I am running late – again. I grab my cup of coffee from the counter and fly out the door. My train to school is due to arrive in 3 minutes. I race down the block to the subway hoping and praying that I don’t miss it. Please, Hashem, I don’t want to miss the train. Please get me to school on time! I quickly swipe my MetroCard and run through the turnstile. I make it to the platform just as the train is pulling in. Baruch Hashem!
The train is full but it isn’t packed and I find myself an empty seat at the far end of the car. I sink into it with a sigh of relief and a silent prayer of gratitude. I am safe inside and on my way. I can make it to school on time.
The ride to school usually takes a bit under an hour. I pull out my homework from my book bag and begin to make use of my time. The car is fairly quiet as each of the passengers finds his or her own way to keep busy. Some are on their iPads, others are reading newspapers, and still others are using the time to just sit for a moment before being thrown into the whirlwind of work.
The train has been chugging along for 10 minutes when it suddenly comes to a stop. I look up to get a sense of where we are and what’s going on. We aren’t at a platform; we are underground, just sitting there. I sigh. I hope there is no significant reason for the stop. Thirty seconds pass, then another. Finally, the conductor’s voice crackles over the intercom, “There is train traffic ahead,” he explains. No word on when we will be moving forward. My muscles begin to tense. I caught this train, only to be sitting here, stalled. I need to make it to school on time! I really, really do! But there’s nothing I can do. I am not in control. So I do the only thing I can do – I pray. I begin to say Shir hama’alos mima’amakim. I look out the window. Indeed, I am calling out from the depths. I am underground and I have no idea when this train will begin to move again. V’hu yifdeh es yisrael m’kol avonosav. The train makes some noises. A moment later we begin to move.
Hashem wanted my tefillos. I should’ve davened sooner and maybe we wouldn’t have been sitting underground all that long, I reason. I let my mind wander. An image of a bird’s eye view of the train zooms into focus. It’s many cars long with a great deal of passengers in each of the cars. Little me is sitting at the far end of one of them, quietly doing her work. The train stops and the many passengers on board are stuck. They all need to go somewhere, but they are powerless to do a thing. Little me, one person amongst many, sends up a prayer to her Maker. And suddenly the train moves. I arrest the thought and rehash it again and again. It is too overwhelmingly powerful to let it go so soon. I’m not dreaming; I am in reality. I feel so big and so small at the same time. All those hundreds of passengers. Powerless. Me: powerless. So. Not. In. Control. And yet, when I make myself small, I become the catalyst for something big. Something very big. Hashem looks down on me and listens. And the entire train moves.