What he was referring to was the day Danny Horowitz decided to join his classmates who were kashering a local bakery. Under the watchful eye of their yeshivah's principal, Rabbi Nosson Greenfield, fifteen boys rubbed and scrubbed the place until it was surgically clean.
They went over every inch of counter space. Washed down all the bakery racks. Sterilized shelf after shelf, front and back. Sanded down the bench where the bread was made. And scoured the mixers.
The place was almost ready to receive Rabbi Greenfield's stamp of approval when the two bakers who worked the early morning shift arrived. Shorty O'Brien and Vinny DiVito were products of two different cultures, from two different neighborhoods, with two different perspectives on life, but they kneaded well together.
"Not bad," they noted, bobbing their chins in unison. Indeed they were so impressed by the goings-on that they offered to pitch in and help the aching, perspiring boys. The air soon became redolent with the pungent fragrance of sweat and the bakery took on that unique aroma of a basketball locker room after double overtime. With these distinctive fumes wafting about him, Vinny removed his white silk Othello-of-Milan shirt.
"I don't wanna get dis baby dirty. It put me out eighty bucks," he said as he folded it up gingerly.
"Dat's all?" Shorty asked, admiring the high-style designer garment.
"Yeah, I bought it hot," Vinny explained, solving the mystery.
Danny, as usual, walked in late. And as usual, he didn't come empty-handed. Sometimes he would have a live rabbit tucked under his arm, at other times an unfathomable science textbook, and frequently an unrecognizable object which his companions knew better than to inquire about. A question demanded an answer, and in Danny's case this meant either a protracted excursus, or a demonstration which always ended up with a bang!
On this particular occasion he was carrying a rather badly mangled car fender.
"Dis ain't no spare auto parts warehouse," Shorty O'Brien shouted to the latecomer above the cleaning din.
"Oh, I know that," Danny replied, placing the filthy fender down on the immaculate counter top. "Just a little accident." He smiled sheepishly. "You see, the only way I could avoid the dumpster behind the bakery was by taking a sharp turn into the parking lot. Miraculously there was a parking space right ahead of me, but it wasn't really meant for a vehicle of my car's dimensions. Come to think of it, I wonder if a bicycle would have fit into it. Anyway, I managed to squeeze in somehow, but I noticed that the cars on both sides of me were sort of moving with me, know what I mean? When I drove forward, so did they, and when I reversed, they did too. Aha! I deduced. Our fenders must be engaged!"
"Mazel tov!" fifteen voices wished at once, but Leibel claimed that the sardonic note was lost on Horowitz.
Undeterred, he continued describing his driving prowess. "I realized that any one of the cars could only leave the parking lot as part of a threesome, and that's probably more than their owners bargained for, not to mention the fact that the street isn't suited to triple park even if you count the sidewalks. Furthermore, how would I ever find my car again, if it were driven off by a different driver in tandem with two others. The drawbacks were endless, so I did some incredible maneuvering to extricate my fender. And there you have it," he concluded, giving his fender a fond pat. "Quite literally, I might add.
"Well, now that I'm here, how can I help?"
"Grab a clean rag and start seasonin' d' pans," Vinny instructed. Stacks of brand-new bread pans and cake tins were piled against the wall. Before they could be used, they had to be well greased and the grease baked in.
Danny walked over to the corner, picked up a sturdy shmatte and immersed it in a five-gallon drum of cooking oil. He then carried the dripping cloth across the room, tracking up the floor as he went, and began to work the golden fluid into the iron-gray baking pans that had been collecting dust for weeks.
When this rag had served its purpose and gaping holes appeared in the material, Danny reached for a fresh shmatte and accorded it the same honor. In minutes, the formidable remnant bore not a trace of its former pristine whiteness; in fact, it was jet black. By this time Horowitz had really gotten into the swing of it and was applying all of his ample muscle to the chore. He attacked the next pan with vigor.
At this point, Vinny DiVito decided that he had finished his tour of duty and began to look for his shirt.
"Hey! Where is it?"
Shorty perked up. "Where's what?"
"My shirt. My good shirt."
"I dunno. Look around. Nobody baked it."
"I put it in dis corner. So it wun't get rooned."
Some of the yeshivah students eager to reclothe the gamy Vinny, joined in the search. DiVito's deportment, coupled with the manly aromas he was exuding, imbued them with a sense of urgency. One student thought he was onto something when he spotted the pile of rags in the corner. He sorted through the oil-drenched shmattes, examining the effect of grease on dirt until Danny brought him to an abrupt halt.
"There's nothing there," Horowitz called out. "Just filthy rags like this one," and he held up the specimen he was working with.
For a moment that alabaster, niveous chalkiness, that canescent lactescence, that glistening snowy whiteness of the regal Othello-of-Milan pure silk eighty-smacker shirt reproduced itself in the color of DiVito's astonished face. But only for a moment. In milliseconds it was transformed into deeper and deeper shades of red, going from livid to violent in the blink of an eye. "DAT'S MY SHIRT!!!!!" he screamed, clutching a truncheon-sized rolling pin.
Vinny started sprinting across the bakery, dashing like a deer in hunting season, until he hit the trail of oil Danny had dripped on the floor. Impelled by a five-yard start, accelerated by a lust for vengeance, and fueled by Gold's Cooking Oil, DiVito crashed clangorously into an industrial mixer, the rolling pin clutched tightly in his hand, striking a stunning blow to his somewhat hollow cranium.
“Hey, Taxi!” is the latest volume of stories written by that veteran master of story-telling, Hanoch Teller. This volume offers “tales told in taxis and recounted by cabbies.” I do not really know whether all these tales really originated in taxis, but any reader will enjoy the stories in this volume. All of these stories teach middos, trust in God, kindness to others, and many other lessons we would do well to take to heart. One sincerely hopes that Rabbi Teller will make sure to keep these volumes coming, to please and enrich all his readers, young and old.
Reviewed in The Jewish Observer
Words of Praise
|“Hey Taxi!” assembles a collection of pious and inspiring stories which will be read as a source for religious and moral uplift and nostalgia. Some recount experiences of intense tragedy, other stories – told with equal charm – are more cheerful and replete with Torah learning, personal virtues and acts of loving kindness.There is now happily a growing demand for books which while simple in style and message, exemplify Jewish virtues and character traits at their best. This volume is a welcome addition to literature of this genre and I am sure it will be read with pleasure and profit within the widening ranks of the Torah Community.”|
Lord Immanuel Jakobovits z"l
|“The stories in “Hey, Taxi!” are warm, engaging and morally purposeful. Hanoch Teller’s ability to communicate deep truth and eternal values through everyday lives and events is an extraordinary talent. The many thousands who have benefited from his earlier words will now be joined by countless others who will find inspiration, guidance and the vibrancy of Torah thought in this new work.”|
Rabbi Berel Wein
|“I am overjoyed that you have written yet another book of true-life stories that arouse people to have faith in the Almighty and improve their character. Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz zt”l said that there is no more effective way to instill trust in the Almighty than stories of individuals that demonstrate simple faith. All of your books are replete with this concept as well as character improvement and moral sensitivity. I therefore, cannot encourage you enough in the holy work that you do, be it in books, lectures or other forms of media.”|
Rabbi Rephael Shmuelevitz
|“There is simply no way to estimate the benefit and moral-purposefulness of your books and how they impact on individuals all over the world. Every time I hear of a new book that you are publishing, I treat it as a holiday, and only wish that you will publish even more beneficial material that will enlighten, embolden, and inspire our brethren.”|
Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl,