Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hashgacha Pratit: Part One

We have a beautiful concept in Judaism called hasgacha pratit, individual divine providence. The means that we can see the hand of HaShem in everything, even the negative.

Receiving crank calls ranks highly among the negative. Some nameless intruder violates your space. Caller ID does not help because the creep makes his assault from a private number. There is almost nothing you can do to stop the emotional assault short of changing your own telephone number to an unlisted one. That is a time-consuming, daunting task. When the crank caller is not only annoying, but also obscene, the situation is fraught with frustration.
That said, it sounds incredulous for me to state that I was thankful for my crank caller, but the truth is, I was.

He entered my life more than ten years ago. I still remember the sound of his creepy voice as he said hello. I would respond hello and he would repeat his hello. I would again say hello and this exchange would go on until I would impatiently snap, “What do you want?” The answer would be mumbled and in unintelligible Hebrew but from the tone of his voice I knew I did not want to understand what he said. I would slam the phone down probably giving him a thrill. Once I tried screaming in the phone. That probably gave him an even bigger thrill. Finally I devised a plan to deal with him. Whenever I saw private number in caller ID I would wait for the caller to say hello. If it was the creep I would stay silent. He would repeat his hello over and over again to a silent line and he would be the one slamming down the phone in frustration. The calls finally tapered off and ended. Thankfully.
Before they ended, though, we had the incident that made me thankful for the creep. At that time, the security situation in our village was serious and the Rav had decreed that should our phones ring on Shabbat we should answer them. Now, we are fortunate to have more sophisticated methods to let us know if there is an infiltrator in the village or some other form of pikuach nefesh. At that time it was only by way of the telephone that we could know it we were in danger.
Our phone did indeed ring on of all Shabbats, the Shabbat of my youngest son’s Bar Mitzvah. It was after sundown. The men had already left for shul. My daughters wanted to answer the phone according to the Rabbi’s instructions. They were correct but I would not let them touch the receiver. Somehow, I was certain it was not a security call, but rather the creep.
My girls reluctantly listened to me. We had a lovely Shabbat evening with an Oneg Shabbat in honor of our son’s Bar Mitzvah. Everyone in our village was invited. Delighted with the singing, dancing, and general spirit of joy we ended the evening happy, but exhausted. So when the phone rang again that night none of us made it out of our beds in time to answer it.
By the next morning I had forgotten about the ringing phone. Preoccupied with the Bar Mitzvah it totally slipped my mind. My husband had not forgotten, however, and once Shabbat was over he checked for messages to see if perhaps the caller had not been the creep but rather a legitimate person. There were two messages. Neither was from the creep; rather from my sister-in-law.
In the first message she informed us that my mother-in-law had been taken to the hospital since her seemingly nebulous cold had turned into pneumonia. The second message was even more chilling. They did not think my mother-in-law would make it through the night.
It is complicated to have family in America.  When Shabbat is over in Israel they are still in the middle of it there. My husband could not call his brother so he dialed the hospital and found out the bitter news. His mother had died that Shabbat, the Shabbat of our son’s Bar Mitzvah.
My husband left for America that night. Of course, the Bar Mitzvah party was cancelled. The Bar Mitzvah boy handled his disappointment well. He had had a spirited Oneg Shabbat. He had recited a powerful Dvar Torah. Friends had put him on his shoulders and danced with him. The following morning he chanted his Torah portion full of confidence. My husband had made the blessing as the father of the Bar Mitzvah boy with a full heart.
Had my daughters answered the phone Friday night he would have lost his moment of glory. Even if we had not cancelled the Oneg Shabbat, our hearts would not have been in it. And if someone had reached the phone in time to talk to my sister-in-law later Friday night it would have been very difficult to concentrate on our son’s Bar Mitzvah. We would not have been able to do anything to help my mother-in-law at that point in time. Sometimes ignorance is indeed bliss. So thanks to the creep we were able to enjoy our son’s Bar Mitzvah. Once again we were witnesses to the fact that everything HaShem does is for the best.  
pikuach nefesh: life threatening
Oneg Shabbat: Sabbath party
Dvar Torah: Torah lesson or speech

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