Just as I was about to make a turn onto the road that leads to the highway, our car began to shake vigorously. "Tatty, why is the car moving back and forth like that?" asked Bayla. Okay stay calm, I told myself as I tried to make a game plan, you don't want to scare the kids. In those split seconds, I was trying to decide whether I should slow down and make my way home or if I should stop the car and pull over on the side of the road. "Ummm, sometimes cars do that, kind of, sometimes, maybe," I casually replied. Great answer, Nuta Yisrael, really smooth, the kids won't suspect a thing. "Ta, the car is driving and moving so weird!" Okay they are on to me, time to be honest. "I'm not sure why the car is shaking, we are going to turn around and go home to figure it out, but don't worry everything is going to be completely fine." Good job, way to relieve their fears and calm the situation. "Tatty?" "Yes Bayla?" "I can't hear the music because of the shaking, can you make the music louder please?"
The kids seemed okay with the situation, while I, on the other hand, was silently concerned. In my nearly twenty years of driving, I had never experienced such jerky and erratic car movements. I decided to turn around immediately and make my way home, but any time my car went over 20 miles an hour, it started vibrating and jostling back and forth. I put on my emergency lights and at a snail's pace made my way towards our house. I'm not sure exactly what made me pull over on a side street. It could have been the two people I passed who seemed to have nervous looks on their faces as they stared intently at the front drivers side wheel, but regardless, I thought it might be prudent to examine things before continuing to drive.
Once I pulled over, I was completely shocked at what I saw. The driver's side wheel was completely shredded and there was a gaping foot long hole in the tire. I had been driving on the rim for several miles. Okay, okay, I told myself, you can do this, just take a moment to recall what you learned in Boy Scouts when you got the mechanics badge. Who was I kidding though? They never had us practice changing a tire in the rain with a curious toddler and a hungry baby sitting on the side of the road!
I called a colleague of mine who worked close by and asked if she could come watch my kids while I changed the tire. She happily obliged and arrived five minutes later. I got the car up on the jack when I realized that I should have loosened the bolts before raising it up. I put the car back down but the bolts were on so tight that they wouldn't budge. Bayla was cheering me on from the sidelines, "Come on Tatty, be so strong, be brave," while my colleague was graciously offering to use her BCAA membership to call an attendant to change the tire. While she was on the phone giving them directions and I was trying to get the tire iron off the wheel, out of nowhere a tall broad-shouldered man appeared.
"Flat tire, eh?" he asked casually. I wanted to reply "what makes you say that" but caught myself and simply said "yeah." "They can be difficult to change, especially when it's cold and the bolts haven't been changed in a long time. Here let me give it a try." Without uttering another word, he swiftly had the bolts off, the car jacked up, the spare tire fastened on, and the car back down. All in less than 5 minutes. "That should do it. Good thing you have a full size spare, huh?" he said. "Yes, thank G-d, it's really great. How did you learn how to do that so quickly?" I asked him. "Oh, I used to be a mechanic's helper for many years before I started my current job with Shaw Cable, installing internet, cable, and phone lines. I do this at least once a month. If I spot someone who needs help changing a tire, I pull over and do it for them. Why not, right? I lend a helping hand when I'm able to. Have a great day buddy. See ya." And before I could shake his hand, before I could even catch his name, just like that, he was gone.
My colleague went back to work, I put the kids back in the car, dropped them off at my in-law's house and finally arrived at my meeting one and a half hours late. During lunch, I couldn't help but think about what the mysterious man had said. "Why not, right? I lend a helping hand when I'm able to." Was it really that simple? It wasn't even important to him to know who he was helping and more importantly he didn't seem to be concerned with my knowing who he was. The only thing he cared about was helping another person when you can.
In this week's parsha, Ki Tisa, Hashem tells Moshe that each person is to donate half a shekel to the construction of the Sanctuary. Why half a shekel and not a full one? The sages teach us that the half a shekel represents the fact that each person is incomplete without another. A husband isn't whole without a wife, a wife isn't whole without a husband. But this concept is not exclusive to marriage. In the Pirkei Avos (1:6), Rabbi Yehushua emphasizes the importance of having a Rabbi and a close friend.
A person cannot face the challenges of the world on his or her own, we need the help of a role model and confidant. No man is an island. More often than not, we need the help of our buddies or those we look up to. Sometimes help comes from a spouse, a teacher, a relative, or close friend; and the assistance they give helps us to complete the project at hand. Other times, the help can come from a complete stranger. But it is that heartfelt goodness of the stranger that can help us fix what is broken.
Every one of us is not only responsible for our own half a shekel, but to help others complete theirs as well. After all, why not lend a helping hand when you can? When you help complete someone else, you are also completing yourself. And there is nothing more powerful than when two become one and when we help our loved ones reach their potential, thus in turn reaching our own potentials.
I spoke with my colleague the other day, and two weeks later, each of us were still thinking about the mysterious man who appeared out of nowhere and disappeared just as quickly. We were so taken aback by his desire to help a stranger and how he changed not just my tire, but our day. He put a smile on each of our faces. Changing one's own tire doesn't change the world. But changing someone else's tire reflects kindness, compassion, and care. And it is these things that make the world a better place. Thus, changing a tire can in fact change the world.
Wishing you and yours a good Shabbos,
Rabbi Nuta Yisrael Shurack