A Question from a Secular Jew: Yielding on Sidewalk
I’m a secular Jew. I was walking with my child on Sat and a Hassidic couple was walking in a perpendicular direction. I thought since I had a child in a stroller they should yield, but they kept walking until we nearly collided. I wouldn’t yield way and they had to stop. I have no doubt that they saw me with the stroller, but chose to keep walking assuming that I should stop. Do you feel I did the right thing? It upset me and I thought I’d ask. Thank you very much for your time!
Please note that AskTheRav is primarily focused on providing answers to practical relevant Halachic questions.
Notwithstanding that, I’ll share some relevant points on your query.
1. This that you denominate yourself as a “secular Jew”, allow me to comment that this term is inaccurate, as all Jews are considered holy. Perhaps, some Jews’ external behavior might be mundane in contrast to holy, but that is only their external behavior, not their essence. A person might be able to change external aspects, such as his or her clothing, language, etc., but one cannot change their very being.
In the words of the Rebbe:
Regarding that which you write that you “stem from a secular family”: certainly the “secular-ness” is an ancillary condition and an external “garment” that covers your essence and core. For every member of your family is a son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and a daughter of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah; and, following them were tens of generations of followers of Torah and its precepts. G‑d gave Man choice with regards to his actions; however, he cannot whatsoever change the essence and core of his truest nature.
2. As a general rule, according to Halacha, one who is carrying cargo, and most certainly such precious cargo as a child, usually takes precedence over one who is not carrying a load. Of course, every rule has exceptions.
3. It’s important to remember that people’s behaviors can be influenced by a variety of factors, including cultural norms, personal beliefs, or simply being preoccupied or unaware of their surroundings. It’s possible that the couple may have had their own reasons for not yielding, such as adhering to specific customs or traditions.
Whether you did the “right” thing largely depends on your own perspective and values. In situations like this, it can be helpful to approach it with understanding and empathy, considering that people may have different expectations or interpretations of social norms.
If encounters like these continue to upset you, it might be worth reflecting on how you can manage your emotions in such situations. Communication and respect for one another’s perspectives can go a long way in fostering understanding and harmony, even in instances where people have different cultural or religious backgrounds.
4. Finally, I’d like to quote the words of the Alter Rebbe (translation), in the link above, regarding cases similar to the one you experienced:
“Concerning [these and] all analogous situations, it is written: Judge your fellow man with righteousness.”
This means two things: 1. One should always find a proper reasonable compromise. 2. One should always judge favorably.
Perhaps one way how to see the behavior in a positive light is by reflecting on the fact that this took place on Shabbos. It is forbidden on Shabbos to carry anything in a “public domain” unless the area is encircled with a a ritual enclosure. It could very well be that this individual in his piety didn’t want to an accomplice to carrying on Shabbos by specifically stopping for you and enabling your carrying.
ראה סנהדרין לב, ב. טושו״ע חו״מ ערב, יב ואילך. ופשוט שכ״ה גם בהולך ברגל – ראה ס״ח תקנא. ושם אפי׳ בגוי.
ושם גם כשיתלכלך בטיט מחמת זה. וראה יד רמ״ה סנהדרין שם ד״ה תניא שכללו של דבר שכל מי שטרחו מועט מחבירו ונוח לו להתעכב יתר מחבירו הוא נדחה מפני חבירו. ועד״ז במאירי שם שתלוי מי יכול לסבול העיכוב יותר. והה״נ בעניננו.
ויל״ע כשהטעון לא יוכל להספיק את הרמזור משא״כ הריקן. ומסתבר שגם בזה הטעון קודם מחמת הטרחא. ויתר על כן שכיון שהולך עם תינוק, שדינו כחולה שאיב״ס – הרי התינוק קודם, ראה מאירי שם שבריא נדחה מפני חולה. וגם בל״ז פשוט מצד בצדק תשפוט שכך האופן הראוי לפשר ביניהם.