Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Tammuz 5764 - July 7, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Fact or Friction?
by Gita Gordon

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 leisurely pace.

"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 chorus.


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 worn out.


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 late arrival?

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 disagree?

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, ourselves.

I think these questions are more important than the question of whether or not this particualr story is true or false, fact or fiction.


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