A few years ago, we were headed back home from a family vacation in the Laurentian Mountains. After exulting in a tranquil week surrounded by the simple beauty of nature, away from the modern day pressures of cell phones, wi-fi and high speed connections, we were ready to plunge back into the onslaught of life, with renewed vigor.
It was about a six-hour drive back and our van was loaded down and piled high on top with suitcases, bedding, a barbeque, a small refrigerator and of course a week’s worth of clothing for the entire family – and lots of food. We were a little over an hour away from our home in Toronto and I was already mentally planning out what would need to be taken care of the moment we returned. Our time away was wonderful, but now I was ready to jump back into our regular routine. School would be starting in another few days and there was so much to prepare.
Just as I was thinking these thoughts driving along the highway, our van began slowing down and emitting strange sounds from under the hood. My stomach lurched, as I thought, No, not now! Just hold out another ninety minutes and we’ll be safely home!
But apparently our van had a mind of its own.
The man, who towed us to the closest town, reassured me that there was a car repair shop only ten minutes away. Though it was late Sunday afternoon, we could still make it there before closing.
I heaved a sigh of relief as I saw the garage still open and the mechanic intensely at work. I was even more relieved as he did a quick check on our van and told us that it was a minor issue which would not take him more than an hour to fix.
But then he broke the news to us – he’d be happy to work on it first thing in the morning.
“No,” I protested. “You just don’t understand ” I tried to reason with him that we have a car full of children how we needed to get back home how we couldn’t possibly unpack all our stuff how the baby wouldn’t sleep in a strange room how we needed him to fix our van now, not in the morning.
But the mechanic insisted that he understood all too well. He, too, had children at home, eagerly waiting for their Daddy to get home after a long day of work to their special family dinner.
My pleading, cajoling, bribing, guilt treatment and offering him a gift of lots of extra cash – and even calling his wife on his cell phone and attempting to convince her – were all to no avail. He was determined to leave and it seemed like we were destined to spend the night in this little town, just ninety minutes away from our own comfortable home.
We did our best to unpack just what we needed for the night, locked up our van and taxied over to the nearest motel.
We spent a restless night crowded into a motel room and by early the next morning the mechanic called, just as he had promised, that our van was now in smooth working order.
The entire evening and morning, I kept wondering why this was happening. Why, when we were so close to home, did something so small have to go wrong? Could there possibly be a lesson here?
It was only as were back on the highway, driving west again towards Toronto, that my husband mentioned to me what had happened to him that morning.
He had gone off to the park area behind our motel to pray the morning prayers in quiet solitude. As he stood wrapped in his tallit and crowned in his tefillin, a woman approached him and stood politely at his side.
“May I share your siddur (prayer book) with you?” the woman had requested.
And for the next several minutes the two stood side-by-side, reading page by page. It must have been a strange site – him a tall, bearded religious man wearing his prayer attire and, she, an older woman, dressed in casual pants and t-shirt.
As my husband and the woman concluded their prayers, the woman explained, “I am an Israeli, so of course, I speak and read Hebrew fluently. But it’s been over 20 years since I’ve recited the Shema prayer, or, for that matter, held a siddur in my hands. When I saw you, I knew I just had to pray. Thank you for providing me with this opportunity.”
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There are times in life when we don’t know why events happen as they do. Most times, we are never given the opportunity to answer this perplexing question. But then there are those special times when we are given a glimpse into a higher reason for why we end up in a certain place and location.
And it is at those moments that we understand that our little detour in life is, in fact, exactly where we are meant to be.
Watch Chana Weisberg’s two minute videocast on www.chabad.org/intouch for your dose of weekly inspiration. Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers – Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman. She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics and an editor at chabad.org. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.