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Recognizing G-d Along the Way (Road Bumps Notwithstanding)

Recognizing G-d Along the Way (Road Bumps Notwithstanding)


“OK, everyone in the other car just finished saying Tefilat Haderech, the prayer for travel, too,” confirmed my daughter Chaya after the text message came through. Our family was split up between two overloaded minivans as we began our trip leaving the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., to our Chabad House in Chautauqua.

We were schlepping everything we needed for the entire summer; the minivan I drove contained enough to fill aOur kids were divided according to age and temperament commercial fridge and three freezers! Our kids were divided according to age and temperament, providing for a harmonious (albeit cramped) trip. They enjoyed keeping tabs on each other as our vans would become obscured by cars and trucks that came between us.

A few hours away from Chautauqua, we were minutes behind my husband’s minivan when we suddenly caught up to them because they had abruptly pulled to the side of the road. My husband immediately called and told us not to stop, but to keep traveling; everything was under control.

What really happened was truly a miracle! Initially, my husband heard a very loud noise and thought the car had hit something. He stopped on the side of the road, looked the car over and noticed nothing. Then he did a more careful examination and saw that one of the tires, while appearing fine superficially, was actually almost completely peeled off. If he would have gone a foot or so more, it would have unraveled, causing a major blowout on the highway at 70 miles an hour!

Then the next part of the miracle happened: The AAA operator told my husband that they contacted the nearest repair center in Elmira, which at 7 PM was closing up for the day. Remarkably, when they heard that a family was stuck on the highway, they said they would wait. By the time the police, a taxi and the AAA tow truck finally arrived, nearly two hours had passed. Yet they received my husband graciously and fixed the vehicle, enabling my family to continue on to Chautauqua.

The last segment of the trip was through heavy rain and thunderstorms . . . right after the car was safe and secure. I can’t imagine what an ordeal it would have been had the rain started earlier, or if the only repair center was closed. My children marveled at how our prayers for a safe trip were answered!

I arrived first at our new Chabad House, hours before my husband. As I was unpacking, lugging in the boxes under the gusty rain, I realized a further sign of Divine providence: my minivan was the one loaded with all the perishables that needed immediate refrigeration. My husband’s minivan had all the rest of the stuff.

The next morning, we received a call from the department of religion of the Chautauqua Institution. We were invited to attend a special luncheon for all denominational houses (religious centers), where an overview of the summer’s program would be shared by the president and all the heads of the various departments. (A special plate of whole fruits was prepared for us.) Since we were inaugurating a new Chabad House, they thought it would be wonderful if we would introduce ourselves and describe what our center would offer the community.

We knew exactly what we would share in this golden opportunity of introducing Chabad at the luncheon.

Since the Rebbe urged everyone to publicize and share stories of miracles, we would now share our very own road-trip miracle! The Rebbe explained three reasons for sharing stories of miracles.

First, the Rebbe said it is our duty to acknowledge what G‑d has done for us and express our gratitude. Secondly, a miracle is a flash of It is our duty to express our gratitudetruth that enables us to transcend our preoccupation with materialism, which causes spiritual numbness. Miracles open our perception to see and feel how G‑d is in this world and a part of our lives. This spiritual awareness is uplifting and invigorating; it serves to dispel apathy towards Divinity, and is an antidote to spiritual numbness.1 The impact of miracles not only inspires the people who experienced them, but influences those who hear of them as well.

Lastly, the Rebbe said that recounting miracles brings Moshiach closer.2 Publicizing miracles furthers the awareness of G‑d in this world, thus hastening the world’s redemption.

Reflecting on the Rebbe’s words, we felt that sharing our miracle story would be the best way for us to introduce the mission of Chabad: to bring the awareness of G‑d into our consciousness, to affect our everyday lives in a tangible way and to bring the Redemption.

To our amazement, the story didn’t end there. After my husband finished detailing our experience to the luncheon audience, Rev. Paul Womack was called up to give a benediction.

He began by saying that he was finally retiring from being a pastor in Chautauqua, as well as previously serving as a U.S. Army Reserve chaplain and colonel in Iraq. Since he was embarking on a new chapter in his life, he found a most suitable prayer that requested G‑d’s protection and guidance on this new path before him. He mentioned that he found this prayer in material given to chaplains by the Chabad-affiliated Aleph Institute, based in Florida. He chose to recite the Jewish prayer for travel, Tefilat Haderech. (The very same prayer we recited before our trip!) He also expressed how he felt that this prayer was relevant and meaningful for the position he had as a chaplain in the army. He shared it with many soldiers, asking G‑d to protect them before they went out on missions.

My husband and I were blown away by this open display ofWe were blown away by the open display of Divine providence Divine providence! Who would believe that this benediction and accompanying words would be the Jewish prayer for travel that we just spoke of? It contained the premise of what a miracle achieves—the awareness that wherever you go, you are in G‑d’s Hands.

This message resonated profoundly with our family; with Rev. Womack, who had shared it with so many soldiers overseas in battle; and with all those at the luncheon.

This whole experience was a gift of inspiration that kept giving. We repeated this story throughout the summer season, and then some. And we were delighted to see how it resonated with so many people. Our story began with my children recognizing that for a safe trip, you turn to G‑d. G‑d answered that prayer with a series of miracles, showing us clearly how much He is with us in all our ways.

The Rebbe wrote the Previous Rebbe an analysis (dated Rosh Chodesh Shevat 5692) about the progression of the generations towards unprecedented materialism, and the important role of publicizing miracles as a spiritual necessity.
The Rebbe cited the story of King Chizkiyahu, whom G‑d cured from a fatal illness, enabling him to prevail and win the war against Sancherev, the Jews’ bitter enemy. The Talmud mentions that King Chizkiyahu was exceedingly righteous, and worthy to be Moshiach. However, one flaw precluded him from fulfilling such a role: he neglected to publicly acknowledge and praise G‑d for the miracles he experienced.

Thus, the Rebbe concluded, it is imperative to acknowledge the miracles that G‑d does for us. Doing so is connected to bringing Moshiach. (Sefer Hasichos, Vayeishev 5752)
Esther and her husband are Chabad emissaries in Chautauqua, N.Y., where they work with the Jewish community. Esther, an educator for more than a decade, also teaches young women at the Institute for Higher Jewish Learning. She is the proud mother of seven children.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Pinchas Chaim Johannesburg July 17, 2017

What a beautiful, inspirational encounter revealing Hashem's involvement with his children. Reply

Amanda Gunston Southampton, England July 22, 2017

I was unsure that miracles occurred until l experienced one. I was driving on the motorway (freeway) when a car tried to pull in front of me. I had to swerve into the next lane to avoid him. A lane that up until that point had been very busy and was suddenly empty. I was traveling at about 70mph. With the severity of the swerve my car should have rolled but it didn't and l arrived at my destination safely. HaShem saved me that day. An added blessings, l now see miracles. I mean really see them. Experience is a great teacher and l learnt that HaShem truly does look after all of us. We just have to open our eyes and see what is going on all around us. Miracles can been seen you just have to look for them. Reply

Anonymous July 19, 2017

Wow that is an inspiration. The one above is watching over every minute. Reply

Chani Zirkind NY July 19, 2017

Wow Esther. Thank you for sharing. What individual Divine Providence ... Reply

Lauris Mason Chautauqua NY July 19, 2017

Esther, like her story, is inspirational! Sefira's illustration is a perfect fit. Reply

Susan Berry PRESCOTT July 18, 2017

Miracles happen all the tme Reply

Florence Sebag July 18, 2017

I believe that miracles happen all the time, sometimes ouhearts are just too blind or deaf to actually perceive them. A while back, I was very depressed and dark thoughts occupied my mind. That morning, through tears, I read an article about the life of the Rebbe. I regretted never having met him and I cried twice as hard. That very afternoon, without any knowledge of what had happened that morning,one of my fb friends posted a letter from the Rebbe literally saying" a letter for YOU from the Rebbe". I don't remember the content of the letter. But I felt great comfort as if he had reached out to touch me with kindness. I share this in the hope that people recognize the miracles that Hashem does for us on a daily basis. Shalom. Reply

Perla July 18, 2017
in response to Florence Sebag:

I love when things like that happen! Reply

Rochel Ontario July 17, 2017

A powerful story leaving its reader much to contemplate and be inspired by.
Esther and her dear family are worthy messengers, spreading the light of Torah and Chasidus with admirable diligence and dedication.
May they continue to reap the fruit of their labor - in good health and excellent spirits!
Looking forward to seeing more articles by this gifted author. Reply

Anonymous Germany July 17, 2017

On Rebbe's celebration date from this year, coincidently I had the most effective health consultation from which I learned important things for my health that I was investigating since almost a life time, that prevented me so far to achieve to live a normal social life. I believe that God has a mission with each of us and once we are set on the path and reached our destination, many struggles are lifted from us.
Rebbe' s teachings are true and universal and they can bind people from any walks of life or religion, and their power works beyond just his life time when they were live uttered to just a group of gathered people, and they are live today and have being surrounding this Earth, calling for people from everywhere to remind us of our one God. Reply

M. Diane July 17, 2017

A beautiful story!

it is true that recognizing the miracles G_D works in our lives, acknowledging all our blessings and sharing them with others is important.

I wonder: Is it actually a mitzvah to do that? Reply