Artwork by Davora Lillian
Ven Me’haist Tanzin…
By Tova Younger
When it is bashert for us to dance… That is from a story I grew up with, having heard it many times from my survivor parents. It popped into my mind on a recent excursion we took, a simple trip from Kiryat Sefer to Neve Yaakov.
Kiryat Sefer, home to about 8,000 families, enjoys very convenient bus service. Daily there are a few buses every hour to Bnai Brak and Yerushalayim, with a few buses to other less traveled destinations. For Shabbos, there are additional buses to quite a few more places, making it quicker, cheaper and more pleasant to go away for Shabbos. Unfortunately, some of these special busses do not make pickups throughout the city; rather travelers must go to an area called ‘masof’ where they can board the bus. Getting there is not always so easy, since many are traveling with suitcases and strollers.
On this particular trip, we – I was traveling with my husband and two teens – were heading to Neve Yaakov with 3 large suitcases. I decided on the spur of the moment to splurge on a taxi to take us to the masof. Although the taxi only costs about $6 (a taxi to Neve Yaakov would cost about $50), we do usually walk. This time, as it was hot, and we were dressed in our Shabbos clothes, and had more luggage than usual, I thought it was a time to spend. We enjoyed a quick ride to the masof, got on the bus and enjoyed a quick ride – under an hour. It passed so pleasantly, we were not really paying attention to the fact that we had arrived. And all of a sudden, the bus was lumbering on, past our stop! Down a long hill! We had traveled to Neve Yaakov many times, but this was a first! To miss our stop! We pushed the button, belatedly… there was nothing to be done. We exited and began the climb uphill in the sun, dragging along our three suitcases. To my family’s credit, no one complained or blamed. When I wondered aloud what had happened, there was no response. Everyone simply walked along, offering to trade off the heavier suitcase, and within a few minutes we arrived at our destination. The thought that came to my mind was: ven me’haist shleppen…
The original story is well worth repeating, packed as it is with a view of the past and an appreciation of our current situation vis-à-vis goyim; it is also a great hashgachah pratis insight.
In Europe of days gone by, inns were common scenes of stories. In this one, two Yidden had been traveling all day and needed a place to sleep. They did not require more than a couple of mattresses – luckily, as that is probably all they got. Inns were not known for comfort and amenities. Shortly after they came, along came a few goyim, who enjoyed some food and drinks. And then? Remember that entertainment in those days was extremely limited, actually almost non-existent. The only entertainment consisted of bothering people, and Yidden were a favorite target. One goy asked the owner, “Any Jews here? We are bored, we need some action!”
“Sure – in that room there, you have two; they came and went straight to sleep.”
One goy got up. “I’ll go get one. Let him dance for us! That will be fun!” Quick as he could in his drunken state, he brought one of the Yidden to the dining area. “Dance, Jew! Dance!”
That poor fellow, although so rudely awoken from his sleep, knew he had no choice. If he did not comply, he could get beaten or worse. So he danced. Five minutes, ten. Presumably the goyim were duly entertained, until they got bored of that as well, and the Yid was able to return to his sleep.
More time passed; more wine, more senseless talk… “Let’s get that Jew again. He was really good for a laugh!” The goy went and brought out the Yid, and the performance was repeated. This time when the Yid returned to his room, he woke up his companion. “My dear friend, do me a favor! I’m not getting any sleep! Those goyim came and dragged me out two times to dance for them! They might come again, so do me a favor and let’s switch places. Take a turn, please!”
A true ba’al middos, he agreed. And surely enough, an hour later the goy came and again threw open the door, and reached out… but in his drunkenness, he had a thought. “Ahh, we had this Jew twice already. Let’s see what the other fellow can do!” And our unfortunate Yid had to dance yet a third time… When it is bashert to dance…
If we must dance, we will dance. If we must shlepp, we will shlepp.
Should we not do what we can to make our lives go smoother? Was I wrong to summon a taxi? Certainly we can and we must make hishtadlus as needed. Rabbi Avigdor Miller says, “Hashem sent you a headache? He also sent you aspirin!” But let’s never forget where it all comes from and when our hishtadlus is not successful, let’s thank Him for our yissurim, without blaming or complaining, while davening that they not be more severe…
(According to some, the Yidden in this story are the well-known brothers, early Chassidish Rebbes, Reb Zusha and his brother Reb Elimelech.)
This appeared in The Jewish Press and is reprinted here with permission.
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