The woman was sitting on the curb outside the car wash, talking on her cell phone. I couldn’t see her clearly, but my daughter Elkie knew exactly who she was.

“Maya?” I asked as I approached her.

“One second,” she said to the person on the phone. She looked up at me, slightly annoyed by the interruption.

“I’m Lieba Rudolph, Billy’s wife,” I announced with a smile. (I call my husband by his Hebrew name, Zev, but many people call him by his English name, Billy.)

“I gotta go. I just met someone from my family!” I was relieved to hear the excitement in her voice.“I’m Billy’s wife”

The woman sitting on the curb was indeed the actress Maya Rudolph. Maya’s father is my husband’s first cousin. Their fathers were brothers who grew up together in Pittsburgh.

With Maya’s identity confirmed, Elkie and her daughter Leah approached, trailed by my daughter Rivky.

Of course, none of us could believe the amazing “coincidence” of our meeting. I mean, what’s the likelihood that I would arrive in Los Angeles on that exact day in 2013, then go with my daughter to that specific car wash to get her car cleaned for Pesach at exactly the time when Maya was there!? (To my knowledge, Maya wasn’t cleaning her car for Pesach, which makes it even more unlikely she would be there at that moment.) And what is the likelihood we would all be at the car wash exactly when, back in Pittsburgh, much of the extended Rudolph family was gathered for the funeral of one of the two original Rudolph sisters?

But our connection with Maya through hashgacha pratit (divine providence) didn’t end there.

A successful actress and comedienne (and daughter of the late singer Minnie Riperton), Maya was recently selected to be profiled on the PBS series “Finding Your Roots.” I had never heard of the show before Maya’s involvement, but I understand that it traces the family histories of famous people.

One thing is for sure: “Finding Your Roots” doesn’t skimp on its research efforts. My husband, Zev, had numerous conversations with their researchers; he couldn’t believe their excitement over learning where and when some unknown great-great-aunt went to high school.

Then, one Friday afternoon last summer, Zev received a stream of e‑mails from the show’s researchers. After months of exploring the Rudolph family, they sent us copies of immigration records, wedding announcements, death certificates—everything they found. Topping it all off was an extensive Rudolph family tree.

Up until that point, the Rudolph family tree went as far back as my husband’s grandfather, Julius Rudashevsky. He had been “the patriarch” who came to America as a stowaway at age 11. Julius never spoke about the family he left behind in Vilna, to the extent that nobody even knew his parents’ names. That is, until we got those e‑mails.

When my husband and I first saw Julius’s father’s name, we were stunned. We knew that parents have ruach hakodesh (divine inspiration) when naming their children, but it looks like G‑d wanted to show us proof.

When our second son was born, we were still giving our children two names—English and Hebrew. We liked the name Julius for his English name, and appreciated that we were also naming him for his great-grandfather. But we couldn’t use Julius’s corresponding Hebrew name, Yehudah Avraham, because our older son was already Mordechai Yehudah, and my father, who was still living at the time, was Avraham.

We liked Dovid as a middle name, and it was my husband’s maternal grandfather’s name. We wanted a Hebrew first name to go with it, something close to “Julius.” We consulted our rabbi and agreed that Yisroel would be appropriate. And that’s how our second son was named Yisroel Dovid.

We would have continued thinking Yisroel Dovid was an original name if not for Maya’s profile on “Finding Your Roots.” The show’s researchers discovered that the name of Julius Rudolph’s father was Yisroel Dovid Rudashevsky. Not every encounter is life-changingUnbeknownst to us, Yisroel Dovid was already a Rudolph family name, a name that now continues through our son, Julius Rudolph.

As a Jew, I strive for a life where G‑d’s presence is experienced through hashgacha pratit, where I recognize His involvement in everything. Not every encounter or event is meant to be life-changing, but none is accidental either. And some events, like this one, are unusual enough to be seen as a clear sign of His presence, a revelation which, ideally, strengthens my ability to recognize Him even more, even at times when His presence might not be so obvious. I know that there is always much more going on than I know. However, I am grateful when I get a peek “behind the scenes.”

If a family tree falls in my e‑mail forest, it’s because I am meant to hear it. And, more importantly, to recognize where it really came from.