West Palm Beach – a winter hotspot – is quiet in the summertime, especially the residential areas. It’s not easy to find Jewish people, or any people, for that matter. But with high spirits and hopeful thoughts, we turned on the music and drove downtown, the only place that can conceivably be called “busy.” We arrived at "Cityplace" - a European village-style alfresco mall with fountains and a slew of dining and entertainment options. We were sure to meet someone.
But we had a problem: parking. After a few rounds, we finally found a meter. But when I felt around in my pocket for change, I only found a few pennies.
"Hey Boruch," I called to my partner, "have any change?"
"Nope,” he answered, “maybe the car's got some.” We rummaged around and found a few coins. “That’ll get us about an hour,” Boruch said.
It was 12 p.m.
We made our way in and out of some stores, having the same conversation over and over:
"Shalom! Are you Jewish?"
"No Problem, have a nice day!"
This happened a few too many times and before we knew it, it was 1 o’clock and time to feed the meter.
We approached the car, added some quarters to the meter, and were ready to head back to the main area when I spotted someone on the other side of the street.
I ran over to the man who appeared to be in his mid 50's and said, "Shalom! Are you Jewish?"
"Yes,” he replied, “Why do you ask?"
Howard was dressed for work. Most people wear casual clothes these days in sunny southern Florida, but he was not on vacation and seemed to have no time for long conversations.
We explained that we are two rabbinical students who travelled to South Florida to meet Jewish people, and he seemed to open up a bit. After some small talk we gave him our card and a copy of the publication, "The Scroll."
We said, "Howard, whenever we meet someone, we like to leave off with a Mitzvah. Did you do the Jewish wrap?"
He agreed and we helped him put them on and say the shema prayer.
"So when is the last time you did this?" we asked.< /p>
We were surprised to hear his answer.
"Never. This is my first."
"Wow! Today is your Bar Mitzvah! Mazal tov! Congratulations!"
The initial annoyance now seemed like clear divine providence. Had we not returned to refill the meter, perhaps we would have missed Howard entirely.
Suddenly, the petty change didn’t seem so petty anymore.