Minute #641: Signs

The officer exited his patrol car, leaving the flashing lights spinning for all passersby to see. He walked slowly towards the stopped silver vehicle at the side of the road. The driver, Mr. Kagan, rolled down the window.

“License, registration and insurance card, please,” the officer said sternly.

Mr. Kagan fumbled though the mess in his glove compartment and produced the documents. “What did I do, officer?” he sheepishly inquired.

“You were going 15 miles an hour over the speed limit and you also made an illegal right turn,” the policeman replied.

“I was only going 45 miles per hour,” Mr. Kagan confidently declared. “That’s the legal limit.”

“The construction zone sign says 30 miles per hour, and it also outlaws turns at this intersection,” the officer countered. “You’ll have to explain it to the judge.”

“I didn’t see the sign,” Mr. Kagan pleaded. “Can’t you let me go with a warning?”

“Sorry, sir,” the officer retorted. “People who don’t see signs get into trouble.”

We are all confronted with signs constantly. The skies that suddenly turn black with menacing clouds warn us to take cover from an impending storm. A store sign that says “Welcome” arouses a positive reaction, while a property marked “Beware of Dog” evokes quite a different response. Posted rules and regulations that vary with the various venues we visit set out standards of conduct we are expected to follow.

Probably the most important signs we confront daily are the faces of those with whom we must interact — including business associates, friends, neighbors and even strangers on the street. Those closest to us — our families, and especially our husbands or wives — also have a window to their inner emotions on display. Read their facial expressions carefully — or face potential negative consequences.

The officer is correct; signs are strategically placed to be seen and adhered to by those in the signs’ vicinity. When we ignore signs, we are likely to lose out.

One More Second: Another Thought for the Day

Torah has no specific commandments regarding character traits because they must precede the Torah. Good character traits are the foundation of all Torah observance. Once character traits are perfected, they can become the basis for mitzvot. (Shaarei Kedushah, Part 1, Gate 2)