| Encounters |

Who Stretch Their Hand

I thought I knew what her fervent tefillos were for


Our family is into puzzles these days. The mother, not so much, but the kids apparently got their father’s genes, and they pump out puzzles like I pump out kugels. I tried a few times, and was left stuck, holding a piece I was so sure went somewhere specific, but wouldn’t fit no matter how I twisted and turned. Then one of my kids took it, stared at the scene for four seconds, and clicked it easily where it belongs. Usually nowhere where I thought it went. Like I said, just not my thing.

I’ve been thinking about my lack of puzzle talent all day. How I’m so sure something belongs somewhere, so sure this is supposed to just click there….

See, Aviva got married last night. Aviva is my daughter Rena’s best friend, and over the past couple of years she’s become part of our clan. As the two last single girls from their seminary chevreh, Rena and Aviva bonded even more as time went on, and when Aviva got engaged, the excitement in our home was through the roof.

Yesterday, on the Big Day, I picked up my younger boys from school early so we could get to Brooklyn in time for the kabbalas panim. At the chuppah, they positioned themselves in the front rows — reserved for family, of course — while the girls took their seats toward the back where they could kvell, cry, and daven in privacy. I stood in the back taking in the scene, watching this beautiful kallah become Shimi’s wife.

My eyes scanned the room and fell on Rena. There she stood, hidden by a pillar, shuckling ever so slightly as she read Tehillim off a card they had given out. A few minutes in, I watched as she closed the card over her finger, and with her eyes shut tight, continued to daven.

And daven. And daven.

My own eyes filled as I watched my beautiful daughter. My breath caught, and I looked away to give her privacy. I had never seen Rena daven as hard as she seemed to be davening right then. From the moment Aviva became a kallah, Rena seamlessly slipped into her role: shopping, opining, schmoozing, listening, and shopping some more. Okay, maybe opining more than shopping, but her farginning was the stuff of storybooks — this, even though Rena is almost one year older and had been dating for two years longer than Aviva, who had waited for a sibling on top of her. In two more weeks, Rena would be 24, and she felt the heat of younger siblings not wanting to skip her. I watched her daven her heart out, and the words rushed from my own lips, as well.

“Hashem,” I begged, saying Rena’s full name. “Please, it’s time, answer her tefillos! It’s enough — she’s so ready. Please, please, just answer her, answer me, send her her yeshuah!”

I continued in this vein, in my own world, for the next 20 minutes as the chuppah continued, alternating between perakim of Tehillim and my own bakashos. By the time I heard the shouts of “Mazel Tov!” I was spent and welcomed the rush of adrenaline and pump that accompanied the whoops and hugs.


I left the wedding early with the younger kids while the older ones remained. It was after midnight when I turned in for the night, leaving my phone on vibrate as a perfunctory measure, telling the girls to text me when they got home. They laughed, saying they knew I wouldn’t see the text until the morning.

I can’t say I was thrilled when I saw Rena’s number on my caller ID at 1:35 a.m., the buzz of the vibration waking me. Really? Whatever it was, couldn’t it wait till the morning? She was wide awake in party mode — but didn’t she realize her old mom wasn’t?

Whispering so as not to wake my husband, I answered with a hushed, “What’s up?”

“Ma… Tatty’s phone… off… kind of need him… Parkway… deer… okay, but car….”

I snapped awake.

The story came tumbling out: Rena had been flying down the Garden State Parkway with three married friends in the car on their way back to Lakewood when she hit a deer.

Hit a deer.

Smack in the middle of the Parkway.

Going 80.

“The cop keeps saying how lucky we are — someone else hit a deer tonight, and the deer flipped up onto the hood and smashed the whole car… this deer actually jumped up and ran off the road, because I only hit the very back end of him. But the car’s a mess — we need to be picked up.…”


All morning, I can’t stop thinking about all the details of last night’s neis. There had been no cars anywhere around theirs when they hit the deer, but in the moments after the accident, suddenly there were cars on the road again — three frum people even stopped. But at that moment there had been no one, which meant that no cars piled up. The lane Rena had just switched into, her swerving when she saw the deer, the deer not freezing immediately before impact… these “tiny details” saved them from something big.

The moment I realized that clearly some major zechus had saved these girls, I became dizzy. The image of Rena standing behind that pillar, davening with all her heart for a solid half hour — the Tehillim, the begging, my begging, her sisters’ tefillos….

There is not a tefillah in the world, I see so clearly, which goes unanswered. Kol haposhet yad nosnim lo is not just a trite saying to give us chizuk when we feel our tefillos are going unheeded. Hashem puts our tefillos precisely where He knows we need them most. Only 18 hours before, I thought I knew exactly where our tefillos were needed, But the One Who knows best took that puzzle piece out of my hand and said, “Listen, sweetie, this is just not your thing. I know you want that tefillah to go right there, but I see the bigger picture, and I’m going to click it in where it actually belongs. Please trust Me — I got this one.”

I told you I’m not good at puzzles. I’m so grateful He is.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 886)

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