| Parshah |

Taxi Take

The mitzvah of honoring one’s parents connects to both types of mitzvos

 

“Honor your father and your mother…” (Shemos 20:12)

 

T

he Luchos were inscribed with five commandments on the right tablet that are bein adam l’Makom, pertaining to man and Hashem, and five on the left tablet that are bein adam l’chaveiro, pertaining to man and his fellow man.

But there’s one commandment seemingly out of place. The fifth commandment, honoring one’s parents, certainly seems to be a mitzvah that is between man and his fellow man; it’s about mussar, good middos, and gratitude. Yet this mitzvah is found on the section of Luchos dealing with man and Hashem. Why? (Rav Wallach, Maayan Hashavua)

Owning a car is definitely convenient, despite traffic and a dearth of parking throughout Eretz Yisrael. But it also means that I’m cut off from public transportation and all the action and stories that seem to take place exclusively in Israeli taxis and buses.

Recently, though, I was in Yerushalayim sans car. I stood for a while trying unsuccessfully to flag down a taxi. Finally, a cab stopped and I gratefully climbed into the back seat.

The minute I closed the door, my senses were accosted by a cacophony of jarring noise and lights. The driver had the radio blaring, a rock concert video playing on his entertainment screen, the taxi dispatcher was yelling through his two-way, and Waze was intoning directions in the background.

The mitzvah of honoring one’s parents connects to both types of mitzvos — bein adam l’Makom and bein adam l’chaveiro. Our parents are our connection to our past, our heritage. They’re the ones who pass down our mesorah, from the generation that stood at Har Sinai until today. There’s a golden chain that winds through the generations and on it are links for the shoftim… neviim… all the way to our gedolim today.

Our tradition encourages knowledge of our past — to ensure our present and future. Ask any cheder boy to tell you who Betzalel, Osniel ben Kenaz, and Elisha Hanavi were. Ask him what the letters Ramban or Rashi stand for. Rashi? A nation that severs or belittles the ties between its youth and its parents cuts itself off from its heritage.

“Where to?” shouted the driver, and I got my first good look at my chauffeur. The guy was huge. I mean redwood tree, football lineman, Guinness Book of World Records huge. The fact that he sported a long streaming ponytail and a large tattoo did nothing to alleviate my apprehension.

Where to? Home, safety? Anywhere, but right here? But he was already pulling away from the curb and hurtling headfirst into traffic, so I gave him my destination and began whispering Tehillim.

It wasn’t easy to concentrate, since my driver alternated between singing along with the radio and beating a steady tempo on the steering wheel to the beat of the video. This guy brought multitasking to a new dimension.

It is told of the tzaddik Rav Tzvi Hirsch Broyde, son-in-law of the Saba from Kelm, that he would always keep a framed picture of his father in front of him. He explained, “I am far from the tzaddik Yosef was, but even he only managed to refrain from sin when he saw the image of his father before him. Therefore, I keep my father’s image in front of me.”

Then the driver’s phone rang. Was he now going to talk on the phone in addition to all the other mayhem? But to my surprise, he suddenly turned off all the background noise, Waze, dispatcher, and all. Against the abrupt silence of the car, his voice was surprisingly soft and gentle as he answered the phone, “Kevod ha’Ima. How are you?”

He then proceeded to have a long tender conversation with his aging mother, complete with many terms of endearment and promises to pick up her shopping from the shuk and to stop by soon to check out the thermostat in her house. His tone throughout was completely incongruous to the jarring noise of a few moments earlier. Even his driving seemed to slow down as he wound down reviewing her list of ailments and concerns. Wishing her all his love, he hung up, and within seconds the car was rocking again with noise.

But I sat quietly, my mind replaying the entire conversation. I may be a better driver than this fellow, and I certainly have better concentration skills, but I learned a life lesson from careening round the city with this man who cherished his mother.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 680)

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