It was the evening after 9 Av, and services had just ended. Hungry and tired, I was ready to go home, make Havdalah for my family and break the fast.

I jumped into the car and turned the key in the ignition. Something was wrong. The car sounded all wrong. Sure enough, I had a flat tire. I wasn’t going anywhere.

The good news is that my house is just a few minutes’ walk from the synagogue, so I left the car behind, figuring I could deal with it in the morning. My Monday would be that much busier, but this is life.

After morning services, I called AAA and told them about my problem. They sent over a mechanic to have a look. Turned out that the car would need to be towed since I did not have a spare tire. “More time wasted,” I grumbled to myself.

But my frustration soon turned to joy when the serviceman greeted me with a hearty, “Shalom!”

“Are you Jewish?” I asked as I shook his hand.

The mechanic—whose name tag identified him as “Nick”—answered in the affirmative.

“Since you’re here at the synagogue,” I ventured, “would you like to put on tefillin?”

Nick confided that he had never done so before. In fact, he had not even celebrated his bar mitzvah.

So we left the car outside, and Nick and I entered the synagogue to put on tefillin and hold a spontaneous bar mitzvah.

They say everything happens for a reason, though sometimes, we just don’t know what that is. I now know the reason my car broke down the night after 9 Av.

His name is Nick.

Nick in tefillin for the first time in his life.
Nick in tefillin for the first time in his life.