I found my way to traditional Judaism through my relationships with several Chabad shluchim (“emissaries”) and the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. So when I found myself in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., for a Shabbat, I knew I wanted to visit 770—the Rebbe’s synagogue. I had seen countless photos and heard many stories that took place there from my friends. I imagined the history I would sense, the emotions I would feel.

I went for the Friday-night service, but those feelingsThose feelings didn't come didn’t come. A couple of women smiled at me and nodded in greeting. I found a spot at the front of the balcony, overlooking the large floor below. I followed along in my prayer book as the service progressed, on high alert for the arrival of the inspiration that was surely imminent. Maybe on the next page? Woven between the notes of the next melody? But alas, I left feeling … the same.

My next order of business was knocking on the door of the in-laws of a friend of mine, the Golds, who live next door to 770. It struck me as I was approaching their house that my friend hadn’t told them I was coming. He assured me that they would love to meet me, and I should simply stop by after the service. I’m generally not a shy person, but perhaps because I was feeling let down from my experience at synagogue, I hesitated. Wasn’t I intruding? They don’t even know me! But I had told him I would drop by, so I gathered my strength and knocked.

They invited me inside enthusiastically. I felt very welcome indeed. They were disappointed I couldn’t stay for dinner and insisted I come back the next day for lunch. They treated me to a beautiful meal, and I treated them to the long and winding story of how I met their son-in-law, and chose to become more Torah-observant. As lunch drew to a close, I prepared to say my farewells, but Rabbi Gold asked if I’d like a tour of Crown Heights. Why not? I supposed my Shabbat nap could wait.

He took me back to 770, but this time to the Rebbe’s office. He showed me where the Rebbe would stand for hours every Sunday, when he would give out dollars for charity. People from all over the world would come to enjoy a brief moment with the Rebbe and receive his blessing. Then Rabbi Gold asked if I’d like to see the Rebbe’s house. As we walked, he recounted decades of history of the neighborhood and the Rebbe’s projects and habits. He spoke of the vigor with which the Rebbe approached every task, even the seemingly mundane, and I felt a pang of deep regret that I never had the chance to meet him.

When we arrived in front of the house, I ascended the steps and stood in front of the door, about to kiss the mezuzah. Suddenly something changed; I became overwhelmed with emotion.

I hadn’t been keeping kosher or Shabbat for very long at that point, and it wasn’t always an easy road. I was nervous of what was to come and unsure if I would have the strength to continue to grow in my observance joyfully. I never doubted my convictions, but I often mourned the life I had given up and wished I had the privilege of seeking support from the Rebbe—the spiritual leader whose teachings had shaped my relationship with Torah.

My insides flipped, and my vision grew wavy. I reached up to my face to find tears flowing freely. Everything I thoughtI reached up to find my tears flowing freely I would feel in 770—glee, gratitude, exhilaration, humility—they weren’t in the synagogue; they were waiting for me on the Rebbe’s doorstep. And more than that, I felt his presence. I felt as though he was sending the support I had so desperately wanted straight down from Heaven. Like a parent reassuring a child, he was telling me it would all be OK.

Reflecting on the experience now, it reminds me of a story about the prophet Elijah. He is desperate to connect with G‑d and follows the instruction to await G‑d’s presence on a mountain. There passes a great wind, an earthquake and a fire, but G‑d is found in none of these. It is not until after the fanfare that G‑d reveals Himself in a still, small voice.

We cannot always control where inspiration strikes or when reassurance will take hold. I didn’t have to climb a mountain to find mine, just a few concrete steps in Brooklyn.