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Have you ever been locked in a coat?

This week it happened to me.

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And, believe me, I prayed for deliverance, as if I were enclosed in a fiery furnace.

“Please Hashem, You are the Matir Asurim, You liberate the captives, ((Morning blessing). So I entreat you: “Release me also from this captivity.”

This is what I was praying fervently one day this week, when I was locked up in a closed down coat, all alone in my apartment.

When I say locked up, I mean I was really suffering, overwhelmed by all my clothes soaked in hot sweat, and no way to liberate myself without Divine help.

The day began as usual. I rose early, showered, dressed and davened as every weekday. After a quick cup of coffee, I noted that the weather here in Yerushalayim was still warm enough to warrant only a light sweater for my morning walk. Donning my masks and face screen, I slipped outside to meet my walking partner and off we went on our accustomed route.

The only difference from every other day’s walk was that for the first time since we began our walking partnership we encountered a few drops of rain.

It was nothing dramatic, just a timely reminder that the rainy season had indeed commenced. It warranted that on my arrival home, I would check my wardrobe for suitable protection from a heavier rainfall, and to ensure that my winter coat of last year was ready for wear when needed. It was quite important for me to manage with what I already had in my possession, because since Corona I don’t go shopping due to my vulnerable age bracket.

Well, I found the raincoat easily, though it appeared rather summery, as I bought it many years ago in the U.S. where it rains all year round. Not to worry. It usually doesn’t get as cold in the winter in Yerushalayim as in New York. My winter down jacket was even easier to locate. It was still hanging on its peg near the door since last year. And it, too, was rain-proof.

Good! So I was all set. Or so I thought. Just to be sure that it still fit; I slipped on my down jacket and peered in my full-length mirror. And that’s when it all happened.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against down coats. In fact I love them.

Believe it or not, in my native country in Ireland and later still in France, I never knew that it was possible while outdoors in the bitter winter weather not to suffer from the freezing cold, no matter how many layers I wore. Even in the U.S., with innumerable layers of clothing from head to toe, I shivered my way along wherever I needed to go.

And then coats and jackets made of covered down suddenly became popular winter wear in the U.S. The first down coat was actually invented in1936. But they were not available for common use until some thirty years ago. For me, traipsing through the icy streets of Brooklyn, and absolutely refusing ever to be confined to home due to inclement weather, down coats were a heavenly gift. For the first time in all my years, I felt comfortable and cozy, sheltered from the elements in my so light and warm beloved down coat.

I know! I know! All clothes are gifts from Hashem. In fact clothing was the first gift Hashem bestowed upon mankind after they had sinned. And we offer a bracha of thanksgiving to Hashem every morning for this bracha to all human beings. However, the availability of down coats was a specific bracha to me, personally. For before their appearance in the shops, I had never known what it was to be warm outdoors in the freezing temperatures, and I refused to be housebound.

So why was I, to put it mildly, exceedingly miserable, when I donned my own down jacket this week just to check it? At first I was happy to renew its acquaintance. Good! It still fit me perfectly even after its prolonged Israeli summer repose. I zipped it up and carefully inspected its appearance in the mirror. Fine, I just needed to hang it up again and then I could get on with the day’s schedule.

I started to pull the zipper open. And then I realized that it just wouldn’t open. The zipper remained tightly closed no matter how much I tugged.

Did I say it fit perfectly? Now I began to realize that it fit too well for comfort in a warm indoor room. I tugged and tugged but nothing moved.

I realized that I was sweating all over. My garments began to feel as if I were clothed in many layers of sopping wet clothes inside a sauna set to its highest temperature.

If it were not for the Corona scare I would have sought out the help of a neighbor, if I could find one at home. But because of Corona, I never went to anyone’s home, and certainly I didn’t want to have to stand as close as I would need to, for someone to help with that problem. And surely they, too, wouldn’t agree to this closeness.

I considered my options. There were only three.

One was to take scissors and attempt to cut through the coat.

But wasn’t it forbidden to willingly destroy a garment?

One was to remain panicky hot and become ever hotter, until chas v’sholom, I would pass out.

That option didn’t have much allure either.

A subdivision of this option was a vivid mental picture that pervaded my overwrought imagination. I saw myself still conscious but living the rest of my life locked in the stifling coat. I would have to sleep in it with all my clothes wet with perspiration clinging to my heated self under its confining bounds. Would not this be worse still?

The third option was to pray to Hashem for a miracle.

So I chose the third option and prayed and prayed.

And then something happened.

First, suddenly I vaguely recalled that I had recently found in my email a message from a source I usually never took time to read. This source was informing its readers how to manage common household problems, one of which was what to do to loosen a stuck zipper!

Since I don’t sew much, I didn’t pay attention at the time. However a faint impression struck me now that it had said to use pencil lead to loosen the prongs of the zipper.

Or was my desperation causing me to fabricate this whole email, as a mirage appearing to a thirsty desert traveler? As far as I knew I didn’t possess any pencil anyway, as I generally have no use for one. But wait, hadn’t I once caught sight of an ancient stub of pencil when searching for a pen among my trays of odd objects?

I began to sort through my collection of trays. Just when I was about to give up, I did discover an old pencil. There was only a tiny tip of lead showing, and I certainly didn’t possess a pencil sharpener.

Still, with no other option, I rubbed at the zipper with the point of the pencil. Nothing moved. As I fervently prayed I jabbed harder and harder at the top of the zipper.

And suddenly Hashem answered me.

To my intense shock as I jabbed at the zipper, it suddenly opened all the way down.

I shouted with joy. I couldn’t believe it. Hashem had answered my prayers.

He had released me from my prison! I was a free woman!

In fact Hashem had granted me not one but four miracles. For He had also sent the refuah before the makah, by sending me the email that I usually never read. And then there was the unlikely discovery of an old pencil that I don’t recall ever buying, and the miracle of the pencil working in spite of the very tiny drop of lead showing.

Indeed, we live surrounded by Hashem’s miracles. I don’t know yet if the coat can be repaired, but it has certainly already served an extraordinary Divine purpose.

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