Hurried, I ran out of the subway station into the bustling street, trying not to be late to my study class.

Hurried, I buried my hands in my leather gloves, attempting to stave off the biting cold.

Hurried, I didn’t even notice him.

Hurried, I barely heard his Shabbat shalom” as he tipped his hat.

Hurried, when I turned around I nearly missed him.

I raced back down the street until I caught his attention, and, between my confusion and awkwardness, asked: “Excuse me, sir, have you put on tefillin today?”

There was certainly no place for G‑d in this scene . . .

Pause. He stared at me. In his silence I became acutely aware of my surroundings, the street corner of 96th and Amsterdam. The street seemed to have a life of its own: the sidewalk pulsated with buzzing pedestrian traffic, cars honked and screeched as they whizzed through the settling twilight, and sweet aromas of freshly baked pastries wafted about the vendors peddling their wares. The street corner was busy. Too busy. There was certainly no place for G‑d in this scene.

I gazed at the man I had just met. He was still quiet as he sought his words. The sun was slowly dipping beyond the horizon; it was soon to be sundown, soon to be too late to don tefillin. And then, with a sympathetic nod, he answered, “I do not mean to insult you, but I have no time.”

“Insult me?” I laughed incredulously. “Not a problem at all! It’s a pleasure meeting you.” I smiled as we shook hands and exchanged names. I began to wonder what could possibly be the purpose behind our meeting—surely it was fate, surely it was divine providence, and surely there was a reason!

There were no stage lights and no applause, but I felt G‑d in the audience . . .

But to my surprise, he didn’t turn to leave, and so I lingered. He seemed preoccupied, deep in thought, as he considered his next words. Imagine my surprise when he asked, “How long will it take?”

And for the next few minutes we wrapped the tefillin and said the Shema prayer. There were no stage lights and no applause, but I felt G‑d in the audience, as though He was stopping just to see one man in service of his Creator. It was an act so simple and humbling, yet so very profound in its message: there is place for G‑d in our lives, and we decide this with even the smallest of deeds, embracing our inherent relationship—mind and heart, body and soul.

A week has passed, and every day I look back at the corner of 96th and Amsterdam. I look to the juncture where we met, and wonder if I might see him again. I wonder if he saw G‑d, as I did, on the street corner in those few minutes. And this I may never know; perhaps this is where the story ends. But I do know one thing for certain: G‑d made our paths cross, if only for that one mitzvah.