By Yisroel Besser, Mishpacha
Sunday night, Motzaei Visiting Day, on Route 17 East.
We were exhausted, yet happily so. It had been an enjoyable day, nachas-filled, baruch Hashem, but draining — financially, for sure (when did they start suggesting a tip for camp drivers and lice-checkers?). We’d schlepped flats of water bottles up steep hills and waited in pizza shop lines that looked like those pictures you see of border checkpoints in a third-world country.
If we leave by five o’clock, we’ll beat the traffic back, we said at four. At five, we said we’d leave by six and it would be fine. At nine thirty (what kind of parents drop off their children early on Visiting Day?) we finally left. (An idea. Maybe fathers — those who consider “you saw him/her two weeks ago and camp ends in a week and a half” a legitimate claim and who value clear highways — can end Visiting Day at four, while mothers, intent on squeezing every last moment out of the day, can stay until it’s dark and do a carpool back to the city?)
Route 17 was a parking lot, aseaofOdysseysand Siennas, Camrys and Accords, heimish cars with Cheerios trapped beneath infant seats waiting for bedikas chometz and paper Tefillas Haderech arts-and-crafts projects swinging jauntily from the mirrors.
Then I got the flat tire.
The pop, the denial, the grudging acceptance of my fate as I pulled over at the side of the darkened highway.
The timing was pretty bad. The little kids were cranky and hungry, up way too late. I work in an industry in which Sunday is the busiest day of the week and I was anxious to get home.
But we weren’t going anywhere.
At first, I made an initial attempt at being capable, opening the trunk, my eyebrows knitted and my jaw set as I looked for the spare tire. The charade ended when my ten-year-old son, in his best right-way-to-correct-your-father voice, pointed out that the spare was kept inside the car, behind the front seat.
They know. They know that I have a better chance of winning an Olympic medal in Taekwondo than jacking up the car and changing the tire.
They knew all along that I would be calling Chaveirim. (Hey, let me see you write an article on deadline, okay? Everyone has their things.)
I picked up the phone to call, but as I dialed, a car pulled over and a young chassidish fellow jumped out.
“Sorry,” I said, “bad night for a flat tire, I know,” I indicated the heavy traffic.
“No,” he said brightly, “it’s the best night. There are Yidden all over. You picked a perfect time.”
He rearranged his perfectly packed trunk and pulled out equipment and found my own spare in a moment. I stood there, useless as the King of England (Ralph Waldo Emerson gets credit for that), hands in pockets as he worked quickly.
He lived inWilliamsburg, he acknowledged, but didn’t think there was a reason for me to know his name. His own family waited patiently as he worked, and within five minutes, he had his equipment back in his minivan. I caught sight of his tallis bag — I thought it said Yoel Brach, but couldn’t be sure — before he closed the trunk.
He was off before I could properly formulate my thanks, his car barely making a ripple as it disappeared into the sea of traffic.
Okay, so I can’t change a tire and sometimes I can’t even get the gas tank to open. But there are some things I can do well; networking is where I shine.
I called my friend Reb Moshe Aron Hoffman of Satmar, giving my children a “watch-this” wink. “A Chaveirim guy just changed my tire and he wouldn’t give me his name. He barely let me say thank-you. I think it might have been Yoel Brach.”
Reb Moshe Aron put me on hold for a moment. “Sruli,” he came back 15 seconds later, “hold on, I want you to say hello to someone. Yoeli, someone wants to say thank-you.”
I got to say thank-you like a mentsh. My savior got to deflect the thanks again, telling me that it’s what Chaverim do and he’s happy to be part of it.
“Now you’re really friends, Tatty,” my son said, “I guess that’s why they’re called Chaveirim.”
It was a good vort. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt the loyalty, friendship, the sense of comradeship that I did when Yoeli Brach pulled his floodlight and jack out of his car, reassuring me that I’d picked the right time for a blowout.
It’s a nation of Chaveirim. Some with electric boosters in their trunks, others that do taharos, lend money, distribute Torah tapes, sell raffle tickets, say Tehillim for patients they’ve never met, or fill the stillness of night with their quiet Torah learning.
The Ari Hakadosh instituted the practice of reciting, prior to davening, the sentence, “Hareini mekabel alai mitzvas asei shel v’ahavta lerei’acha kamocha.” The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch explains that every Jew has his zechuyos — so before we daven, we tap into the merits of others, connecting with them so that all our tefillos unite to find favor in heaven. We rely on each other.
A flat tire isn’t a problem if there are other Jews around. Nothing is a problem if there are other Jews around.
Chaveirim do it with jacks and wrenches, but really, their secret belongs to any Jew who ever showed up at a time of need, looked his new friend in the eye and said, “You picked the perfect night for a blowout. Let me give you a hand.”
This article first appeared at Mishpacha.