Everyone knows at least one story of Hashgacha Pratis (Divine Providence). I've written about it more than once (here, here, here, and here). Some stories are small ones, like finding a parking spot when you need one, or a day off when you thought you were supposed to be working. Some stories are bigger – of men saved from 9/11 because of slichos (penitential prayers said before Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur), of families saved from certain death by a missed bus, and the like. My story is not quite as drastic, but it will stay in the annals of my greatest personal Hashgacha stories.
Tonight, I was on my way home from Touro. As I do every Thursday, I was driving my friend's family car (she doesn't drive yet but wants to be part of my carpool). As we were walking out of the building, a girl from one of my classes asked us if we were passing near her house, and if so, could we give her a lift. Now, you have to understand – I live in Queens. I can either take the Jackie Robinson Parkway (which goes through a very bad neighborhood) or the Belt Parkway, which is longer, but runs through a better place. I usually take the Jackie. If I would take the Belt, I would pass right by this girl's house, so I elected to drop her off and take that route.
We dropped her off, going much further out of the way than I had expected. On our way to the highway, we were saying how it's OK if we get a bit lost because we are Shiluchei Mitzvah (those sent to do a Mitzvah), and they are not harmed. Prophetic words, but we didn't know that then.
The car I was driving is a very old car, and it's not in the greatest condition. Every so often it makes strange noises, but I've been driving it all semester, so the regular noises don't bother me anymore. We were about halfway home (a little before 11), and I was in the left lane going a scant ten miles above the speed limit but somehow managing to be one of the slowest cars on the road. I heard a strange noise that was not among the repertoire of noises that I was used to hearing from the car. I noticed that I was losing speed, but the car did not respond to the gas pedal. I started inching over to the middle lane, and then to the right-most one.
The car was going slower and slower. I needed to get off the highway, and I needed to do it right then.
Baruch Hashem (thank G-d) there was an exit coming up, so I quickly got off. As I got onto the ramp, I realized that I had lost all power steering and power brakes. I literally had to wrench the wheel to get the car to go on the service road. As I was driving, I put the car in neutral and attempted to restart the engine, but it was a no go.
The car stopped of its own volition at the first red light we came to. We were stuck on the service road, with nowhere to go. I turned on the hazard lights, and we called our respective parents. My father said he would come get us as soon as he could, and then we'd figure out how to deal with the car.
We sat there waiting for him to come, calling our friends (what else is there to do at such a time?) and watching the clock tick. My father was nearly there when a car pulled up next to us. A man got out of the car and started asking me if we needed help. I told him that we were fine because my father was coming. I thought he'd left, but he just went around the car to the passenger side. He started to open the door, telling us that we had better get out of the car for safety reasons. We started to freak out. My friend in the passenger seat was nearly hysterical. He told us that he was from the City Marshals, and he was going to help us, but we were too scared to listen.
My father came right then, so he took over. Turns out he actually was who he said he was; he was even a mechanic. My friends went to sit in my family's car while the men pushed the car and I steered. With Chasdei Hashem (Hashem's kindness) we made it to the side of the road. To make a long story short, we parked the car and left it overnight to deal with in the morning and went home in my family's car. We had left Touro a little before 10:30; I walked into my house at 12:30 and considered myself lucky that it wasn't later.
When I think back now to what happened, all I can do is thank Hashem. So many things could have gone wrong or been worse, but weren't:
- Otto (the guy who stopped) could have been a murderer or a rapist out to get easy prey.
- The fact that such a guy – one who actually had the knowledge and ability to help us – was passing through the neighborhood at a ridiculous hour.
- He told us that while he was watching (and he was only there for a few minutes before he got out to help us), we were nearly rear ended twice. Twice! And both of those cars stopped before they hit us.
- My father was able to come and help, even though it was really late.
- We didn't take the Jackie Robinson. It would have been much, much worse had we been in East New York when it happened.
- We were very close to an exit leading to a decent exit. The exit before we got off was not a good neighborhood.
- I was able to keep my cool – this is the first time such a thing has happened to me, and I always wondered how I'd react. Now I know. It didn't even occur to me to freak out – even when Otto came to my window
I'm sure there was a lot more Hashgacha involved, but it's too late (and this post is too long) for me to detail it.
Have a great Shabbos filled with obvious Hashgacha. Feel Hashem's love for you every second!