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One of the major drawbacks to driving one's own car to various destinations
here in Jerusalem is that once having arrived there - through the always
treacherous traffic, there is absolutely no place to park one's car. Our
holy city has a surplus of many wonderful things but parking spaces or
parking lots are not on that list. Recently, I walked six blocks in a
driving rainstorm to keep a speaking engagement of mine as there was just no
closer place that I could find and fit my car into.

With the continuing increase in the numbers of cars on the streets of
Jerusalem, there is very little hope for an immediate improvement in the
situation. The fact that large - really large - garbage bins are also placed
on the curbs of many streets, occupying a considerable number of potential
parking spaces, also complicates matters and frustrates the hapless driver
searching for a place to put his car. Who can deny the logic that garbage
trumps parking spaces for cars?

Parking illegally is an art but it is also a considerable risk to one's
pocket and emotional stability. Nevertheless, there are many Jerusalemites
that I have observed who do so with abandon. I always wonder if they know
something that I am not aware of. But my determination to remain a
law-abiding citizen prevents me from pursuing this possible avenue as a
solution to my continual parking problems.

In my opinion, there is a great Jewish moral lesson involved in this
quandary over where to park the car. The Mishna in Avot asks us to consider
"From whence have you come and to where are you going." It also points out
that when we get to where we are going, we will be obligated "to park our
car" - to give a reckoning and accounting of our deeds and actions. The
parking space will have to explain how we got to where we were going, so to
speak. What if we do not find a proper parking space? I don't think that any
illegal parking will be allowed no matter how daring, carefree and intrepid
a driver we are. We may even be forced to park far away from our intended
and hoped for destination.

I often reconnoiter the place I will be driving to in advance of my actual
trip in order to determine the parking possibilities. Well, that is true in
life as well - certainly in Jewish life. All of life has to be lived with
the specific goal of where one will park one's car, so to speak. It is part
of the defensive driving mode that Judaism demands of us. It is the logical
conclusion to a long journey of curves and vicissitudes, in the company of
other dangerous and often reckless drivers. Where to park is a paramount
question in Jewish thought.

There is an additional, terrible frustration to the regular problem of
parking one's car. You may be fortunate enough to find a parking space but
then you somehow have to fit your car into that space. I have been faced
with that problem here in Israel where smaller cars are the norm and my car
is a lumbering American "giant." Short of dropping the car in from the air I
am unable to maneuver it so that it will fit into the treasured parking
space that I so laboriously discovered. I think of that in moral terms as
well. Even if I find my eventual parking space - my accounting and reckoning
of my life - will I fit into the space assigned to me?

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto makes this point abundantly clear in his
masterpiece work, Messilat Yesharim. He states that even in the World To
Come, one may feel deprived of what one believed to be proper recognition
and honor and even have a feeling of envy as to the parking places assigned
to others. Aside from all of the altruistic and idealistic reasons that may
motivate one to find the ultimate parking space, there are also basic human
drives and needs that dictate this desire and goal.

One should never lose sight of this for often this is truly the main reason
that drives behavior and eternal aspirations. No one wishes to feel shamed
or embarrassed in eternity. A great Talmudic sage asked not to be buried in
the white clothing of the truly pious or in black shrouds of the less pious
either, as he did not want to be out of place in the World-To-Come. The
parking space has to somehow fit the car. Otherwise, it cannot be used
correctly and neatly. So I hope that I have given you some ideas to ponder
upon the next time you are looking for a parking space in which to deposit
your automobile.

Shabat shalom.

Berel Wein

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