By Rabbi Shea Hecht
I love the summertime, although for me it’s anything but “vacation.” Between our various camps in Greenfield Park – the Camp Emunah junior, teen and Bas Mitzvah camps, and the Ivy League Torah Study Experience for students – my summer weeks are actually some of the busiest of the year.
A young family drove up from Brooklyn to spend Shabbos with us in camp. As most seasoned country-goers might expect, the NY 17 “Quickway” was quick in name only, as there were more than a few pockets of congestion. But what this family was unprepared for was the new construction between exits 121 – 119, which often put traffic at a standstill.
After hitting delay after delay, the faith that they held out for an erev Shabbos “miracle” turned to despair. Shkiah was fast arriving and they were still ten miles from their destination. They were finally forced to pull off the road, with a panicked phone call to us as their last resort. In the end, with the help of our gentile workers they were able to have what they needed for Shabbos, once they arrived on foot three hours later, that is…
Erev Shabbos is always a harried time, especially for those who are headed to a bungalow colony or a summer home. As we prepare for a relaxing summer in the country we must bear in mind that both halacha and common sense dictate the following:
Give yourself time – Shulchan Aruch prohibits traveling on erev Shabbos unless you can reach your destination with plenty of time to prepare your accommodations. Without speaking to the details of the halacha, it is a simple, powerful reminder that we must be adequately prepared to hit the road on time. As mentioned before, the NY 17 is under construction as is Interstate 87 (before and after exit 16). Therefore, chances of making “good time” upstate are just about zero.
Be prepared – your trip will be much more calm and enjoyable if you are prepared to hit the road. Make sure everyone has used the bathroom, and see to it that everyone’s needs (drinks, snacks, etc.) are at hand. Also, it’s not a sin to make sure that the car is gassed up and you have cash for tolls the night before you leave.
Drive safely – In our rush to make “good time” to the country, we are more likely to speed and drive aggressively. This is unforgivable. First of all, with State budgets terribly strained, the government is looking to a new source of revenue. You!
State police are now out in full force, issuing tickets for any minor infraction they can find. One New Jersey State Trooper confirmed for me that he must issue at least seven tickets every day. That means that as he reaches the end of his shift, anyone who is even a few miles over the speed limit will make a very attractive target.
Are you talking on a cell phone? Forget to signal before changing lanes? You’re more likely to see flashing lights in the rearview mirror than every before – Let’s not even talk about speeding! The fact is that the State is counting on our moving violations
Assume Responsibility – The most obvious problem is that aggressive driving puts our lives and the lives of others at terrible risk. There have been far too many summer traffic tragedies (and not just during the three weeks) to allow ourselves to endanger our own lives, our passengers and other motorists.
Think we can “make up” lost time? Ask yourself: how much time will I lose if I’m pulled over. How much time will I lose if I’m involved in an accident, G-d forbid?!
It also deserves mention that many well-intentioned camp directors throw responsibility to the wind when they let inexperienced drivers behind the wheel of camp vehicles. It is the responsibility of ALL CAMPS to ensure that anyone who gets behind the wheel is over 21, experienced, driving a properly maintained and insured vehicle and actually has a license! Turning over the keys of a camp vehicle to a newly-licensed teen counselor is simply irresponsible.
The summer is a time to unwind and relax. If we bear in mind our responsibilities to ourselves and others on the road, our trek to the country will be much easier and enjoyable.
May we all be blessed with a healthy and relaxing summer! May the Guardian of Israel, who neither slumbers nor sleeps, keep a watchful eye upon us and our loved ones. And this summer, may we merit to share only good news.