Hashem to the Rescue

Thursday, 20 July, 2017 - 3:22 pm

There is a man that I know from his business travels to New Orleans, who shared the following story with me yesterday. He is a “Minyan fanatic,” meaning he never misses a single of the three daily prayers with a Minyan. He arranges all of his travel around Minyan schedules – morning, afternoon and evening. He will book convoluted flights or take a cab from a layover airport to Shul, just to catch a 15 minute Minyan for Mincha.

Recently he took a trip to Arizona with his wife and teenage daughter to visit the Grand Canyon. The nearest reliable Minyan is in Phoenix – over 3 hours away. After morning Minyan, he drove to Grand Canyon to meet his family who were already on a tour. He calculated enough time to leave the tour early to drive back to Phoenix for the Mincha/Maariv Minyan in the late afternoon. He gave himself and extra hour and a half in case there was some traffic etc.

During the drive he encountered road sign indicating that there was an accident up ahead that was causing a slowdown. GPS indicated that it would be a 15-30 minute delay. A few miles later traffic came to a complete stop. Knowing that he had an hour and half extra he was not overly concerned. As things began to take longer he started to get worried. People were getting out of their cars and hanging out in the Arizona heat.

At this point he had an hour left to Mincha and the drive would still be over an hour with no clearing point in sight. He took out a Tehillim, made a pledge to Tzedakah and prayed to Hashem to help him keep his dedication to praying with a Minyan. As he finished, he saw some flashing lights coming down the shoulder. A policeman was distributing water to all the people in the standstill traffic. He went out and asked the officer what was going on. The officer replied that there was an accident with casualties. He said, “I am a paramedic.” (He is a member of Hatzolah – volunteer EMS in New York.) The officers escorted his vehicle down the shoulder for three miles. As they pulled up to the accident scene, the last of the wounded was being loaded into an ambulance. The officer turned to him and said, “Thank you for your offer of help sir, but you are free to go.” He zipped onto the highway and drove very efficiently to Phoenix. He walked into the Shul as the Chazzan began “Ashrei” - the first passage of Mincha.

I share this story not only because it is interesting, but because I think there are some important lessons to be learned. First of all, we see the hand of Hashem that shows up at the least likely times. A person should never give up hope. A story like this strengthens the belief in Divine Providence.

I think that we can also be inspired by the man’s devotion and take it to heart. One of the Chassidic masters shared a teaching paraphrasing a verse from Eicha (Lamentations). The verse is, “Kol Rodphe-ha Hisigu-ha Bein Ha-Metzarim” – Her pursuers (the inhabitants of Jerusalem) caught up to her between the narrow straights.” He explained, “One who wishes to “catch up” with Hashem, should pursue this endeavor Bein Hametzarim (during the three week period leading up to Tisha B’Av).

We are in an auspicious time to rededicate ourselves to Hashem and His service. I would encourage you all to take some inspiration from this story and strengthen your own commitment to Shul attendance and participation in the Minyan. (We can certainly use the help!)

May these days of mourning be transformed through our rededication to days of rejoicing with coming of Moshiach!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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