Suddenly, the train felt quite roomy, and the air did not feel stuffy at all
It’s been a long time since I rode the D train to yeshivah, and rarely do I find myself on any train these days. Yet the other night I found myself waiting for a train in Yerushalayim.
The Talmud Torah of two of my grandsons was sponsoring a siyum to celebrate the completion of the masechta, and as grandparents, both my wife and I were privileged to attend.
After the festivities, my wife and I realized that a quick and inexpensive way to return to our apartment would be by taking the light rail.
We walked to the Central Bus Station, and along with about 50 other people of all stripes and colors, we eagerly anticipated the train’s arrival. The night was warm, and many people crowded the platform.
Finally, the train arrived.
The train was already quite full, and the people boarding only added to the cramped conditions inside.
I boarded the train and in front of me was a talmid chacham. He looked like a young rosh yeshivah.
The yeshivah bochur sitting in the first row of seats recognized the rav and immediately stood up, insisting, “Please, the rebbi must sit!”
I was quite impressed with this show of respect and felt proud to be part of Hashem’s people.
However, I was unprepared for what happened next.
The rebbi said to this bochur, “No, allow this rav to sit down, as he is older, and we must show respect.”
I looked behind me to see which older rav was on the train. It soon became apparent that the rebbi was referring to me.
I must admit that after walking to the train and waiting in the heat, a seat on the train would feel like a luxury recliner.
But I wouldn’t sit down if my wife was still standing. However, as an older man was seated next to the now-vacant spot, my wife insisted that I sit. So, with her blessing, I sat down.
Another yeshivah bochur, sitting across from me, noticed that my wife was standing. He quickly motioned for my wife to sit in his seat, but she declined his generous gesture. Soon after, at the next stop, an older woman, who was not dressed in the garb of a religious Jew, entered the train, supporting herself with a cane. Once again, the yeshivah bochur was up in a flash, allowing the woman to sit down.
“You offered your seat to my wife, so Hashem paid you back with another mitzvah opportunity,” I commented to the young man.
As the train lurched ahead, a strange thought entered my mind.
The train was confining, crowded, and to a certain degree even stifling.
The people on the train were all masked as a protection and a precaution against an invisible pathogen.
Suddenly, I was transported back in time.
Here, too, there are many, many Jews confined and crowded into a train. Here, too, the people’s faces carry the fear of an uncertain future from a lethal human pathogen.
I quickly opened my eyes as tears begin to roll down my cheeks.
Those trains were indeed packed with holy Jews. And there are many stories of unbelievable chesed performed on those packed trains.
However, those trains were on their way to places with names such as Auschwitz and Birkenau.
Those trains led to a living Gehinnom in This World.
The train I am on leads to places with names like Shaar Yafo and Shimon Hatzaddik. This train leads to a living paradise in This World.
Suddenly, the train felt quite roomy, and the air did not feel stuffy at all.
I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath.
The splendid fragrance of Gan Eden filled the wonderfully crowded train.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 877)
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