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For the Driver

When Yisroel Peled completed his studies in the Lubavitch yeshiva for returnees to Judaism in Morristown, New Jersey, he decided to make aliya and settle in Israel. This was in 1974. On the day of his flight, he visited the main synagogue of the Lubavitcher Rebbe at 770 Eastern Parkway, to pray together with the Rebbe and request his blessing for a safe trip. After prayers, as the Rebbe made his way out of the synagogue, Peled approached him and requested a blessing.

The Rebbe turned to his secretary, Rabbi Leibel Groner, and instructed him to hand Peled two dollars. “One for him and one for the driver of the taxi.”

The Rebbe continued on his way and left Peled standing there somewhat perplexed. To which taxi driver was the Rebbe referring? To the one who would drive him to Kennedy airport in New York, or the one who would drive him from Lod Airport in Israel to his final destination? Peled asked for clarification from the chassidim standing around him, but none of them could tell him for sure. However, Peled decided that if the Rebbe handed him a dollar to fulfill some hidden mission, surely the right moment would become clear to him in time.

On the way to Kennedy Airport Peled had a thought that most likely, the Rebbe wanted him to give the dollar to a Jewish driver. Since his current driver was not Jewish, he probably should wait and give the dollar to whoever would drive him from the airport in Israel.

Peled landed in Israel at 2 a.m. Worn out, he made his way to passport control, gathered his suitcases and left the terminal. He was headed for Jerusalem and found a taxi traveling in that direction.

Peled settled himself into the taxi. He knew a few words of Hebrew but not much more than that. He was tired from the long flight and worried about how he would settle into Israeli society as a new immigrant. Only after he arrived at his destination and stumbled out of the taxi did he realize that he had not found an opportunity to mention the Rebbe’s  dollar to the driver.

In the coming days he planned on locating the driver to give him the dollar, but with all the pressures of acclimating to a new country, he forgot about the dollar entirely and it remained in his wallet.

From time to time, he would look at the dollar and be smitten by pangs of conscience over the unfulfilled mission. He decided that he’d just approach any random driver and give him the dollar, but never carried out his intention. And so the dollar became permanently ensconced in his wallet, for over 30 years.

About four years ago, an election was underway among the membership of the Likud party, whether to support Sharon’s disengagement plan. Sharon promised that if his plan did not win the support of the Likud, it would be buried. Unfortunately, as we know, Sharon did not keep his promise.

By this time Peled had become a resident of the Susia settlement in Northern Chevron. He was making his way to central Jerusalem, and his mode of dress identified him as a settler. “You know,” the driver struck up a conversation, “I am a Likud member.” Peled’s response was instinctual: “Certainly you plan to vote against Sharon’s disengagement plan.”

But no. “I trust Sharon; he knows what he is doing,” the driver responded.

Peled couldn’t believe his ears. “How could you bury your head in the sand?” Looking around the taxi, he remarked, “I see you have a picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in your car. Do you have any idea how many tears the Rebbe shed against any steps to capitulate to our enemies?”

“Listen,” said Peled, struck by a sudden thought. “I have a dollar in my wallet that the Rebbe told me to give to a taxi driver!”

The driver turned and looked at him disbelievingly. Peled briefly told him the history of the dollar. “I am certain that the Rebbe had you in mind. This is the dollar that the Rebbe gave me for you. Now please decide whose opinion matters more to you--the Rebbe’s or Ariel Sharon’s.”

At that moment the driver’s face paled. “You have no idea what you just accomplished,” he stuttered.

It turned out that in the last few months the driver had begun to take steps to return to Judaism. However, his wife did not wish to go along with him. Every request on his part was met with a wall of resistance from her. That morning, the two had argued, and one sentence that she said to him remained in his mind. “You are always quoting the Lubavitcher Rebbe to me. Does the Rebbe really care about you? Have you ever gotten a dollar from him?”

“And look,” said the driver in awe. “The Rebbe sent me a dollar.”

 

 


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