Mr. Murphy meets Rabbi Akiva

Thursday, 11 April, 2013 - 7:46 pm

While the famous Mr. Murphy says “all that can go wrong will go wrong,” the Talmud relates that Rabbi Akiva would declare “All the G-d does is done for the best” no matter what would happen to him. He once travelled taking along a candle for light, a rooster to wake him, and a donkey to ride. He arrived at a city and was refused lodging. He set up camp in the forest and wind blew out his candle, a weasel ate the rooster and a lion killed the donkey. In the morning he realized that the town had been attacked by bandits and all of the inhabitants were killed. Had they seen the light of his candle or heard the sound of the rooster and donkey, they would have killed him as well. He saw that all of the “negative” occurrences were for the best.

Last week, on our drive back from New York after Pesach, we had quite a Murphy-like adventure. When we pulled into a hotel parking lot in rural Virginia we heard some really scary loud noise coming from the car’s engine. Since it was already after 11 PM I figured I would look into it the next morning. The next morning I tried to find a mechanic so we could get on our way. We were 800 miles from home and it was already Thursday. The two places that were recommended by the desk clerk of the hotel turned out to be false leads. I remembered that about 30 miles down the highway there was a tourist welcome center – perhaps they could recommend a garage. By the time we got there the noise was so loud that we were getting serious stares from the street. After being turned away by two places we finally found a place at 11 AM that agreed to look at it. I got the kids out of the car and into the waiting area. They pulled the car in and looked at it. At noon, Donna, the lady who ran the office, came out to give me the news. Our AC compressor was gone and needed to be replaced. Then came the real bad news – the cost and the time. The part wouldn’t be in until 4:30 followed by a 2 hour repair and it would cost well north of $600. Truthfully I had no choice but to give the go ahead – we were far from home and Shabbos was looming large in front of us.

Since we had to wait for the part and we had four hours, I piled the kids into the car and went to find a park so we could eat lunch a get out of the waiting area. As we pulled up to the park it started raining. Within minutes the rain turned to hail and then snow. There went our plans. We managed to scrape some lunch together while confined in the car and then we waited. At 1:45 Donna called and said the part had come in early so we should head back and get the repair done. When I tried to start the car it did not turn on. I had left the lights on when we were outside the park and the battery died. By now it was snowing hard. Donna kindly sent a man over who gave us a boost so we could get to the garage. We then waited the two hours in the waiting room armed with a book per child to keep them occupied.

While we were waiting I told them the story of my grandfather, (cited in an earlier blogpost - Rabbi Sholom Gordon, who while riding a train missed his stop. He had to ride to the end of the line and get off to wait for a train going the opposite way. While he was waiting he recalled the idea that nothing happens by chance, and began to study a passage from the book of Tanya by memory. He explained that missing his stop and ending up in the other station was for a purpose. He decided to do something meaningful to bring a spiritual elevation and refinement to that place, thereby justifying his being there. The kids enthusiastically started belting out chapter 32 of Tanya which they know by heart and then they recited some Psalms. They figured that they were likely the first people to do so in Wytheville, VA.

At 4 PM Donna came out to tell us that car was ready. She remarked how wonderful the kids behaved in that tiny waiting room for all those hours. We went outside to get into the car and walked into 4 inches of snow. It appeared that Mr. Murphy was working overtime…

After cautiously driving through the snow and then rain for several hours, we finally outpaced the weather and settled in for a 14 hour drive home. We pulled into our driveway at 5:40 AM on Friday.

Not every story has an immediately obvious ending like Rabbi Akiva’s. We are still waiting to see the “for the best” in all of the details of the story. But there is one even if we never discover it. Besides, I confirmed some good things about our children. They really made a Kiddush Hashem (sanctifying G-d’s name) with their behavior and their attitude to why we were there was superb.

Looking forward to more restful times…
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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