En Route

A bus driver’s guide to life

By: Rabbi Dovid Samuels

It was just after Rosh Hashanah, 2015. At the bus stop in the middle of Bnei Brak stood tens of families with small children waiting for the bus to take them all back home to Yerushalayim. But on the horizon, no bus could be seen.

A man in the crowd made a call to the bus company, and they duly promised that they would send a bus to pick them up, and finally send them all home. They had just spent Rosh Hashanah at hosts in small apartments, and one more night was just not an option. They had to get back to Yerushalayim…but still no bus. With small children in their arms, late at night, in the hot Bnei Brak weather, patience was running thin. Private tenders: too expensive, too busy, not running after the Yom Tov. Children falling asleep in their parents’ arms, on their parents’ laps, on their parents’ luggage. The bus company still promising…still no bus.

At last, when all hope was almost lost, they saw on the horizon that faint glow from the number displayed on the bus. Children were roused, bags were picked up, smiles and cheers started to replace the groans from the hot, tired crowd. As the bus drew closer, a man gasped and said, “Petach Tikvah!” The crowd froze at the sound and all eyes were firmly focused on the glowing number coming closer and closer to them, until they all saw with their own eyes that the number on the bus told them that the bus was not on its way to Yerushalayim. The man was right; it was going to Petach Tikvah!

As the bus drew close to the bus stop, the crowd noticed a strange sight: the bus was completely empty. Apparently no one in all of the previous stops needed to get to Petach Tikvah. But here was a large crowd of people, and they all needed to get to Yerushalayim. Jumping on the opportunity and desperately hoping for the best, the crowd approached the driver and pleaded with him to do one small thing: “Please, just change the number on the bus! Take us home to Yerushalayim.”

The bus driver replied apologetically that he could not do it, that he was just an employee and he couldn’t just change the number and route of his bus. He would lose his job. But the frantic crowd begged and pleaded with him. “Have mercy on us!” “We have small children!” “Your bus is anyway empty!” And finally, after a barrage of begging and pleading, the bus driver acquiesced and changed the number on the bus to 402: to Yerushalayim! In an instant, the desperate and frantic atmosphere turned to happiness and rejoicing; the crowd cheered and showered the driver with thanks and blessings as they boarded the newly-appointed 402 bus.

During the course of the ride, as most of the exhausted passengers dozed off in their seats, one man decided to approach the driver for a schmooze. “Nahag – driver – tell me, are you so courageous that you would trade your job to help us all? The bus company knows where every one of their busses is at all times. They’ve certainly noticed that you are not on your way to Petach Tikvah anymore. Are you such a tzaddik that helping us meant more to you than keeping your job?”

“Come close, my friend,” the bus driver replied, “and I will tell you a secret.”

“The bus company knows exactly where to dispatch their busses. They knew that there was a group of people waiting at a bus stop in Bnei Brak, families with children, late at night, standing around in the heat. So they asked the drivers if they would go to take the crowd back to Yerushalayim. But all of the drivers refused.”

“Why?” asked the passenger.

“Because they all knew that you had been waiting for a bus for a long time in the heat and none of the drivers wanted to be on the receiving end of a crowd of unhappy passengers. ‘How could you leave us waiting for so long at night?!’ ‘Our small children were suffering in the heat!’ No one wanted to volunteer for such a trip.”

“But yet here you are,” the passenger said.

“Listen carefully, my friend. I was also reluctant to volunteer for the job, but I went to the dispatcher and I said I would do it. But in order to avoid the jeers and snarls of the frustrated crowd, I decided to change the number on the bus from Yerushalayim to Petach Tikvah. That way, you would all assume that I was really intending to go to Petach Tikvah, and when you notice that the bus is empty, you would plead with me to take you to Yerushalayim instead. And when I changed the number to 402 to Yerushalayim, instead of hisses and curses, I received blessings and praises from each and every one of you.”

The passenger was impressed. A very smart bus driver indeed. But as he sat back down in his seat, he realised that right at the very beginning of the new year, he had just received one of the most valuable lessons he could learn: that no matter how it might seem, our Driver will always take us to our prescribed destination. And it is our choice whether the journey will be one of blessings and cheers, or curses and complaints.

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