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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
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Hashgachah Pratis – Guidance From Above


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Lashon hakodesh, the holy tongue, is different from all other languages. Every word is definitive.

For example, when you say in English “it happened,” the connotation is a random happening, but the same word in lashon hakodesh, “mikreh,” places a totally different twist on the concept. The deeper meaning behind the word mikreh is “kara mei Hashem,” it happened from G-d,” meaning the world is not run by random forces but that G-d’s guiding Hand is constantly with us. This is not only detected in world events but in our own personal lives as well.

Even if we do not see Hashem’s Hand, it is there. Every morning when we thank the Almighty for His many bounties, we recite the berachah “We thank the Almighty who firms men’s footsteps…” We need only allow ourselves to see and hear G-d’s messages.

Most people have difficulty discerning His call since His messages are usually hidden behind many veils. On occasion however, hashgachah pratis – Divine providence – is so clear and obvious that even a blind man has to see it, a deaf man has to hear it.

I’ll share with you a spectacular story that illustrates hashgachah pratis.

Meet 8-year-old Yedidya, a bright, sweet yeshiva boy. He carries his name proudly – Yedid-Ya, which literally translated means “friend of the Almighty.” From the day of his birth his parents imbued him with the awesome responsibility of that title, but in certain situations he prefers that his English name, Jed, be used, and such was the case when he made his first visit to the orthodontist. He was with his beautiful mom, Shannon, and, as in all doctors’ offices, a form had to be filled out.

As Shannon started to write, Yedidya whispered, “Mommy, write down my English name, Jed.” When Shannon questioned him, he explained that he wanted to avoid all the fuss his Jewish name evoked. Following the session with the orthodontist, Shannon hailed a cab for their return home. As they settled in the taxi, Shannon looked at the little box that indicated the driver’s name. What she saw there left her nonplussed.

She looked again; perhaps she read it wrong. Was she making a mistake? No – amazingly, there it was in big, bold letters: Yedidya.

“How did you get the name Yedidya?” she asked the driver.

“My parents gave it to me,” he explained. “I always loved it and I was always so proud of it, but in Russia we were not permitted to use our Jewish names, so when I came to America, I made myself a promise that in this country, where everyone can live by his faith, I would proudly proclaim that my name is Yedidya and that I am a Jew.”

Shannon couldn’t believe her ears. What were the chances of finding a Jewish taxi driver in Manhattan named Yedidya? Shannon was awed as she absorbed this enormous hashgachah pratis. More importantly, her son, who just an hour before had been uncomfortable with the name Yedidya, was given a lesson that no school, parent or rabbi could have given. From that moment on, he never again wanted to be called Jed.

Some might attribute this encounter to random events that no intelligent person could seriously consider as being foreordained. I invite such skeptics to read chapter two of the story.

Yedidya has a twin brother, Yaakov, and the day after the story with Yedidya unfolded, Shannon once again found herself hailing a taxi. Even as she did so, the story with Yedidya kept replaying in her mind. As she settled into the cab, she once again looked at the little box identifying the cabby, never expecting any message, any new wisdom from Heaven. Incidents like this cannot be repeated, but lo and behold the little box identifying the taxi driver once again blew her away. There it was in bold letters – the name of the driver was Yaakov – not Jacob but Yaakov – the name of Yedidya’s twin brother!

These incidents of hashgachah pratis, occurring twice, one right after the other, cannot simply be dismissed, even by the most cynical.

I now invite you to read chapter three.

Should you wonder how Shannon and her amazing husband, Andrew, were zocheh to merit such an awesome experience, it goes back to another taxi ride, one that happened some years ago in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

The story starts with Shannon who, when she came to Hineni for the very first time, discovered the majestic world of Torah and asked to study more. Her thirst for Torah was unquenchable, so I put her in touch with my children who are the Hineni rabbis and rebbetzins – Torah teachers.

Then one day Andrew, a young man with a winning smile and keen bright mind, came along for his first Hineni experience. Something told me Andrew and Shannon would make a perfect shidduch so I suggested they date. On their dates Shannon inspired Andrew to join her in Torah study with our family.

That year we made a Jewish heritage trip to Eastern Europe and convinced Shannon and Andrew to join us. It was on that trip in Prague that Andrew started to wear a yarmulke regularly. It was his very first yarmulke and he held it dear. On one occasion, instead of boarding the tour bus, Shannon and Andrew decided to take a taxi. No sooner did the taxi drop them off at the hotel than Andrew realized his yarmulke was not on his head.

In a panic, Andrew chased after the taxi with the swiftness of a marathon runner, all the while calling out to the cabby to stop. The driver heard his cries and waited for Andrew to catch up. Out of breath, Andrew opened the door of the cab. There, on the seat, was his yarmulke – and not just that, he also found his international phone, which in those days was a very expensive item. What is significant is that it was not the phone Andrew chased after but his yarmulke.

Recently, while visiting Shannon and Andrew, I heard the incredible story of Yedidya and Yaakov. Immediately, the incident in Prague that happened so long ago flashed through my mind. I connected the dots. Yedidya and Yaakov’s taxi miracle started in Prague when their father chased after the cab for his yarmulke.

From a taxi in Prague to a taxi in New York, it’s one straight line. And that is the story of Hineni.

I now ask you to multiply that miracle a thousand times and span it over 45 years of Hineni kiruv, and you will realize the awesomeness of the miracle of a nation that in an instant can close the gap of centuries and make the journey from New York to Sinai.

The story of Hineni: Here we are, Am Yisrael, our neshamas forever bound to our Torah bequeathed to us at Sinai. Hineni – here we are!

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