(In Israel.) I was returning from a client visit, traveling up Highway 1 towards Jerusalem at a nice speed – light traffic in the middle of the day. I saw smoke a good distance ahead and wondered if there was a brush fire near the road.
Suddenly the traffic started slowing and I groaned a bit…another traffic jam. Strangely, we came to a complete stop. And Israeli drivers being who they are, the shoulders also filled up as cars tried to squeeze around a situation that couldn’t be avoided.
I was behind a large green Egged bus and there was a truck next to it, so I couldn’t get a view of what the hold up was. I exited my car and walked over to the shoulder… A good distance up ahead I could see flames…a car was on fire. Police and fire services were there, no ambulances so it didn’t appear anyone was seriously injured (thank G-d).
As I walked back towards my car the truck driver hopped down. He was a huge guy, as wide as he was tall. Bald, clean shaven and darkly tanned wearing a t-shirt with ripped off sleeves and a slit neck, and shorts. This was a guy I wouldn’t want to run into at night!
He hopped out of his truck and started at me for a second…me an ultra-orthodox guy in a white shirt, long black pants and long beard on a hot day. He stares at me another moment…I’m becoming uncomfortable. The last thing I need is a confrontation while stuck in traffic with a huge tough guy who doesn’t like ultra-religious Jews.
He looks at me again, glances at his arm and suddenly shouts at me “Mincha Gedola!” and takes a yalmukah out of his pocket and plops it on his bald head. I’m stunned for a moment, not really sure what he said. He shouts at me again, “Nu, Mincha Gedola!”
(Mincha is the term for the afternoon Jewish prayer. There are 3 Jewish prayer quorums per day…Shacharis is the morning one, Mincha is the afternoon one, and Maariv is the evening one. So shouting Mincha or Maariv in a group of Jews to gather 10 or more together for a prayer quorum isn’t unusual in orthodox Jewish public situations.)
But he shouted “Mincha Gedola”. Mincha Gedola is the BEST time to pray the afternoon prayer, the exact time window when it’s first permitted. Few orthodox Jews pay enough attention to the calendar and prayer times to know when Mincha Gedola is, and most Mincha prayer quorums are around 1pm, 1:30, or 4pm and the like. Because the time moves slightly with the day and seasons, keeping track of Mincha Gedola and praying at that time isn’t done except by those who are especially pious.
As I realized what he said I stood there stunned. This huge rough bald yamulka-less (until he pulled one out) looking truck driving was trying to gather together a minyan in the middle of the highway since we were stuck there right at the perfect moment (on the road to Jerusalem no less) for Mincha Gedola.
How cool is that!