My tall broad-shouldered father in his long black coat, felt hat, and salt-and-pepper beard was heading towards his car parked near the entrance of the Chabad-Lubavitch Community Center. As he fit the key into the lock of his green Pontiac, a voice startled him: “Rabbi Schochet, stop! I need to speak to you.”

My father looked up to see a man hurriedly approaching him,The Arctic wind whipped at his arms his short sleeved T-shirt and faded jeans no match for the frigid Canadian late fall weather. He shivered as the Arctic wind whipped at his arms and strands of dark unruly curly hair blew across his face.

“Rabbi,” the man said, scowling. “You have 10 minutes to prove to me that there is a G‑d.” My father rested a sturdy hand on his shoulder and peered at him, his eyes filled with tender compassion and sagely wisdom. In a quiet voice, he told him that it would be more comfortable to have even a very short conversation indoors.

As the man settled into the leather chair on the other side of my father’s desk, he explained that he was engaged to be married to the woman of his dreams, his soulmate on every level. His family strongly opposed the marriage because she was not Jewish, and G‑d does not condone such a union.

“I am going to marry her anyway,” he insisted in a confrontational and contentious manner. “The wedding is set to take place next week. I told everyone that I don’t care what they say or think. But somehow, this morning I woke up apprehensive. I decided that I must speak to a rabbi to overcome my angst. If you can prove to me categorically that there is a G‑d, I will not go through with my plans. If you can’t, I will continue on my path.”

My father regarded him silently for a minute, noticing that he was clutching the latest edition of Reader’s Digest in one hand and had placed a shiny green apple he had brought on the desk in front of him.

“You will prove G‑d’s existence to yourself,” my father said.

Taking a pocket knife from a desk drawer, my father sliced the apple in half lengthwise. Disregarding the juice dripping down his fingers, he pointed out the five stars and 10 dots inside it. “Every apple reminds us that G‑d created the world—Ki bey-ah Hashem tzur olamim (Isaiah 26:4),” he said. “‘Y-ah is the name of G‑d with which He created the world.’ It’s made up of two letters—yud whose numerical value is 10, and hei whose numerical value is 5.”

“That’s certainly interesting, rabbi,” the man conceded. But then he steeled himself and continued, “however, I am talking about changing my entire life and therefore your proof is not definitive enough to convince me of G‑d’s existence.”

My father smiled and said, “Understandably. Open the Reader’s Digest you are holding to a page and read it to me.”

Doubtful, the man raised his eyebrows, but nevertheless did as he was told. Shaking, he read the words on the page in a trembling voice, “Shema Yisrael Ad-nai Elokeinu Ad-nai Echad—Listen, dear Jews, G‑d is our G‑d, G‑d is one.”

He had “chanced upon” an article written by a Jewish woman comparing childhood prayers in various countries and religions. She had included the iconic Jewish prayer, six words that have been the battle cry of the Jewish people for more than 25 centuries, that her beloved grandmother had taught her.

Dumbfounded, he turned to my father with tear-filled eyes, “Our meeting today is clearly providential. There is a G‑d. Thank you, Rabbi Schochet.”

I recalled my reaction when I first heard the story. “Daddy,” I said excitedly. “Wow. You performed a miracle! There is no other explanation for it.”

My father laughed and told me that I reminded him of the Chassidim’s reaction to an incident that occurred with the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Chabad Rebbe.

Two tea merchants lived in the city of Vitebsk, both named Hoisha. Big Hoisha was wealthy and ran a large, well-established, successful business. Little Hoisha’s operation was precarious at best.

One day, Little Hoisha received a message that his tea shipment had been confiscated by customs officials. He immediately collapsed to the ground in a dead faint. Every time he was revived, he remembered that he was financially ruined and passed out again.

When theBig Hoisha would hardly feel the loss Tzemach Tzedek was advised of the situation, he instructed that the next time Little Hoisha was revived, he should be told that the message was intended for Big Hoisha, not for him. And indeed, upon verification, that was exactly the case. Big Hoisha would hardly feel the loss of revenue.

The Chassidim thought they had caught the Tzemach Tzedek in the act of performing miracles. “You are mistaken,” he said. “Our sages tell us that whenever G‑d gives a person a challenge in his life, He always provides him with the fortitude to withstand it. When I saw that there was no way Little Hoisha could deal with this disaster, I immediately understood that the message was not meant for him.”

Batya’le,” my father continued. “The man was facing a tremendous challenge. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that G‑d had already provided the means he needed to overcome it positively, it was just up to me to assist him in discovering them.”

Remembering this story in these trying times reminds me that the faith, courage, strength and wherewithal I need to be present and joyful, and to survive, are already in my genes. It is up to me to find them.