As usual, I was running late as I drove toward the highway. And once again I found my way blocked by that annoying set of tracks on which a train always seems to be traveling just as I approach them.

I often wonder how it’s possible for a train to be passing by no matter when I leave in the morning. As I wait for it, I usually ruminate about similar occurrences and think, “Naturally this would happen to me” or “I never get a break.”


A couple of years ago, my wife told me about a book called The Secret. It reveals the power of a positive attitude, arguing that we can literally change the world around us with it. I was never into this kind of thinking, but as I get older I see its value. For example, we can come home from work in an angry, toxic state or choose to bring an air of positive energy into our homes.

So I thought perhaps this kind of positive thinking could be applied to my relationship with G-d. The next day, as I drove toward the tracks, and no train was in sight, I smiled, appreciating the gift. And then, after I passed them, I did something I’ve never done before: I looked in my rearview mirror, and I noticed that the railroad crossing arm had just gone down.

At that moment, it occurred to me that perhaps G-d often helps us, but we simply fail to “look back” and notice. If we turned around and took a moment, we could begin to appreciate the goodness G-d provides, as opposed to only seeing the challenges.

Some years ago, a friend who was suffering from back pain and taking pain killers was scheduled to have spine surgery. I recommended that he read a book, Healing Back Pain by Dr. John Sarno prior to his surgery, as millions have been saved by his novel approaches to pain.

In short, he read the book, canceled the surgery, and went on with his life. Strangely, though, he never mentioned anything to me about it. And then it hit me. When he was in pain, he was very receptive to my advice because he needed me. The moment he was healed, though, in his state of excitement, he didn’t even acknowledge the goodness provided, let alone thank me.

Rabbi Weinstock, the rav of Young Israel in Hollywood, once related the following story: A businessman inadvertently gets stuck on the roof of a tall office building. With no cell service and nightfall advancing and temperatures dropping, the man gets desperate and starts throwing down all the money he has in his possession in the hopes of drawing attention to himself.

As the money comes trickling down from the sky, he sees people running amok, crawling on the floor, stuffing money in their pockets, but no one looks up to see where it’s coming from. Desperate, he grabs some pebbles and dirt and throws them from the roof. This time, everyone looks up to see where the disturbance is coming from.

Human nature is such that when times are good – when we have gezunt and mazal and beracha – it’s easy to forget the source of our blessings. And sometimes, we get so busy stuffing money in our pockets and running wild that we forget to look up and see where everything is coming from. So then Hashem throws some “pebbles” our way, not meaning to hurt us, but rather perhaps simply to get our attention.

Let us learn from this mashal and always remember to check our “rearview mirror,” acknowledging G-d’s unmitigated blessings.


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Avi Ciment lectures and writes about G-d at