now
he was waiting for her at his mother's house. Normally, they
traveled together. This was the first time she had made such
a journey alone. When little Ruchie began to whine, her
patience snapped and she slapped her. Now the whine changed
to loud wails. One after another, the children joined in the
After collecting Chana and her children, the minivan fielded
four angry calls, but eventually, nearly an hour after the
arranged starting time, with all the passengers aboard,
except for one who had said, "Oh, sorry, I forgot to cancel,"
they were headed out of town.
In Jerusalem, there was one more delay as the people who were
supposed to collect the cake at first didn't answer the
phone, but eventually they called the van and came puffing up
the hill to fetch their parcel.
Yitzchok knew by now that it was too late to daven
mincha with his father. It was time to begin the journey
back. In fact, he was already late for the run.
The journey back was even more horrendous. The late start
meant more delays, more complaining passengers worried about
arriving with so little time to spare before Shabbos.
Yitzchok arrived home only an hour before Shabbos. His wife
had nearly completed her preparations and looked white and
Is this story true or false? I'll ask another question: Have
you ever been on such a journey when everyone has arrived
spot on time?
When I spoke about this to a friend and said I was going to
write about it, she said, "Maybe you could write about
`JEWISH STANDARD TIME' at simchas where time is not
fixed." A relative of mine adds in a handwritten note to
every wedding invitation he sends out, "Chupa will be
at 7:00 bli nedder" and, believe it or not, his
children's chupas are on time, no matter who the
mechutonim or honorees are.
What are the ethicial/halachic obligations of being on time
for an appointment? Do you have to notify doctors, dentists,
wig stylists etc. if you are running late? What about the
other people who are sitting and wasting time because of your
What about asking people at the supermarket or waiting room
to let you go ahead of them? "I'm only getting a prescription
/ asking a quick question / bringing in a form / buying three
items..." While we all like to be good guys who let people
bypass us, do we feel pressured to say `yes' and really
So the question, I think, is as follows: Are we breaking any
particular halocho when we keep people waiting? And
how about the "Fifth Shulchon Oruch?"
Are we cheating the minivan driver out of money if we keep
him waiting? Are we acting with consideration to the other
passengers? By acting without considering the harm to others,
we are certainly not following Hillel's dictum of not
treating others as we would not like to be treated,
I think these questions are more important than the question
of whether or not this particualr story is true or false,
fact or fiction.