July 16, 2024
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July 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

For 18 years, Rabbi Chessed Halberstam was one of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s personal attendants. He also had a unique shlichus (mission): each day, he had the privilege of driving Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, a”h, the Lubavitcher Rebbetzin, to a park on Long Island. There she would enjoy some fresh air, feed the birds and enjoy some desperately needed private down-time.

One day, as they neared their exit on the Long Island Expressway, they found that their regular route was closed off due to construction. The side streets were congested and the traffic moved very slowly. As they were driving, they noticed a group of people gathered outside a house and a number of people crying.

When they stopped at the traffic light, the rebbetzin turned to the driver and asked him to return to the spot where the people had gathered. They turned around and arrived at the scene. Movers were shlepping furniture and loading up a truck belonging to the county marshal. Rabbi Chessed found out what was happening: a poor Russian family was being evicted from their home because they were in arrears for the rent.

The rebbetzin inquired how much the woman owed, and if the marshal would accept a personal check. The sum that the family owed was $6,700. When the marshal confirmed with the bank that the check was covered, the rebbetzin wrote out a check for the full amount, gave it to the bailiff, and asked him if the same men who took the furniture out of the house could please bring it back in. She then quickly took leave of the scene before the family would recognize who their benefactress was.

As they made their way to the park, Rabbi Chessed couldn’t contain himself and asked the rebbetzin what had prompted her to give such a large sum to a total stranger: “When I was a little girl, my father (the Frierdiker Rebbe) told me that anytime something causes us to deviate from our normal routine, there is a Divinely ordained reason. When I saw the detour sign instructing us to deviate from our regular route, I remembered my father’s words and immediately thought to myself: every day we drive by this street; suddenly the street is closed off, and we’re sent to a different street. I realized that we had been sent along this route for a purpose?

~

Cast into a pit, sold into slavery, imprisoned in a dark, underground dungeon, Yosef remained aware that Hashem had a reason. Who could have predicted his awe-inspiring ascent to the highest echelons of Egyptian power? Another seeming deviation: regional famine, gnawing hunger, forces Yosef’s brothers to Mitzrayim in search of grain. After decades of distance, the estranged brothers are shocked to find themselves face to face once again. And instead of voicing vengeance, or even a hint of resentment, Yosef haTzadik, the viceroy of the greatest world power, speaks with sweetness and compassion:

וְעַתָּה אַל־תֵּעָצְבוּ וְאַל־יִחַר בְּעֵינֵיכֶם כִּי־מְכַרְתֶּם אֹתִי הֵנָּה כִּי לְמִחְיָה שְׁלָחַנִי אֱלֹהִים לִפְנֵיכֶם… וְעַתָּה לֹא־אַתֶּם שְׁלַחְתֶּם אֹתִי הֵנָּה כִּי הָאֱלֹקים…

Now, do not be distressed or reproach yourselves because you sold me hither; it was to save life that God sent me ahead of you….

So, it was not you who sent me here, but God…

(45:5, 8)

Overcoming and transcending all personal emotions, Yosef thus reassures his brothers with his absolute faith in hashgacha pratis (Divine providence): ‘My entire experience, with all its ups and downs, pains and disappointments, was all part of God’s plan. Nothing that happened was because of you! Every step along the way was decreed on High and designed with absolute precision by the Master Planner.’

Ba-derech, on the road, we are often focused on the logistical and technical side of our travel. We get caught up in all the externals of the trip, the deal, the hustle, the business class upgrade, the destination. We imagine that it is we who control and determine the trajectory of our efforts; we feel sure that our input leads to the output, on a linear path of reasonable expectations. We may even become upset with people who seem to stand in the way: “You’re going to make me miss my flight!” But how often does reality conform to our thoughts?

In reality, מֵה׳ מִצְעֲדֵי־גָבֶר וְאָדָם מַה־יָּבִין דַּרְכּוֹ, “A man’s steps are decided by Hashem;

What does a man know about his own way?” (Mishlei, 20:24). We travel the roads He lays, according to the timing He arranges; all our experiences, travails and successes are custom made for us by Hashem. Regardless of the destination we had intended, planned or hoped for, the Ribbono Shel Olam arranges opportunities for us to be exactly where we are supposed to be at exactly the right time.

רגלוהי דבר איניש אינון ערבין ביה, לאתר דמיתבעי תמן מובילין יתיה

“A person’s feet are his guarantors; They take him wherever he is meant to be.”

(Gemara Sukkah, 53a)

Reb Zev Wolf of Zhitomer teaches us that when it comes to the detours of our lives, ה׳ יודע לתקן עניינו יותר ממנו, “Hashem knows how to repair a matter more than we do.” May we open our minds in bitachon, and allow Hashem to sweeten our paths. And may all the tikunim we are meant to undertake be accomplished with Divine chesed and rachamim.


Rav Judah Mischel is Executive Director of Camp HASC, the Hebrew Academy for Special Children. He is the Mashpiah of OU-NCSY, founder of Tzama Nafshi and the author of Baderech: Along the Path of Teshuva. Rav Judah lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh with his wife Ora and their family.

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