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G-d on Madison Avenue

G-d on Madison Avenue


Today I traveled to the city.

I love traveling to the city because while I write about G‑d throughout the week, I actually get to meet Him while riding the subway and walking on Madison Avenue.

In my office I get to study Him, through my books; when I hit the streets, however, I get to see Him at work.

Watching Him is way cooler.

I descend the steps to the subway platform with the scream of "My G‑d!" still ringingAs I start off on my weekly jaunt, trekking through the Brooklyn snow, I see a young boy leap into the air, in an apparent attempt to execute a quadruple loop. Sadly he overreaches, and lands face-down in the slush. "Oh my G‑d!" shrieks a passerby as the boy begins to fall.

The boy is fine; I am less so, shaken by the shrill scream.

I descend the steps to the subway platform with the scream of "My G‑d!" still ringing in my ears until a rumbling, deafening number three train comes to my rescue.

I take my seat and begin looking out for Him.

G‑d, that is.

Sometimes He's harder to pick out in a crowd, sometimes easier. Today He is playing hard to get.

At the next station, just before the angry doors clamp their tired jaws shut, half a body appears between them. The half-person – you only see those on subways – is restored her whole status by a vigilant and considerate train conductor. Flustered from the experience as well as the abrupt jerk of the train, she murmurs, "Oh my G‑d. Oh my G‑d…"

Has she seen Him, I wonder?

The train and my thoughts ramble on until, before I know it, my stop is incoherently announced and I alight. I walk up the steps to the ground level, where I am warmly greeted by an intense roasted-nut flavored fog, as well as the maddening soundtrack produced and directed by New York's beep-hungry horn-loving taxi-noisemakers.

As I amble harmlessly down 33rd Street toward my destination, I am reminded that strolling in Manhattan is actually one of the more harmful sports one can engage in. Before I know it, I am caught up in a four-way pedestrian pileup which is caused, at least in my opinion, by a three way run-and-hit.

Of course I am the minority, with general consensus being that I should be ticketed for walking too slow – or at all – on the 33rd Street expressway. Luckily for me, they are in a rush and I get off scot-free.

I take turns listening in to the local broadcasters around meI stand at the corner waiting for my signal and feel out of place. I am the only one not on (or in) my cell. With no one to talk to while the traffic light takes its time, I take turns listening in to the local broadcasters around me. One man, I overhear, has just been notified that he's won a ticket to Florida. "Oh my G‑d!" he exclaims again and again, with ill-concealed manly excitement.

Eager for more news, I tune in to the woman on my left, the one with a (very) high-pitched voice that threatens to blow the circuit. Apparently, her husband is a work-at-home dad with a knack for blowtorching dinner, and she's just been informed of his most recent clash with schnitzel. "Oh my G‑d!" she shrills, stretching her vocal chords and my ear drums to their absolute limit.

The earlier ringing in my ears returns with renewed vigor.

Now it is my turn to mutter between clenched teeth, "Gut in Himmul!" ("G‑d in Heaven!")

Impatiently, and to keep my sanity, I hurriedly switch stations. I move closer to the guy in front of me who is animatedly chatting with himself, or so it seems from the fact that both his hands are shoved deeply into his coat pockets. As I inch closer to listen in, the traffic light, probably disgusted with my eavesdropping, turns colors; I suspect just to spite me.

We all start across the street together, but are stopped short by a sudden squeal of tires. We witness a close call for the gaudy Cadillac, its gaudy driver, and the un-gaudy guy who likes talking to himself. "G‑d Almighty…!" he bellows at the driver. In no time, the conversation turns French and I skip the country.

I approach my destination, 152 Madison Avenue.

The doorman rushes to open the door and chirps, "Thank G‑d you made it in this weather!"

"Yup," I replied, happy to be indoors.

I approach the elevators only to note that one is out of service, leaving the other doubly taxed.

People are gathered around waiting for a lift. I overhear one disgruntled fellow tell another, "G‑d knows when it'll be fixed…"

Finally I arrive at floor sixteen.

I step out of the elevator and approach the office of my study partner and friend, a political advisor for big shots.

As I walk through the doors, the first leg of my journey complete, I hear Daniel yelling about some politician gone under, "G‑d have mercy on him…"

Just another day at the office.

My mouth drops and my heart stopsWe wrap up our enjoyable and lively study time, and Daniel sees me off with a "G‑d bless you!"

"You too," I reply, "See you next week, G‑d willing!"

I exit the building; still no sight of Him.

I retrace my steps to the station, catch my train, settle into a spot near an autographed wall, and open up my Pentateuch, ready to escape.

My mouth drops and my heart stops.

This is the page I've opened to (Genesis, 24:7, Rashi's commentary):

Abraham said to Eliezer: "Now, He is the G‑d of the heaven and the G‑d of the earth, for I have made Him familiar in the mouth of people; [i.e., I have put people in the habit of mentioning Him]…"

Suddenly He is there, strikingly revealed.

In my book, and on the street.

Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson is the rabbi of Beit Baruch and executive director of Chabad of Belgravia, London, where he lives with his wife, Chana, and children.
Mendel was an editor at the Judaism Website—, and is also the author of the popular books Seeds of Wisdom and A Time to Heal.
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M H October 28, 2010

The verse is right; look at the commentary The foremost commentator on the Torah, Rashi, explains the words, "The Lord, God of the heavens, Who took me from my father’s houseas follows":
The Lord, God of the heavens, Who took me from my father’s house: But he did not say, “and the God of the earth,” whereas above (verse 3) he said, “And I will adjure you [by the Lord, the God of the heaven and the God of the earth].” He said to him,“Now He is the God of the heaven and the God of the earth, because I have made Him familiar in the mouths of the people, but when He took me from my father’s house, He was the God of the heavens but not the God of the earth, because mankind did not acknowledge Him, and His name was not familiar on the earth.”
Absolutely loved the article, as I do all your others. Keep 'em coming! Reply

Anonymous New York, NY August 2, 2010

Right Verse? Thank you. This was really inspiring.

Is Genesis 24:7 the right verse? I looked it up online and it says something completely different from what it is in your article. It says:

"The L-rd, the G-d of heaven, who took me from my father's house, and from the land of my nativity, and who spoke unto me, and who swore unto me, saying: Unto thy seed will I give this land; He will send His angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife for my son from thence."

I would really like to know where the verse is from. "Now, He is the G‑d of the heaven and the G‑d of the earth, for I have made Him familiar in the mouth of people" Reply

Anonymous new york, NY via April 25, 2010

Barukh Hashem Barukh Hashem, two of the most significant and meaning-laden words in the jewish vocabulary, two words which encompass our dreams, our hopes and our fears. WHen you utter them, everything seems to go as it should. Don't ever leave home without them. Reply

sue Kanata, On April 20, 2010

Thank you so much for finding this wonderful pasage within the Pentateuch.
I wonder at the people who believe that saying Oh my God is taking the Lord in vain.
I fully believe that the world was made as a microcosm of the Ones' self-image, and that our earth was meant to reflect heaven as it exists somewhere.
So, it just seems fitting that the words we use for the Almighty are on our lips and in our minds for every event, whether mundane, profane or profound. Reply

Chaya Yehudis Dank Melbourne, Australia April 19, 2010

Thank G-d Thank G-d you live in a country where people mention G-d all the time. Lovely story, and so true, we don't see him when he is everywhere at all times. Good writing, too, loved it. Reply

Mr. Richard Raff April 19, 2010

G-d has ways i had remembered a day that brings me close to this story. 8:00 am came about fast on this work day and had to get ready to shower. i had attended my online study course of the Torah and began to proceed to work. When i parked someone drove by me and spit out the window at me. i was engaged in the philosophy of G-d's word which i could not change my direction while talking to myself. Even if i wanted to get mad i could not. i was submerged in the boundary of G-d's commandments and G-d saved me from engaging with false idol worshipers practices. Reply

miriam friedfertig bklyn, ny April 19, 2010

Boruch Hashem revealed Great writer, great morning musings. He actually makes one feel that you are joining him on his #3 train escapade and onward.
Truly enjoyed reading his article. Thank you for sharing. Reply

chana Jerusalem April 19, 2010

In Israel too In Israel too one constantly hears Barukh Hashem, beezrat Hashem, Yesh Elo-him etc from the most unlikely places - scary teens, scantily dressed women, bald middle-aged men with frown lines
all connected to G-d Reply

Miriam Adahan Jerusalem April 19, 2010


sarah karmely ny, usa April 19, 2010

excellent article, both amusing and inspirational! !!! thank you. Reply

becca ny, usa April 18, 2010

amazing wow that was so inspirational Reply

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