In the spring of 1992, our family had been on the path to Torah observance for exactly one year, although we weren’t yet keeping Shabbat or kosher.

Our daughter, Jen, was entering the second semester of her sophomore year at Binghamton University. She had bought a used Jeep with the money she made at her summer job. It had those oversized tires that she loved. Jen was planning to drive back to school on her own after the December vacation, but being the typical protective father, I thought it best that I drive with her, help her set up her room, and then take a bus back home.

She wanted to drive up on a Saturday, so that she could arrange her room by Sunday and be ready to start classes on Monday. The dilemma was whether to go to shul and then drive up, or get going first thing in the morning. I chose the latter. If we waited until after services to get on the road, I reasoned, I wouldn’t be back home until very late at night.

We got going and made a pitstop about halfway to our destination. Half an hour later, we began to hear suspicious noises. The car sputtered and smoke wafted from the engine. There were no gas stations in sight, so I turned off the main road and followed a sign to a town called Fishs Eddy. The motor had died, it was cold, and we were lost in rural Upstate New York.

We didn’t know anyone and we didn’t belong. It became apparent that our surroundings were desolate. We were alone with no contingency plan. (Keep in mind, this was before cell phones, WAZE, or internet.)

We had no choice but to wait for a passing car on this narrow lonely road. But being a young woman of faith, my daughter turned to me and said, “I feel safe because I’m with you, and with our goodness and kindness I know things will work out.”

After huddling in the frigid Jeep with only the convertible canvas roof as cover and no motor to generate heat (not to mention the disappointing reality for Jen that in all probability her Jeep was headed for the junkyard), we finally saw a car approaching in the distance. Jen said, “Whatever you do, please don’t leave me alone.” That’s how scared we were. I could see my dear daughter struggling to keep it together.

Fortunately, the car that I flagged down turned out to be an elderly couple (with a small beagle) who wanted to help. We asked if there was a service station nearby, where we could have the car towed and possibly even repaired.

They took us to a mechanic who agreed to tow the car and look into the repairs. The clock was ticking, and Jen desperately wanted to get up to Binghamton to settle in and be ready for Monday’s classes. But we had no choice; it seemed that G‑d had other plans. The mechanic took us back to the car to get our belongings and proceeded to tow it to his shop. At this point, it was already late in the day. So much for my plans to arrive early!

The mechanic kindly took us to a local diner, where we were able to warm up over a cup of tea and regroup. The diner was small-town cozy, crowded with local people staying warm and enjoying a hearty meal. There was a payphone on the wall, and Jen began calling some friends to see if they could drive down to pick us up and bring us back to school

While Jen was busy making contingency plans, a stranger appeared at our table. Evidently, he had heard what was going on from Jen’s shaky conversation. He interrupted us and introduced himself as “the only Jew in town and a cab driver.”

How did he know we were Jewish? How did we happen to be at this particular diner at the same time?

Miraculously, he agreed to take us to Binghamton and only charged us a minimal fee. By the time we got to school it was late, and Jen and I worked together to get her room into shape and ready for the second semester.

Despite all my grand plans to skip shul and disregard Shabbat in an effort to make the best of my time, it had become quite evident that I was never in control. G‑d made that very clear, as He always does. But in His kindness, he sent us messengers and helpers to get us on our way comfortably.

That day was an object lesson in Torah—a day I cannot forget, because it was the very last time I drove on Shabbat.