Ethics

For the week ending 22 March 2008 / 15 Adar II 5768

Only Ten Minutes Late

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll


Question: In the synagogue where I pray every morning there is a fellow worshipper who has a habit of coming ten minutes after the service begins. I would like to persuade him to come on time but am not sure as to how to proceed. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: First try to establish whether there are personal circumstances that compel him to come late. If it turns out that it is just a lack of seriousness on his part, try asking him whether he would come late for an appointment with a president or king.

A story is told about a fellow who was reprimanded by his synagogue rabbi for continually coming late and responded by saying, "The main thing is that I came. What difference do ten minutes make?"

After a long period of suffering the frustration of trying to change the fellow's attitude, he was surprised to see him come to services one morning on time. When asked what brought about the change, he offered a startling explanation.

The day before a fire broke out in the plant that he owned. When he quickly called the fire department he was told that the engines were on their way. As he anxiously awaited their arrival he saw one section of his plant after another go up in flames. When the firemen arrived ten minutes late it was all over. In response to his challenge to the chief firefighter as to why they didn't come sooner, he was shocked to hear a familiar refrain: "The main thing is that we came. What difference do ten minutes make?"

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