You all know the famous story of the Roman noblewoman who
asked the rabbi what G-d has been doing since the creation of
the world and the rabbi answered that the Ribbono Shel Olom
has been making marriages.
Well, guess what? I have amazing news. Hashem has, as it
were, taken on a new part-time job! He is busy babysitting on
my block in the afternoons. I came to this conclusion the
other day when I went to the grocery at about 5 o'clock. If,
G-d forbid, Hashem weren't babysitting, there could have been
a number of tragedies just in that one timeslot of perhaps
Several cars came zooming down the block, but the cars had to
share the street with children. I can't say that the drivers
were particularly good about sharing. Some slowed down a
little bit but most just hit the accelerator and went their
merry way. Among the children in the street were bike riders
of all ages, none wearing helmets, girls jumping rope and
boys playing ball and shooting marbles. The children were
totally oblivious to the traffic.
We have an eiruv in our neighborhood, and therefore
children go out into the street with their toys and play
there on Shabbos afternoons. If you ask the mothers why they
let their toddlers play in the street on Shabbos, they will
tell you that the children know the difference between
Shabbos and a weekday. Their toddler would never go in the
street on a regular day.
This year we had Shavuos on a Friday, followed by Shabbos,
and the little ones had two afternoons running when they
could, and did, go in the street. Some of these toddlers may
actually identify the time they can play in the street by
when they are wearing Shabbos clothes. Others are less
perceptive and think that when everyone else is in the street
it is okay for them to go there too.
On the afternoon in question, there were many youngsters in
the street. Several yards ahead of where I was walking, I saw
a little girl, who couldn't have been over eighteen months
old, pushing her toy stroller across the street. And she was
not accompanied by anyone other than her dolly. It was very
definitely not Shabbos, but the toddler didn't seem to know
that she couldn't join everyone else in the street.
It is possible that one of the rope jumpers, ball players or
marble shooters was supposed to be watching this very young
girl. However, it was the One Above who sent a passing
pedestrian to grab "mommy" and dolly out of the street.
But the best incident was yet to come. When I got to the
shopping center, there was a fairly large group of boys from
age six to about ten crowded into the alley between a market
and the wall around the shopping center.
I looked in to see what the attraction was, and I almost
fainted. One of the Arab workers was busy taking apart and
bundling the cartons that had been used to bring merchandise
to the market. There he was, slitting open the heavy
cardboard boxes with a box cutter, known in Israel as a
For any of you who were under a rock on the infamous
September 11, 2001, a box cutter is a super-sharp small razor-
sharp blade that slides into and out of a sheath. It is made
for doing exactly the work the Arab in the alley was involved
in, but as we all know from the World Trade Center tragedy,
box cutters are also lethal weapons.
I wouldn't want any of my children or grandchildren bothering
an Arab who was holding a knife of that sort or any other
weapon for that matter. But there was this large crowd of
boys doing exactly that.
My Hebrew is poor, my pronunciation is atrocious and I have a
terrible knack of putting the accent on the wrong syllable.
Therefore, I am not the one to talk to neighborhood boys. If
I try to tell them they are doing the wrong thing, they are
so busy rolling on the floor laughing at the way I speak that
they completely miss the message.
I rushed up to one of the Israeli shopkeepers who was taking
a smoking break on the sidewalk and explained the situation
to him. He went over to the alley, called out one of the
older boys and spoke to him. The boy in turn went back to
tell the others. B"H, the boys listened and left the Arab
alone. The shopkeeper must have put the warning in strong
terms because, fortunately, the boys left the alley
I don't usually go to the grocery at that time. I am sure
that the Master Babysitter sent me there that afternoon just
for one purpose, and He also sent the shopkeeper out to the
sidewalk right then to serve as my spokesperson. Together we
were able to diffuse a volatile situation.
Please don't tell me that the Arab valued his job and
wouldn't have endangered it to go after someone with his
knife. Because of another incident, I know differently.
Shortly after this new market opened, there were four Arab
workers unloading a truck and another Arab pushing
merchandise up the ramp to the store.
The one on the ramp called out something in Arabic to one of
the men unloading the truck. It was no doubt less than
complimentary. It took all three of his co-workers to
restrain the insulted Arab, who had whipped out a knife and
was going after the insulter, job or no job.
I know that there are many reasons why the mothers were not
with the children playing in the street or supervising the
boys in the alley.
In late afternoon, some women are busy making supper, bathing
the baby, or making the house look presentable for when their
husbands came home. Some mothers have to earn a living and
are doing computer work from home offices, and others are in
town in a brick and mortar office.
But I am still uncomfortable with the situation. We all have
to be very, very grateful to the Master Babysitter who is on
duty on my street and maybe also on yours. After all, Hashem
is the only One who can be everywhere at once. And it's a
lucky thing, because there are a lot of neighborhoods and a
lot of streets and a blessed lot of children out there every
We aren't supposed to rely on miracles. There are parks and
playgrounds that are more child-friendly than streets and
shopping centers. There are teenagers who would love to earn
a few shekels every afternoon for babysitting. Also, mothers
can get together and form teams. They can take turns with
some being in the house while others are watching groups of
children playing outside.
If all else fails, children have been known to grow up
playing with toys in the house while Mom makes supper nearby.
I know that it takes twice as long to cook that way, but
sometimes it is the lesser of two evils. We get by with the
children underfoot on rainy winter days. Maybe we can handle
it in the summer also. Especially if we take the kids to the
park to run off their energy before we start supper.
We can do our part to help safeguard the children that have
been entrusted to our care. Hashem has given us these
precious souls. Why can't we show Him that we can do more to
help watch them?