“Yisroel, maybe you should go see Iv and Avi while I’m waiting . . .”

Agreeing that it was a good idea, I headed off to see the two Israeli men selling Dead Sea products in the mall. Late the previous night we had noticed that one of our tires had low pressure, but it being well after midnight, we hadn’t found anywhere to pump it up. It’s not for nothing that Rapid City, South Dakota, is not known as “the city that never sleeps.” So this morning, after loading up our car and checking out of a motel for the last time on this 38-day trip, we drove to the tire repair shop we had noticed at the mall while visiting Iv and Avi earlier in the week.

Talking to the Israelis at their pushcart in the mall, I noticed their eyes darting around as they scanned the passersby out of trained habit. Both Avi and Iv had affirmed earlier in the week that their spiritual wellbeing is more important than a few dollars, and that “G‑d will give us our livelihood,” so despite the minor distractions, our conversation continued. As we discussed topics both social and spiritual, we were joined by Ephraim, my co-rover. Having completed the paperwork at the repair shop, it was time to wait for the work to be finished.

The discussion turned to mezuzahs, and one of the salesmen who did not yet have a mezuzah in his apartment was interested in getting one. After bringing out the mezuzahs and discussing the differences between the two kinds of mezuzahs we had brought, the second salesman, who did have a mezuzah on every door in his house, asked, “Are these on parchment?” With our response of “Of course they are; we only have kosher mezuzahs!” he learned that the mezuzahs in his house were all non-kosher—being written on paper. While sorry to disappoint him with the unfortunate news, we were happy to supply kosher replacements.

Try as he might, he could not get the tire road-ready.
Try as he might, he could not get the tire road-ready.

Ephraim headed back to the repair shop and returned several minutes later with a weary smile on his face. “They can’t fix it. We have to go elsewhere to get it done.”

“Let’s hope we get to see the divine providence in this delay,” I replied.

We had over six hundred miles of road to travel to get back to the airport, where our flight back to New York was scheduled to take off less than fifteen hours later.

Walking through the food court on our way out of the mall, a familiar gold flash caught my eye—a chai (Hebrew for “life”) pendant hanging on a chain around a young man’s neck. “Mah nishma?” I asked, assuming that he was Israeli. “What?” replied the young man. He was from New York, had just graduated from college, and was on a road trip with a friend. They had had a car accident right near Mount Rushmore, and had to stay in Rapid City for the week while their car was being repaired. “I pretty much keep kosher,” he said.

As we are on our way back to Brooklyn, we happily unloaded our remaining kosher food into the truck they were driving temporarily while waiting for their repairs to be completed. Having bought supplies for an event in Rapid City that never materialized, we had plenty of kosher food to pass on, and the young man was pleasantly surprised to see the degree of variety of kosher food that is available even in regional and rural USA (more than 50% of the products on the shelves in the United States are certified kosher; one need only keep an eye out).

We discussed the idea of divine providence as taught by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, and the fact that although we do not always recognize the positive in apparently negative occurrences, everything is controlled by the Creator and is inherently good. We told him that we had hoped to experience a positive outcome from the delay, and we all chuckled as we thanked G‑d for the flat tire and for allowing us to see why it had to happen.

With the clock ticking, a flight to catch, and a tire that was still flat more than six hundred miles away from the airport, we exchanged contact information and went to get our car.

Note the “chai” hanging from his neck.
Note the “chai” hanging from his neck.