…I didn’t want you to worry all day. Everything looks okay, there were some paint marks but I was able to rub them out with a towel and I don’t see any scratch marks…
Such a nice phone message from Sandy, a man I “met” in the alley yesterday morning when I was driving our son Sholom to school. It was a far cry from what he said to me at our earlier “meeting,” when I tried slithering my car past his in the pouring rain: “Didn’t you see I was getting ready to move?”
I answered calmly but apologetically. “I’m really sorry. I thought I had enough room.” (How does a person look when he’s getting ready to move?)
Admittedly, I was distracted by thoughts of how to begin this blog post, and my optometrist told me years ago I have no depth perception (consider yourself forewarned) but still, I honestly thought my car could fit.
“It’s a brand new car,” he grumbled as he stuck his head out the window to see the damage I did.
My reaction was better than the numb, dumb and helpless feeling I have experienced before in “meetings” like this. (Thank G-d, I haven’t had one in a while, partially due to my down-sized car with a back-up camera.) This time, I had the presence of mind to tuck in my side view mirror, the culprit, rather than continue dragging it along his brand new car. I didn’t even rant at Sholom for suggesting I drive up the alley.
“Do you want my insurance information?” I asked. I knew the drill all too well.
“You bet I do,” he snarled.
I attempted to pull over and dismissed Sholom who was about to be late for school.
Minutes later, Sandy was standing at my car window, rain soaking him and the pad he was writing on. He took my phone number too, “just in case,” but he wasn’t angry anymore. My guess is he surveyed the damage and realized it was probably negligible. We had both been spared a costly annoyance.
After hearing his phone message, I called back to thank him for his concern for my mental health. I left him a message, ending it with a wish for him to have a blessed and beautiful day.
Our meeting encapsulated what was brewing in my brain when my car met his, the idea that it is only with G-d’s help that I get from Point A to Point B unscathed.
It was no accident that Sandy and I met the day after Beis Iyar, the second day of the month of Iyar. Beis Iyar is the birthday of the fourth Chabad Rebbe, the Rebbe Maharash, whose spiritual dictum is, The world says that if you cannot crawl under an obstacle, try to leap over it. However, I say, leap over it in the first place!
The phrase “leap over it in the first place” in the original Yiddish is, “l’chatchila ariber.” I love saying these words, largely because I can pronounce them correctly. But truthfully, they have always conjured up images of people reckoning with chain-link fences, and not much more. I always assumed the lesson was that we should treat obstacles as if they don’t exist, a reminder that, with G-d’s help, we can overcome and accomplish anything.
A few days ago, Rabbi Mendel Deren shared with me a new insight into this phrase. (Talk about “no accidents.” Thank G-d, he was in town for our mutual grandson’s Beis Iyar bris.)
L’chathila ariber isn’t just about how I treat obstacles, real or perceived. It’s about how I treat everything. The “leap” is the awareness that my attachment to G-d enables me to travel through most of life with my feet off the ground, no matter what I’m doing. It’s natural to ask for G-d’s help when I know I need it, “when I cannot crawl under an obstacle.” The challenge is to know I need His help “in the first place,” when my need for His involvement is not so obvious.
I can say “thank G-d,” and “G-d willing” more often. I can mean it more, too. I can also be emboldened to share spirituality with others, by wishing Sandy, a total stranger, a “blessed and beautiful day.” (After all, he just had to “rub out the marks,” and G-d’s kindness was revealed to both of us.)
And, last but not least, I can recognize with new clarity that G-d is always right there with me, even helping me to connect everything together in a blog post. Because when it comes to His involvement in the world, nothing is by accident.