Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Av 5766 - August 16, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Car Care
by Carol Unger

The Torah says that one should live near Talmidei Chachomim, do business with them, marry one's daughters to them, but I don't think it has anything to say about crashing into their cars.

A few weeks ago, I had an errand to do in Jerusalem's chareidi Mattersdorf neighborhood. I was overscheduled, running late. On Panim Meirot, Mattersdorf's main and only street, I found a small space between two cars right in front of the place where I needed to go.

I'm not a great parallel parker, especially in tight spots, but there being no other choice, I'd have to back in. Driving slowly and I thought cautiously, I manuevered my Nissan into the space.

As I was sliding, I heard something, not a boom or a bang -- a softer sound -- more like a tap. My fender had made contact with the bumper of the car in front of me. It wasn't anything, I thought. At worst, maybe a scratch.

I locked the car and walked away,

But then the lingering voice of my conscience spoke up. Better have a look to make sure.

I turned around to look.

The car was a Suzuki compact, sparkling silver, brand new, fresh from the showroom. The fender was bent in and the shiny new paintwork shattered into little triangular mosaics.

How did one little tap do all that?

My heart was drumming in my chest. My mouth got dry, my hands sweaty.

Oh no, what kind of terrible driver I am. How could I have done something so stupid. Maybe I should just hand in my license and take busses instead.

I had done it. It was my fault. I had to own it. As I bent over the hood to scribble my note of apology, an older man, distinguished looking with a long grey beard, stopped . He was the owner.

"I'm sorry," I stammered. "I'm so sorry."

This was the moment I had been dreading -- the moment when he would surely let his tongue run wild.

It was almost a ritual in road accidents. How many times had I looked out of my sideview mirror to see drivers pulled over to the shoulder, straining their vocal cords in fury.

I'd almost been there myself -- several years earlier, when I broke the front light of a brand new Saab.

"Please don't yell at me. I'll pay all the damage but, please, don't yell at me." I begged. It worked.

The SAAB owner, an Israeli physician, held back. We settled quietly without any elevated decibels.

Then last winter my car snuggled up to the adjacent car, as I was sliding out of a narrow parking space. The other driver, a Russian immigrant, thought I'd scratched his paintwork

"You idiot. You don't know how to drive. You don't belong on the road ."

"I'll pay for the damage," I said in a cowed voice.

He walked away without taking my details. I guessed that I hadn't touched the car after all but his words ripped through me like a pneumatic drill poised at my heart.

This time was completely different.

Instead of yelling, this Suzuki owner offered me comfort -- me, the culprit, the person who had perpetrated an assault on his car.

"Don't worry. Don't get so upset. It's no big deal."

'No big deal? It's a brand new car. You'll have to waste time going to the garage to get it fixed. Of course it's a big deal."

I hadn't convinced him. We exchanged phone numbers. He was calm, even smiling. I recognized his name -- he was a rabbi a scholar, a Talmid Chochom.

The rest of the day I was in a daze -- I had cracked someone's brand new car and he didn't even get mad.

Was this real? No, this was the power of Torah.

To turn an ordinary man into an angel.

And I had seen it happen with my own eyes.


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