He couldn’t drive, until his passengers understood the magnitude of his sacrifice
t was a Thursday night minhag.
It didn’t involve cholent or music, but it was a Leil Shishi experience all its own.
It wasn’t a large group. Precisely ten bochurim, never more, the same ten bochurim week after week.
They’d been inspired by Rav Leizer Ginsberg, who’d been visiting from America and was invited to address the talmidim of Yeshivas Mir on Tishah B’Av. In the middle of a rousing derashah, he’d stopped and challenged the bochurim sitting on the floor, rows and rows of young men in socks and slippers, pouring out into the hallway.
“What are you doing for your rosh yeshivah? Rav Nosson Tzvi is so sick… are his talmidim even trying to help?”
The question hung there as Rav Leizer continued speaking.
One of the bochurim who heard the charge decided that he would form a group, a secret group — just ten of them, and they would daven for their beloved rosh yeshivah.
Once a week, two, or sometimes three, taxis — depending on the weather — would make their way down the steep road leading to the Wall and discharge the passengers, ten American bochurim, white shirts still bearing a hint of starch from a long-ago American dry cleaners, black hats tilted back, filling the Jerusalem evening with their eager todah rabbah, nahag.
One of those nahags ended up being a regular on the Thursday night route, picking up the same little group at the same little spot near the Mir every week, corner of Sonnenfeld and Beis Yisrael streets where you can inhale and taste the challos from the Nechama bakery. His name might have been Erez, or David, or maybe Ofir, but he was an honorary member of the chaburah; it was a one-way trip, since the guys would usually walk back, but sometimes he would park and come daven as well.
The boys were davening for the Rosh Yeshivah, he knew, and this moved him. Sons who cared about their father. Rav Nosson Tzvi ben Sara Ita.
One week, as the boys climbed into the car at the usual spot, the driver was visibly bursting with a story.
“Atem yodim mi hayah etzli bamonit? Do you know who I had in my taxi?”
The Rosh Yeshivah. Harav Finkel himself! The inspiration, the heart, the focus of the weekly trips to the Kosel.
Erez or David or Ofir didn’t drive, he just idled in place, the crowds leaving Minchah at Beis Yisrael shtiblach forced to walk around the car.
He couldn’t drive, until his passengers understood the magnitude of his sacrifice.
“I so badly wanted to tell him about the boys, what you do for him, the tefillot. But I didn’t. I didn’t say anything.”
Then he started driving, the boys complimenting him on his silence, commending him for doing the right thing.
It was meant to be a secret. He’d done good.
“But as I drove,” he said, as he turned expertly around the traffic circle on Shmuel Hanavi, managing the large white car like it was a scooter, “My heart was screaming, ‘Harav, habochurim ohavim otcha, heim kol kach ohavim otcha — — The boys love you…’”
They say you can find the truth in taxis.
That night, in that car, a slim man in a tight white T-shirt, sunglasses up on his head, spoke words of such truth.
They loved him, their rosh yeshivah. How they loved him!
Yisroel Besser is a deputy editor at this magazine and the author of several books. He lives in Montreal, Canada.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 830)
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