The ambulance

A siren from the past

By: Rabbi Dovid Samuels

Shmuel, from London, was a successful businessman. But more than that, he was a ‘Daf Yomi Yid’. Come what may, he would do whatever it took to arrive at shul on time for his daf yomi shiur before going out to work. He treated it with great seriousness. The heavenly court asks a person in the next world if he fixed time for learning Torah. This was Shmuel’s fixed time, his ‘kevius’. Many times, he would stay after the shiur, discussing the daf with the Rav and the other members of the group. Work would wait until his learning was over. He wouldn’t suffice with merely ‘catching up’ the daf via a tape or mp3. No, he was there in person, day-after-day. The phone calls, the emails, the meetings…they were second to his kevius, and those around him marvelled at his particularly strong character in this regard.

But one day, it couldn’t be avoided. He had to travel, and he would not be able to sit in the daf shiur that morning. But he just couldn’t forfeit his morning daf, so he got hold of a recording, and he would listen to it as he travelled. Many years before, he’d made a decision never to miss a daf. Today was no exception.

As he was travelling on a major road outside London, with the shiur playing, he found himself stuck behind a massive transport vehicle. An 18-wheeler “big-rig” travelling at an unusually slow pace. What happened next took only a moment, but it would last a lifetime. Shmuel checked the oncoming lane, saw that it was clear, and decided to overtake the huge truck in front of him. But almost immediately, he heard an ambulance siren coming from somewhere behind him. He instinctively understood that the ambulance needed to overtake the truck, and he would need to give way, so he swerved back into his lane; back behind the big-rig. No more than a second later, another huge truck came flying past on his right-hand side; right down the lane he was going to use to overtake the truck in front of him. How did he miss it? How did such a huge truck escape his view? His heart pumped. He knew that there was no way that he could have overtaken the truck in time before the other truck came cruising by. Did the ambulance driver know that he had just saved a man’s life on the way to save another?

He waited a moment for the ambulance to pass him, but no ambulance came. He checked his rear-view mirror…nothing in sight! Shmuel was confused. He’d missed the oncoming truck, and now he’d lost the ambulance that had saved his life a second ago. As he continued, the voice of the Rav giving the shiur on his car radio returned to focus. Shmuel realised that in the commotion and confusion he had taken his mind off the daf shiur, so he rewound the tape about 2 minutes to re-listen. What happened next took his breath away…again. About 30 seconds later he heard the sound of an ambulance siren. But this time he realised where it was coming from.

More than 25 years ago, in a small room in Meah Shearim, a Rav was holding a shiur. A small group of men were gathered together to learn Hashem’s Torah, every day another daf. That day, as they were about 20 minutes into the shiur, an ambulance rode past, right outside the room where the men were learning. The small streets of Meah Shearim did nothing to stifle the roar of the blaring ambulance siren from reaching the small tape recorder on the desk in front of the Rav giving the shiur. No one knows who the ambulance was carrying, but a quarter century later they had just saved a life.

Shmuel was cold. He again lost focus of the shiur he was listening to. He thought for a moment how the Rav recording his daf shiur in Meah Shearim over 25 years ago had saved his life. How the ambulance had saved his life. How his decision to never miss a shiur had saved his life. Any other daf, any other second, and the ambulance would have lost their future patient. Hashem had employed a lot of participants over a long period of time to save Shmuel’s life at exactly that second. Many years before, Shmuel had made a decision never to miss a daf. Today was no exception.

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