It was a cool April evening in Jerusalem. Two men were making their way to no particular place.
Neither was in a rush.
One was a kollel man and this week was “bein hazmanim.”
The other man was a professional enjoying the week after Pesach in Israel.
Both were enjoying the other’s company and perfectly content walking the streets of Jerusalem for no particular amount of time and with no specific destination.
They had only walked a few blocks when they heard her.
She was a woman as old as Jerusalem itself. The lines on her face were as many as the tragedies this city has seen. She was frail and thin and utterly alone. Perhaps her children had moved to faraway lands. She stood there at the bus stop, alone and cold; she was surrounded by dozens of other Jerusalemites while simultaneously the only woman left from Yerushalayim of old.
She had taken the bus to the Machaneh Yehudah market to purchase her food for Shabbos. She has been going to “the shuk” since Jews returned to the city many years ago. She has been purchasing potatoes and carrots and onions and olives for Shabbos for the last 60 years and she is not going to stop now. Does it matter that her body has lost the strength of her youth? Does it matter that she now sits alone in her 1.5-room apartment with no one to share the chamin, the Sephardic cholent, except her tearstained Tehillim?
Shabbos is Shabbos; and Shabbos requires going to the shuk.
However, she was now faced with one seemingly insurmountable obstacle: how to get the groceries home.
Her legs, which ran from the Jordanian bombardment of 1948, can no longer carry the groceries to her apartment. Her hands, which lovingly helped fill sandbags in 1967, can no longer carry even a 1-lb bag of sugar. And her back, which carried her two sons to Talmud Torah, can no longer trek up the two stories to her apartment. Therefore she waited alone.
As the Jewish People have patiently been waiting for salvation, so too she waited.
She spotted the two men.
She looked at them and she prayed.
“Can you help me take my groceries to my apartment?”
The two men looked at the woman.
How can I help this woman now? the older man thought. Who knows where she lives? She probably does this all the time; finds some innocent “victim,” and embarrasses him into schlepping her packages all over Jerusalem. I’m in a rush! I have places to visit and people to see! I’m sure she’ll find some do-gooder in a minute or two.
However, just as he was about to abandon the lady his younger, less-cynical companion quickly grabbed the woman’s shopping cart and began the trek to her apartment, about 200 feet from the bus stop.
As the two men reached the apartment, the woman thanked both of them and showered blessings upon them and their families.
As they walked away the older man, with a somewhat embarrassed expression on his face, thanked his younger companion for “reminding” him to do this mitzvah and for reminding him of life’s real priorities.
The younger man just smiled.
And, as the two men continued their walk, I thanked Hashem for giving me a son who still remembers what life is all about and for allowing me to realize what a work in progress I still am.