Are you ready for another gam zu l’tovah/hashgacha pratis story? Because I’ve got one for you. (“Gam zu l’tovah” means that everything that happens is ultimately for the good. “Hashgacha pratis” means Divine providence – God is looking out for us. Both of these things are true all the time even if we don’t always recognize them.)
My wife works in a school that had off the Monday of Chanukah, so I took a day to do things with her. In the morning, we had individual doctor appointments in separate offices, after which we had planned to see a movie. The timing of things would have required us to hop on the Southern State Parkway, changing to the Meadowbrook Parkway. When we came out of our doctor visits, however, we were rather peckish and decided to go for a bite to eat instead.
After brunching, we were driving local streets when the car thudded to a halt.
“Did I run over something?” asked the missus, who generally insists on driving.
“It felt like something fell out,” I replied.
We got out of the car and were surprised to see that a wheel had fallen off. Not a tire, the whole wheel!
Seriously, who loses a wheel? (According to the woman from AAA, I was third person calling with such a problem so far that day, so I guess it is a thing!)
The car had broken down while making a left turn, so we were blocking a T-intersection of some narrow residential streets, leaving not enough room for others to pass on either side. Normally, one would pull over to the side of the road to make room but you kind of need four wheels for that, so we stayed where we were. The tow truck took an hour to arrive, which I spent walking from one side of the car to the other, waving away oncoming cars. (It’s surprising how close some drivers felt the need to approach an incapacitated vehicle with its flashing lights on whose driver is wildly gesticulating for them to turn around before they accept the reality that they’re just not going to fit.)
The tow truck eventually arrived and the driver was a little surprised by our good spirits. I opined that, obviously, I’d prefer that it not have happened but if it was going to happen, it happened in the best possible way.
The fact that no one was injured was certainly the most desirable aspect but there were so many other things for which we were grateful, including that:
- We hadn’t gone to the movie so that this happened on local streets rather than on the highway, which certainly would have been worse;
- It was daytime, since we would have presented a much greater hazard in the dark;
- It wasn’t raining, snowing or bitterly cold;
- The cars we were blocking were all able to get from point A to point B by going around the block, which would not have been the case had we been blocking a dead end or a cul-de-sac;
- It happened relatively close to home;
- Et cetera.
It was also a relief that it was no one’s fault, which obviated the possibility of recriminations. (Our mechanic’s diagnosis was along the lines of “they don’t make ’em like they used to,” meaning that we didn’t cause it. I assure you, had one of us driven the wrong way over those “do not back up” spikes, or some other preventable scenario, my attitude would have been very different!)
We accept that, for whatever reason, it was part of God’s plan for us that this was going to happen, whether it was to provide a much-appreciated kapara (atonement), for asset reallocation (which was not insignificant), or for some other purpose. As the saying goes, into every life some rain must fall. The question is how one is going to view that rain – as spoiling one’s picnic or watering one’s garden.
We can’t control all circumstances and things aren’t always going to go the way we would choose but we can control our outlooks. Even when God tosses us an obstacle that He feels we need, we can still look and see His beneficence in our situations.
Sarah Rudolph also suffered a recent traffic mishap. See her take here.
Rabbi Jack Abramowitz is Torah Content Editor at the Orthodox Union. He is the author of six books, including The Tzniyus Book and The Taryag Companion. His latest work, The God Book, is available from OU Press as well as on Amazon.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.
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