Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Book's Cover

When I first started praying at the Kurdi beit knesset near my home, a co-worker asked me, "Isn't that the beit knesset where the taxi drivers pray?" This happened four years ago, and I don't really remember reacting to the comment bar feeling a bit insulted inside.

One of the people who prays with me at another beit knesset near my place is also a taxi driver. Granted, I think he's doing it for some extra money as I think he's retired but he's still a taxi driver. Abroad, one would scoff at that line of work - Here too apparently. A taxi driver? Peasants. However, this taxi driver (and many others too I'm sure) is special. He's a phenomenal shat"z (shaliach tzibbur, the person who leads the prayers) and ba'al koreh (The person who reads the Torah). What's even more impressive is his four boys (I've never met his two girls) are all also excellent when they're called to be the shat"z or ba'al koreh, from the youngest (14) to the oldest (25 I think). Yup, a taxi driver ... A phenomenal man.

It reminds me of the story of the Rabbi who entered the classroom every morning to find new insights on the Talmud on his chalkboard. Every day, without fail, the chalkboard contained pearls of wisdom that were mostly new to him. One evening, the Rabbi stayed in the corner of the classroom and waited for the protege to reveal himself. At midnight, the yeshiva's elderly janitor walked into the room. To the Rabbi's amazement, he sat down at a desk, begun reading the Talmud and started to scribble on the chalkboard. His genius was the janitor.

I guess both stories are rather nicely summed up by Pirkei Avot 1:6, "Judge every person favorably."

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