In my last post I wrote about the death of my father and wrote that I would have a follow-up post about how I saw the hand of G-d on the way home from Chicago to Israel. Because I was still in the middle of shiva, when I left my parents’ home to go back to Israel, I was wearing a shirt that I had torn for “kriah.” However, I did not want to walk through the airport wearing this shirt exposed, so I wore a sweater over the shirt.
As I walked through O’Hare International, it hit me that I wouild be missing some significant time “sitting shiva,” while I’d be in transit. In order to avoid missing the shiva experience while travelling, I decided to go over to people who were recognizably Jewish and ask them if they wouldn’t mind sitting with me for a moment in order to be Menachem Avel (comforting the mourner) and reciting the words of consolation. I moved my sweater aside and showed them my shirt and they right away understood. Everyone was very kind, and everyone responded with the words of “Hamakom Yenachem.” Some asked me about my dad, while others sat in silence with me for a moment.
But, there was one story that was very different from the others.
I approached one woman, Miriam, who was sitting with who, I assumed, was her daughter. I approached her, as well, and showed her my torn shirt and asked her if I could sit with her for a moment for nichum avelim (the comforting of a mourner). She asked me to sit down, and we began to chat. It turns out, we were booked on the same flight going to Israel through Canada. Our flight was delayed a very long time, which gave me and Miriam a chance to speak not only about my father z”l, but our lives and our backgrounds and so many other topics. In the middle of our discussion, she stood up and said she’d be right back.
When Miriam saw that our flight would be significantly delayed to the point that we may miss our flight to Israel, she sprang into action. It appeared likely that we would face the rest of the trip with the prospect of not having any kosher food on the trip back to Israel. She decided to provide me with what I considered the most holy of Shiva meals that I had during the course of my Shiva. Miriam returned from the kiosk with chips, hummus and crackers.
It was truly amazing that a woman, whom I did not know just two hours earlier, had done such a tremendous chessed (act of kindness) for me with such care and Ahavat Chinam (out of love and care for a fellow Jew). Miriam wanted to see to it that during this difficult time of Shiva, I would have one less thing to be concerned about. With her providing this food, I saw Miriam as a direct shaliah (messenger) from Hashem!
In addition to Miriam, I met another gentleman who was to be on our same flight back to Israel. It turns out that he lives near one of my friends in Jerusalem. We began to chat and soon, as he saw my shirt that was torn, he also offered words of condolence, as well.
When we finally got on the plane to go to Israel, we were on a different flight than originally planned and, therefore, we had no kosher food (as Miriam had anticipated). David, the gentleman whom I had met earlier came over to me and told me that he was seated in business class and indeed was provided a kosher meal. However, he did not want it and asked if I would like to have his meal. I told him that if he was not going to eat it, I’d be happy to have it! During the meal service, the food was brought back to me in coach–’twas a true feast!
The food was excellent, and I was truly grateful to David for providing me yet another meal that I could also have during Shiva. I once again also considered David as yet another messenger from God, that He provided for me during this difficult time. When we got off the plane, I went to find David to say thank you, but he was nowhere to be found. How was I going to thank him?
It occurred to me that he had mentioned to me earlier that he lived near my friend in Jerusalem. Hoping to find his phone number, I called my friend and asked her if she happened to have a phone number for David. She replied with a voice note, and she was laughing. She told me that not only did she know him but that she was walking with his daughter-in-law at that very moment! Yet another amazing hand of G-d on my trail back to Israel during Shiva.
At the end of the day I did end up seeing David and thanking him personally for the chessed that he showed me in that difficult time.
While losing a parent is a very traumatic time, Hashem has His ways of seeing to it that the mourner is comforted one way or another. For me, in transit and alone with nothing other than my thoughts to keep me company, Hashem decided to help me out. Both Miriam and David, messengers from Hashem, played a part in my life’s story. I will be forever grateful to them and all those who showed me kindness before, after and during my journey back to Israel. May Hashem repay their kindness a thousand-fold and may we see an end to death and sorrow. As the Navi says:
בִּלַּע הַמָּוֶת לָנֶצַח, וּמָחָה אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה דִּמְעָה מֵעַל כָּל-פָּנִים (“May death be eradicated forever and may G-d wipe the tears off all faces”)