| Street Smarts |

Tenth Man 

   And then I remembered the driver—but I also remembered our deal

As told to C.S.Teitelbaum by Chaim Somner

In the early 90s, at the height of the First Intifada, East Jerusalem was a dangerous area. This was especially true on Fridays, when young extremists on their way to the mosque would unleash violence on any Israelis they encountered.

That year, my mother’s yahrzeit fell on a Friday. Visiting her kever on Har Hazeisim would be risky and dangerous, but I am an only child, and I was determined to go. I flagged down a taxi in Tel Aviv, where I lived, and directed him to Jerusalem. As we got closer, he asked me for the exact address.

“Har Hazeisim, the cemetery,” I told him.

The bare-headed driver paled. “The beit hakvarot in East Jerusalem?” he asked, looking at me through the rearview mirror. His face registered shock.

“I cannot go there. This is a brand-new Mercedes—it’s worth 200,000 shekel. And forget about the car, I’m scared for my own safety!”

It was a reasonable fear. The Arabs were throwing stones and Molotovs like candy.

“I am an only child,” I explained. “My father is no longer alive, so I’m the only one who will be visiting my mother’s grave today. I’m sure she will be a melitz yosher for us and we’ll be okay.”

 

“I see,” he acquiesced, softening slightly. “I’ll take you there, but you will have to go out on your own. I’m going to stay in the car the entire time, to protect the car — and myself.”

I was fine with that, and the rest of the trip was uneventful. As we neared our destination, I felt a little apprehensive, especially since it would be deserted in these hostile times. But I knew I was doing it for my mother aleha hashalom. No doubt she would watch over her Kaddish’l.

When we arrived at the cemetery, I was shocked to discover a group of black-hatted men davening at a grave near my mother’s. A quick head count told me there were eight men. I approached them and asked if they would join me for Kaddish.

“We’re only eight,” they apologized. “You make nine. But we’re still short one.”

And then I remembered the driver—but I also remembered our deal.

I strode toward the taxi. He was sitting ramrod straight, on high alert, hands gripping the wheel. I told him about the other eight men and asked if there was any chance he would be our tzenter.

The brawny Sabra loosened his grip and undid his seatbelt. “Your mother’s neshamah will surely protect me and my car,” he said.

Humbled, I gave him the yarmulke from under my hat, and we walked toward the kever. Together, ten Yidden broke the deathly silence and united in the ultimate sanctification of His Name.

 

Chaim Somner is an accountant in Monsey, New York.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 830)

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