By Rabbi Yosef Resnick, BH
This amazing event occurred just last Shabbos, and the story was originally posted to Rabbi Resnick’s Facebook page soon after.
The Baal Shem Tov teaches that everything happens for a reason, even a leaf falling from a tree. In other words, there are no accidents or coincidences. Although I sometimes struggle with that concept, I work hard to make it part of my daily consciousness and awareness.
Something amazing happened today. I went out for my weekly Shabbat afternoon walk, and today I decided to wear my black hat and long black coat, which I don’t always wear when I go for a walk. I walked up the street, headed towards the train trestle, where I like to stand and think. As I walked up the street, I passed a young couple with a few young children coming towards me. They smiled, and said hello. Nothing unusual there.
So I passed this couple, and went on to the train trestle, standing there for a while, lost in thought. I turned to come home, and they were still standing at the corner, having been speaking to somebody in a car passing by. The car had left, yet they were still standing on there. As I approached them, the father smiled again, and asked me, “Are you Jewish?”
I have to preface and explain; in my very small New England town, I can count the number of Jewish people on one hand. Very, very few! So, I really don’t get that question around here. Kind of shocked, I smiled and asked hopefully, “Yes, are you?!” He said “No, but we’re converting to Judaism.”
I was dumbfounded. They were actually out for a Shabbat afternoon walk together! I could not believe it. We walked down the street together, talking and having a really sweet conversation. When I told him I was a rabbi, he could not believe it. He grew up in this town, we walked right past the Church he attended his whole life, and here he was, chatting with a rabbi about his siddur and kippah, and Shabbat. He served in the military in Iraq, which is where he first became interested in Judaism. We made plans to study Torah together, and for them to come for a Shabbat meal.
I was sitting on my porch about an hour later, reading, and just watching the clouds moving slowly across the sky, and really just appreciating G-d’s world. Here I was, sitting on top (?) of this huge orb that we call earth, feeling as if I was standing still, and only the clouds were moving, as I actually was spinning and hurtling through space. What a miracle. And the couple came walking past, back from their walk. I smiled and said loudly “Shabbat Shalom!” And I added, “You know, in over two years of living here, I haven’t been able to say that yet to anyone, while sitting on this porch, so thank you for giving me the opportunity!” They laughed and smiled.