The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010

A First-Class Ticket

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A First-Class Ticket

Around the turn of the twentieth century, Vladimir, an illiterate and unworldly Siberian peasant struck it rich. One day he was offered a very lucrative business proposition. Closing the deal, however, required his presence in Moscow.
Moscow. He was pretty sure that a horse - even the sturdiest his village had to offer - would not be able to make the trip of several thousand kilometers. Some of the more sophisticated residents of the town came to his rescue, advising him about the existence of a new mode of transportation - a "train." If he were to travel to Novosibirsk, the closest large city, he would be able to catch a train to Moscow.
Consequently, one fine day found Vladimir in the central train station of Novosibirsk. When he informed the lady behind the ticket counter of his intended destination, she asked him what sort of ticket he wished to purchase. Observing his confusion, she told him that he could purchase a first, second, or third class ticket. A third class ticket, she explained, offered absolutely no amenities, and didn't even guarantee a spot on the train. If the arriving train was already filled to capacity, he would have to wait for the next one. A second class ticket offered a greater chance of a spot on the train, along with more comfortable accommodations. A first class ticket came with a guaranteed seat, and all amenities necessary to ensure a luxurious and comfortable journey.
Money was hardly an issue, so first class it would be. As it turned out, the train would not arrive for another few days. Vladimir noted the date and time of its anticipated arrival, arranged for lodgings in the interim, and arrived back at the station two hours early, since this was his first time attempting such a journey. He decided to just follow the flow, assuming that he would be fine as long as he copied exactly what his fellow travelers were doing.
The train arrived. After his initial shock at seeing such a monstrously large chain of cars, Vladimir regained his composure and scanned the terminal to see what to do. As it was early, most of the passengers had not yet arrived, but he noticed three passengers boarding the very last car on the train. He followed them into the car, and when each one climbed beneath one of the benches in the car, he did the same. Unfortunately, he wasn't fully familiar with proper stowaway protocol, and his feet jutted out across the aisle of the third class car.
It was dark and lonely beneath the bench, and Vladimir quickly dozed off. He didn't feel the train start to move, and didn't hear the conductor entering the car. He did, however, feel a sharp kick to his shins, and the startled peasant was expertly hoisted out by the burly conductor.
"You moron, you think this is a free ride?" he bellowed. "You need a ticket to ride this train!"
"What's the problem, sir," Vladimir meekly responded. "I have a ticket."
The fellow travelers on the train car burst out laughing at this ludicrous claim. Their laughter only intensified when he started peeling off layer after layer of clothing, starting with his expensive fur coat, clearly playing for time. But much to their astonishment he pulled out a ticket - a first class ticket no less!
After verifying that the ticket was indeed authentic, the conductor, in a distinctly humbled tone of voice, asked the obvious: "Sir, you have an expensive first class ticket; please tell me why you are lying under a bench in the third class car?!"
"Because that's what the others were doing..." was the embarrassed response.
We too travel through life's long journey. At Har Sinai, we were given a first class ticket through it, ensuring the optimum comfort and amenities. One day the Conductor will want to know: Did we ride in the first-class carriage or follow the crowd and be left under the third-class benches? (adapted from

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