Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – Fill ’er Up!


Operation Inspiration


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I don’t know about you, but I find filling my car with gas to be a somewhat painful experience. No, not because I don’t always get gas in New Jersey where an attendant pumps your gas, (and it’s the only state in the country where it is illegal to pump your own gas.) It’s because the price of gas seems so high of late. I mean, sure, when gas had been in the $4 range some years ago and then dropped to the $2 range, we felt like millionaires when we filled up for so little money, but prices have rebounded and it’s not fun. I sometimes try to remind myself that our friends in other countries pay more for petrol, but it doesn’t always help.

Yes, I do take the opportunity while pumping gas to thank Hashem for the car, gas, and money to pay for it, but I still don’t relish the experience. That’s why I took notice one day as I filled my tank and found myself doing something different.

You see, depending on the prices at the station where I’m getting gas, I might not fill up all the way. If I’m stuck getting gas at a station that’s 40 cents or more higher than other ones I frequent, but it’s convenient at the moment, I may put in twenty dollars’ worth of gas. Then I’ll remind myself that I need to go farther than 50 miles and I’ll put in some more. But even when I fill, when it clicks, and we’re close to a round number of some sort, I’ll stop. But not this time.

That day, I kept squeezing the pump a tiny bit at a time, trying to get every drop into the tank that I could. Why? Because I was at the cheapest gas station in town, and I was paying twenty cents less per gallon than anywhere else! At that price, I didn’t want to miss a drop.

Now, gas prices are a funny thing. We look at the price per gallon and make our decisions based on that. We might drive an extra ten minutes to get to the gas station which is ten cents cheaper. If our tanks hold an average 15-20 gallons, we’ve just traded ten minutes of our life (and maybe another ten back) for… DRUMROLL… $2.00. Not to mention that we’ve spent more gas, wear and tear on our car, and other costs to save that two bucks, so we’re really saving less, if anything at all.

But we are so proud of our shopping savvy, aren’t we? I saved TEN cents a gallon! It sounds huge, even though it really isn’t. So, when I saved 20 cents a gallon, maybe three dollars in total, it still felt like a win. True, when I go there and there are huge lines I won’t wait around because I know how to do the math, but here I was paying a “decent” price for gas and I got to a pump right away. So, I tried to squeeze as much from the opportunity as I could.

As I did so, I thought about it. I knew this gas was a bargain so I was excited to grab every drop. Life has so many opportunities to gain valuable things for “cheap” prices, but the only ones who really think about it are few and far between.

The Vilna Gaon was known to have remarked with tears in his eyes, “Look at this. For a few pennies one can put tzitzis strings on his clothing, and earn an unbelievable mitzva. In this world you can get so many mitzvos for next to nothing, and in the next world you can’t buy them for the largest fortune.” Or something like that. I wasn’t there to quote him exactly, but the sentiment is the same.

So many mitzvos can be done for free. Giving a smile costs nothing but it may change someone’s trajectory in life. Davening is a free activity that can get you back much more in return. Even those that cost you money, like buying special foods for Shabbos or giving money to the poor, are a real bargain because you get eternal benefit from spending something that’s here today and gone tomorrow.

Think about this: we go on and on about the cost of gas, but do we even want the gas? No! We just want the benefit of the gas, which is to get our cars to move from place to place. The gas is just the vehicle (pun intended) for us to get where we want to go. Yet, it’s so important that when we get a good deal, we want to load up on it.

This world is full of ways to fill your tank so that you can cruise in style into the next world, where your soul will live on forever, powered by whatever you acquired at the station called, “Life.” If you opted for filling your tank to capacity, and chose premium fuel, you will be able to enjoy the ride. But if you said, “this gas is too expensive, I’ll wait for the next station,” well, you may have missed the bus.

Take it from me. There are so many pumps to choose from, and there are no lines to endure. We’re all standing there with the controls in our hands, able to “fill ‘er up” as much as we’d like. Why not squeeze it for all it’s worth? THAT would be something to be proud of and tell others about.

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