by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
Loshen HaKodesh, the holy tongue, is different from all other languages. Every word is definitive. For example, when you say in English "it happened," the connotation is a random happening - a happenstance - but the same word in loshen hakodesh - "mikreh" - places a totally different twist on the concept. The deeper meaning behind the word mikreh is "kara mei Hashem" - "It happened from G-d," meaning that the world is not run by random forces without rhyme or reason, but that G-d`s guiding Hand is constantly with us.
This is not only detected in world events, but in our own personal lives as well, hence the concept of Hashgocha Pratis. Even if we are not aware of it, even if we do not see Hashem’s guiding Hand, it is there. Every morning, when we acknowledge our blessings and thank the Almighty for His many bounties, we recite the brocha of “Hamaychin mitzadei gover– “We thank the Almighty who firms men’s footsteps...” We need only allow ourselves to see and hear G-d`s messages. Most people have difficulty discerning His call since His messages are hidden behind many veils. On occasion however, Hoshgocha Pratis is so clear and obvious that even a blind man has to see it, even a deaf man has to hear it. If we allow ourselves to see and hear that which befalls us in our daily lives, we will be able to detect this Divine plan in our own lives. Most of the time, these messages are hidden behind many veils, but once in a while, HaShem’s Hand is so obvious who hears it has to be awed by it. Allow me to share with you a spectacular story that illustrates the veracity of this Hashgocha pratis.
Meet Yedidya - an eight year old yeshiva boy. Yedidya is a bright, sweet, young boy. He carries his name proudly - Yedid-Ya, which literally translated, means “friend of the Almighty". From the day of his birth, his parents imbued him with the awesome responsibility of that title, but in certain situations, he prefers that his English name, Jed, be used, and such was the case when he made his first visit to the orthodontist. He was with his beautiful mom, Shannon, and as in all doctor’s offices, a form had to be filled out. As Shannon started to write, Yedidya whispered, “Mommy, write down my English name, Jed.” When Shannon questioned him, he explained that he wanted to avoid all of the fuss that his Jewish name evoked. Following the session with the orthodontist, Shannon hailed a cab for their return home. As they settled in the taxi, Shannon looked at the little box that indicated the driver’s name. What she saw there left her non-plussed. She looked again, and then again.... perhaps she read it wrong. Was she making a mistake? But no - amazingly, there it was in big, bold letters Yedidya! “How did you get this name, Yedidya?” he asked the driver.
“My parents gave it to me,” he explained. “ I always loved it and I was always so proud of it, but in Russia, we were not permitted to use our Jewish names, so when I came to America, I made myself a promise that, in this country, where everyone can live by his faith, I would proudly proclaim that my name is “Yedidya” and that I am a Jew. “Shannon couldn’t believe her ears. What are the chances of her finding a Jewish taxi driver in Manhattan? And more, what are the chances of his being called Yedidya? If you think about it, you too would be left non-plussed. You too would realize that the probability of such a happening is almost nil, Shannon was awed as she absorbed this enormous hashgocha protis. But more importantly, her son, who just an hour ago was uncomfortable with the name, Yedidya, was given a lesson that no school, parent, or rabbi could have given, and from that moment on, he never again wanted to be called Jed.
Skeptics might put all this down to random happenings that no intelligent person could seriously consider, so I invite those skeptics to read chapter two of the story.
Yedidya has a twin brother, Yaakov, and the day after the story with Yedidya unfolded, Shannon once again found herself hailing a taxi and even as she did so, the story with Yedidya kept replaying in her mind. As she settled in the cab, she once again looked at the little box identifying the cabby, never expecting any message, any new wisdom from the Heavens above. Incidents like this cannot be repeated, but lo and behold the little box identifying the taxi driver once again blew her away. There it was in bold letters – the name of the driver was “Yaakov” – not Jacob , mind you, but Yaakov, Yedidya’s twin brother! This hasgocha pratis, occurring twice, one right after the other, could not simply be dismissed even by the most cynical.
I now invite you to read chapter three of the story.
Should you wonder how Shannon and her amazing husband, Andrew, were zoiche to merit such an awesome happening, it goes back to another taxi ride, one that happened some years ago in Prague, Czechoslovakia. The story started with Shannon when she came to Hineni for the very first time and discovered the majestic world of Torah. Her heart, mind and neshama quickly ignited and she asked to study more... Her thirst for Torah was unquenchable, so I put her in touch with my children who are the Hineni Rabbis and Rebbetzins - Torah teachers. Then one day, Andrew a young man with a winning smile and keen bright mind came along. For him too, this was his first Hineni experience, and something told me that they would make a perfect shidduch so I suggested that they date. On those dates Shannon inspired Andrew to join her in Torah study with our family.
That year we made a Jewish heritage trip to Eastern Europe and convinced Shannon and Andrew to join us. It was on that trip in Prague that Andrew started to wear a yarmulke regularly. It was his very first yarmulke and he held it dear. On one occasion, instead of boarding the tour bus, Shannon and Andrew decided to take a taxi. No sooner did the taxi drop them off at the hotel than Andrew realized that his yarmulke was not on his head. In a panic, Andrew chased after the taxi with the swiftness of a marathon runner, all the while calling out to the cabby to stop. The driver heard his cries and waited for Andrew to catch up. Out of breath, Andrew opened the door of the cab.. And there, on the seat, was his yarmulke..... and not just that, he also found his international phone, which in those days was very expensive item, but what is significant is that it was not after the phone that Andrew chased, but his Yarmulke.
Recently, while visiting Shannon and Andrew, I heard the incredible story of Yedidya and Yaakov. Immediately, the scene in Prague which happened so long ago flashed through my mind. I connected the dots, Yedidya and Yakov’s taxi miracle started in Prague when their father chased after the taxi for his yarmulke. ...From a taxi in Prague to a taxi in New York - it’s one straight line – And that is the story of Hineni.
I now ask you to multiply that miracle a thousand times and span it over 45 years of Hineni kiruv, and you will realize the awesomeness of the miracle of a nation that, in an instant can close the gap of centuries and make the journey from New York to Sinai. And that is the story of Hineni,.... Here we are, Am Yisrael, Our neshamas are forever bound to our Torah bequeathed to us at Sinai. HINENI, HERE WE ARE!