I am writing this month’s column from Teveria, Israel. When I told my mom, who is here with me, that I needed to submit my article in a few days, she suggested that I write about what I have experienced on our trip. Initially, I felt like the article would sound like a “What did you do on your summer vacation?” assignment, but I discovered, once again, that she is wise – and right. What we have experienced here has been the epitome of hashgaha pratit, divine providence.
On our first day in Jerusalem, jetlagged and bone tired, we couldn’t decide when to go to the Kotel, when to see my “doda” Lucy, my mom’s sister, and how we would get to either of these places. We ping-ponged our many options for a few hours. Should we go to Lucy first or to the Kotel first? Maybe it’s too hot to go now, maybe we should wait until tonight. Do we walk to the Kotel or do we take a taxi? We’ll walk. Should we walk through the Arab quarter or go the long way around? So many decisions.
When we finally arrived with emotional and spiritual relief at the Kotel, Mom’s phone rang. It was a relative welcoming us to Yerushalayimand asking when we could get together. Apparently, they too were at the Kotel, after their own series of fits and starts, and two minutes later we found them on the promenade. Anyone who doesn’t know any better would say, “What a coincidence!”
They told us that they had been trying to see the virtual reality show at the Kotel, and that a group had just cancelled, and that there were six tickets available, and would we like to join them? Another coincidence? I think not.
They then offered us a ride to my aunt’s house, but first they wanted to take us to the yeshiva that was named for my father, A”H. The dedication plaque had just been put up the day before, after several months of delays.
After our visit to the yeshiva, our cousin drove us to Lucy’s house. Her son arrived unexpectedly soon after, and a little while after that my cousin, who lives in Tel Aviv and whose son’s wedding was the reason for our visit, called to say she had just been at the Kotel and was coming to visit her mom. And what a “coincidence” Mozelle and DodaCarol are here! Not a coincidence.
If that wasn’t enough to convince usthat hashgaha pratitwas at work, the next day, we visited Doda Lucy again. We spent time at the mall, had lunch, did a lot of shopping, and when my aunt got tired, we decided, after much negotiation, that we would return to her apartment to help her schlepall the packages up three flights of stairs, then Mom and I would return to the mall. As we pulled up to the apartment, we saw my other cousin, Lucy’s son, who lives on Staten Island (that I only see occasionally at family weddings), literally standing in the street. His brother, in a car across the street honked in greeting. “We were just about to go out”, he told me. Instead, a car pulled out of a spot, my fourth cousin pulled in, they carried all our packages into the house, and we had an impromptu visit.
These experiences make it difficult for even the most doubtful person to think that life is random, that life is just a series of coincidences, or that there is no one running the show. We could have tried planning these visits – like my Mom did on this trip with two other relatives who happened to be in the States while we were in Israel, and like I tried in vain to do with these four cousins when I visited last Sukkot. But I understood that I was put in the right place at the right time in order to share meaningful experiences with my family members. Hashem decided it should be, and it was.
In life, it may not always be obvious to us that we are where we should be. Maybe we are frustrated that we are not getting where we want to be fast enough. Maybe we are not getting promotions or raises at work. Maybe the relationship is not moving forward at the pace we want. Why isn’t our baby walking or talking according to the schedule the books have created? The answer, I believe, is that everything happens when it is supposed to. So maybe, as it has become obvious to me, we need to plan less and trust more.