Shmuel Aulov was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (then part of the Soviet Union), and came to the United States as a teenager in 1991. He went to public school and had little knowledge of Judaism.

When Shmuel, known as Alex, was 15, his cousins invited him to an event in a synagogue. He remembers that the rabbi inquired about his last name. “The rabbi asked me if I was a Kohen. I did not know the answer. The rabbi told me to ask my father, and when I did, I was surprised to learn that our family are Kohanim.

“Raised in the Soviet Union, we couldn’t openly practice ourWe couldn’t openly practice our traditions traditions, and my father never told me about our special role among the Jewish people. I went back to the rabbi to share my news, and he confirmed that in fact my last name, Aulov, was common among Kohanim.

“He explained that this meant that I have special responsibilities among the Jewish people. I felt both curious and empowered by this newly discovered role.”

Shmuel began to learn about Judaism and his role as a Cohen. He dedicated hundreds of hours to learning, eventually completing the entire Talmud. In time, he became a licensed shochet (a ritual kosher slaughter) and a mohel for the Bukharian community in New York. He became a teacher for bar mitzvah age boys, patiently teaching them their Torah portion, rejoicing in celebrating each child’s milestone. Shmuel’s wife, Leah, was making her own sacrifices by sharing her husband’s time with those in need of his guidance and wisdom.

Shmuel (Alex) and Leah Aulov
Shmuel (Alex) and Leah Aulov

As time passed, the Aulov family was ready to move into a more spacious apartment. Leah recalls, “I was excited to buy furniture, matching accessories and fixtures for our new home in Queens, N.Y. While shopping around, we were happy to hear that our friend found a wholesale furniture company that offered magnificent discounts in Philadelphia, where she lives. On Sunday, we set up an appointment to see the showroom, driving two hours to the warehouse.

“We decided on the furniture for the children’s rooms, master bedroom and kitchen. Yet there was no option we liked for our living room. The warehouse owner suggested that we take a set of black couches that included an armchair, a love seat and a sofa for almost no cost. This was his last set, he explained, and he wanted to give it away. While my husband found this to be a great saving, I wasn’t thrilled. The couches were black and didn’t match the design of our new living room. But I decided to make it work for the time being.

“The owner offered to deliver our furniture on his truck. While following the truck home, my mother called me with a surprise. My parents had decided to give us a gift: white leather couches that I had always dreamed about for our living room. Alex and I were so grateful.

“Now the issue was what to do with the set of black couches. My husband and I decided to donate the set to anyone who needed furniture. I called a friend and asked if she or anyone she knows might need a new set of couches. She told me that she had recently bought new furniture; however, her sister-in-law was looking for new couches. Then my friend paused and added that this family is very ‘particular’ and only wanted furniture in black. This seemed like a match made in Heaven, and my husband and I were so pleased to offer to deliver the set on our way home.”

It’s not often that we learn of the complexity of someone’s circumstances or what role we play in seemingly random occurrences. A few hours after we parted, Leah called to share the full side of this unbelievable story.

One year ago, Leah’s friend’s sister-in-law and her husband lost their precious 3-year-old daughter. She fell asleep on the couch and died in her sleep from a brain aneurysm. In total despair, the family threw away their old couches and decided not to have any living-room furniture for the entire year. As time went on and the horrific year was coming to the end, the family symbolically decided to purchase a set of black living-room couches. But due to their overwhelming depression, the family had also suffered financial difficulties and were struggling to make ends meet.

When Leah asked if anyone needed furniture, she was unaware that the offer to donate black couches came a few days before the first-year anniversary of the tragic event.

Shmuel remembers, “It was clear that without understanding the ‘plan,’ we were part of something bigger than we thought. Here we were, buying furniture for our new home, and hours later, we were at the door of the family who suffered an unimaginable loss. I knew that we were at the right time in the right place.

“We rang the doorbell and introduced ourselves to the couple.‘It’s a miracle,’ I heard the woman say It was difficult to conceal our emotions. Leah simply said that her friend suggested that the set of new black couches might find its home here. The family was surprised at our visit but agreed to accept our delivery. Their reaction as the new couches were being unloaded from the truck was indescribable. ‘It’s a miracle,’ I heard the woman say. ‘A message.’

“Leah and I stood silently, as the family saw the black couches simply appear in front of their house at the time they needed them.”

Shmuel at his son's brit
Shmuel at his son's brit

Events around us are not chaotic occurrences, but carefully crafted, interwoven threads of one “big picture.” In the words of the Rebbe, in a letter in 1951, to someone who was experiencing anxiety: “Looking from the inner dimension, firmly affix your thought—with simple faith possessed by all Jews who are ‘believers and sons of believers’—that G‑d, who created the world 5711 years ago, creates the world anew each and every moment, and conducts it according to His will.”

Our world is wired by our individual journeys, meeting in time and space in accordance with the Artist’s vision. This makes each one of us an irreplaceable fiber interwoven into the fabric of the master plan, designed by the Creator of the World, Himself.