Hey Rabbi!

So now I’m keeping Shabbat. But I’ve got a heavy load at school, and I’m falling behind. I’m in fourth year, and I’m missing way too many classes. I made a decision not to study on Shabbat—it just doesn’t seem the right way to spend that day. But now I feel I have to compromise. I just have to get my undergraduate degree, and then, in graduate school, my time will be more my own. Right now, to get my degree, I’m going to need a few miracles. Big miracles.

I don’t know if you were ever in this situation, but maybe you might have some advice.

Hey Student!

Yes, I was also an undergrad once, at the University of British Columbia. In my second year I started keeping Shabbat, and then built up from there.

At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t to be found on campus on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. Classes had just commenced, and I was missing them. Hard, but I couldn’t call that a test. My guts wouldn’t let me go. I wasn’t propelling myself, I was just being pulled.

Over the year I grew further, step by step. But there was no real test, nothing where I had to really make a decision. It just happened to me.

Until the end of that academic year. That’s when I first had a real choice to make.

Jolt and Bolt

Eyes open. It’s morning. But I’m not in my bed. I’m at my desk. I look at the clock. A high-voltage shock jolts through my nerves. I had conked out after sitting here all night grueling over a final exam worth most of the mark on a double-unit course, and if I could walk out of my bedroom into the exam room right now, I would already be late.

If I would walk out of my bedroom into the final exam right now, I would already be late.

Jump out of chair. Head pounding—two solid weeks of late nights and long exams. Slip on shoes. Don’t bother tying them. Bolt for the door.

Stop, frozen.

Something inside is yelling at me. “What’s with my routine?”

Over that past year, I had set up a morning routine. Mostly it was about wrapping leather boxes and straps called tefillin on my arm and head—things Jews pray with—and struggling to get out the morning prayers with some semblance of mental focus. I would give that one hour. Then I would bike to school.

But now there’s an animal inside me, the one that controls legs, arms, heart, kishkes and, most often, brain as well. It was screaming. Like it’s the boss.

“Forget about it. It’s just this one morning. Do it later, at the beach or somewhere. Grab your tefillin and run, Freeman, run!”

But then the rebel inside me spoke out.


“Freeman, you got priorities. Don’t let them tell you what to do.”

Priorities. Hey, what’s more important to me? What makes me my own person?

Wash hands. Slip on black leather boxes. Hack through the Hebrew words at light speed.

“What the heck?! If you’re going to do it, do it right!”

“What the heck?! If you’re going to do it, do it right!”

So now I’m tortuously, deliberately, eking out each word. Straining every neuron in my brain to focus on what I’m saying. Okay, not an hour. Not even 40 minutes. Maybe, maybe half an hour. A half hour like forever.

Done. Rip off leather straps and boxes. Sprint six blocks downhill to 41st Ave. Stick out thumb. Sports car pulls up—bang, just like that. Jump in. Haven’t even closed the door, and we’ve got take off.

“If she’s in such a mad rush, why did she stop to pick me up?”

She doesn’t say a word. Weaving in and out of the morning traffic like a housefly avoiding the swatter. A 15-minute drive, and we’re there in five.

She drops me off and runs. I’m at a parking lot at the other end of campus. The extreme other end of campus.

It’s a pure blue sky in May

and I look up to say,

“If You’re doing miracles already, can’t you do them all the way?”

“Hey, Prez!”

It’s Rodney, vice-president of the music undergrad society. I was president.

Rodney! I gotta get over to Humanities 204! Fast!!

Rodney doesn’t have a sports car. What he does have is a knack for driving over sidewalks and walkways without killing anybody.

“Hey, Rodney, didn’t that sign say Authorized Personnel Only?”

“Hey, you’re president, I’m vice. How authorized can you get?”

Next moment, I’m standing outside the Humanities building. Glance up at the big clock over Sedgewick Library. 10:00. The exam was called for 8:30. It’s lost. There’s no way. What was the point of all those miracles?

Nothing left to lose, so I walk into class. Students are sitting around. No prof to be seen.

“You guys done already?”

“If we were done, what would we be doing here?”

“So wha . . .”

At which point the prof appears, sheepish grin on his face.

“Looks like I’m a little late this morning. Anyone wants to stay for the exam, we’ve got this room for the rest of the morning. Otherwise, I understand if you want to do it another time. We’ll arrange something.”

I scored a 90 on that exam.

Now for a little debriefing:

When I stood outside that building and looked at the clock, I couldn’t have imagined that I would still be able to take the exam. When is the last time you heard of a professor turning up one and a half hours late to administer a final exam?

Time itself had to be twisted about for multiple events to conflate into a miracle.

Time itself had to be twisted about for multiple events to conflate into a miracle. The road-monster lady in the sports car had to leave her home well before I ran down to the intersection. So did Rodney, who was the only person I could have expected to get me from one side of campus to the other by breaking every campus bylaw on the way. And the prof? He had to decide to stay up drinking with his friends the night before, just so that he could sleep in even later than me.

Who knows, maybe the Master Programmer rebooted the system that morning so that there would be a sports car, a Rodney, and a prof with an alcohol problem. Because maybe the moment before they didn’t even exist. Maybe their past and my memory of them was coded into the system that morning.

Maybe I’m going way too far with this. But nothing’s impossible. What I saw, after all, was the System Operator within the system. And that He could get done anything without hacking a thing, without any cracks.

And I saw that it had to start with me.

Once in a while, we’re gifted with an opportunity to act miraculously. The heavens above echo and provide us miracles in return. Go beyond your limitations to connect above, and the One Above breaks all limitations to reach down to you. You don’t just get miracles. You become a miracle-maker.