Years ago, Rabbi ES and his family were driving home on the highway one happy Chol HaMoed Sukkot afternoon, after conducting a CMC-arranged holiday celebration at a suburban nursing home. Suddenly however, the joyous excitement inside the car was interrupted by a crashing jolt, as the vehicle was struck by another car from behind. Thank G-d, nobody was injured in the collision, and the driver of the other vehicle immediately expressed her profound apologies and regret. Rabbi ES kindly reassured the disconsolate woman, and as the two began to talk, it came to light that she too was Jewish.
It took no time at all before Rabbi ES and his entire family sensed the opportunity to uncover a sacred and meaningful purpose in what otherwise may have appeared as nothing more than an upsetting random event. Quickly, they brought out their Lulav and Etrog set from inside the car, and excitedly helped the woman to say the blessing over it, while still in the middle of the highway.
Moreover, the providential aspect of the encounter did not end on the highway. Following the incident, Rabbi ES kept in contact with the woman, and came to know a number of her family members as well. Through the woman’s brother, who lived in a group home for disabled adults, Rabbi ES became acquainted with another resident of the home, a Jewish middle-aged man whom we shall refer to as “ND”.
Because of his disability with spina bifada, ND had needed special care throughout his life. Whereas ND’s mother devoted herself to looking after him, his father left the family and for fifty years had no contact whatsoever with his son. After ND’s mother passed away at a relatively young age, ND was transferred into the group home setting, where he continued to reside for about thirty-five years.
Since ND had no contact with any relatives, Rabbi ES’ periodic visits became very important, and he grew to be almost like a family member. When ND became ill and passed away, the home’s administration called Rabbi ES, who turned to the CMC for assistance. The CMC immediately looked into making arrangements for ND to have a proper Jewish burial, but were disappointed to find that much information was completely unavailable, including confirmation of ND’s religious status, the Hebrew names of his parents, and the location of any relatives’ gravesites. Under the circumstances, it seemed that unfortunately, the only option was to go ahead and bury ND in a fairly anonymous manner, in a section of the cemetery reserved for homeless people and other indigents.
Divine Providence, however, had other plans. Quite unexpectedly, during the evening before ND’s burial was scheduled to take place, one of the staff members at his group home called the CMC, with exciting news to share. “I found an old paper with a phone number on it!” she exclaimed. “It seems to be the number of ND’s father. Would you call him?”
So indeed, on that very evening, Rabbi Wolf contacted the father who had abandoned his wife and disabled son half a century earlier. Fortunately, the now-elderly gentleman was still alive, and answered the phone. Although he couldn’t find his son’s Brit certificate, nevertheless, incredibly, he was able to locate a copy of his ex-wife’s death certificate, and provided Rabbi Wolf with the location of her gravesite. With this information Rabbi Wolf called the cemetery, and discovered that ND’s mother had, in fact, purchased the gravesite next to her own as well, for the express purpose of having her only son buried next to her when the time would one day arrive.
Indeed, the time had arrived. Now it was clear to all that it was Divine Providence that had originally connected ND with Rabbi ES. It was Divine Providence that had brought to light the phone number of ND’s father in just enough time before the burial took place. And it was Divine Providence that had somehow ensured that the father kept a copy of his ex-wife’s death certificate for thirty-five years after her death, despite the fact that he had abandoned her and their son already fifteen years before her death. It was only because of these clear turns of Divine Providence that the CMC was able to give ND a full Jewish funeral in the gravesite right next to his beloved mother.
In hindsight, this Divine plan had been set into motion years earlier, with a jolting auto collision one happy Chol HaMoed afternoon. As it turned out, it was a crash that was so much more than just a mere “accident.”