Posted by: R Jonathan Gewirtz | January 26, 2015

If G-d Is Your Co-Pilot, Switch Seats


When sitting in traffic, or waiting in line at the grocery store, I often tell myself that it is G-d who decides how fast or slow I will move, and how long I will wait. It helps to alleviate the stress somewhat when the idiot in the car in front of me puts his right blinker on at every street for two miles, hesitates as if contemplating a turn, then continues on before ultimately turning left without signaling.

I often cajole myself by thinking, “Maybe there’s a cop waiting there and I might get a ticket,” or “Boruch HaShem, maybe if I had been at that spot a minute sooner I would have had an accident – this guy was sent to save me from that.” It works sometimes, but you have to keep telling yourself that traffic is ordained from Heaven like everything else.

This week, I was rushing home from work when a large utility truck pulled in front of me. He was going slowly and I couldn’t see anything ahead of him, so I made a decision. I had an option to go straight or turn right at the next intersection. Whichever he did, I would do the opposite. Of course, this flies in the face of my whole “pre-ordained” mantra, but I figured I could make hishtadlus, right?

Anyway, I didn’t have to make the decision as just before the intersection the utility truck turned into the school on the corner. Boruch HaShem! Free of that guy at last! I continued on and made my right turn.

As I rounded the corner, the utility truck exited the school through its other driveway, and swung into place just ahead of me. The irony of the situation struck me and I burst out laughing. “Ribono Shel Olam, that is great. You got me.” There was no way I was going to get away from this truck. I thought I had it all planned out and HaShem said, “Ahem… I don’t think so!” As I followed behind the truck, I reflected on this open display of HaShem’s control of the world, and the message He was sending me about how much control I really have.

I realized I now had a theme for my Observant Jew article. But there was a problem. The truck stayed in front of me. What was that about? As we made the next turn (together of course) I saw the truck swerve a little, as if to avoid a pothole or small woodland creature (we have many of those in Monsey.) Instinctively, I swerved too. Then I realized that I had seen nothing to cause me to swerve, I just did it because the truck did. I think that’s when I got the second part of the message. In life, like when we’ve got a big lumbering truck ahead of us, we can’t see what’s ahead and don’t know how to plan for the future. We take our cues from the world around us and try to be prepared for anything. But ultimately, HaShem is the one deciding how much we will see and how far we will get. If we have to swerve, He sends us something to make us swerve. If we are not supposed to get where we want to as fast as we want to, we won’t.

Often we forget this. We ask HaShem to give us things, thinking they will make us happy. We say “Poseach es yadechaa u’masbia l’chol chai ratzon” (You open Your hand and grant all life its desires) and expect HaShem to give us whatever we ask for. We forget that the next posuk is, “Tzaddik HaShem b’chol derachav” (G-d is righteous in all his ways.) We have to realize that when it’s not good for us, we won’t get it. If it is good for us, nothing and nobody can deflect or hold it back from us.

I often get annoyed when I hear people discussing Politics. “Bush needs to do such-and-such,” “Israel should just…” as if they have a clue about what is supposed to happen. I remember seeing that the reason whichever nation subjugates Klal Yisrael becomes a superpower is because then the leader’s actions are established by HaKadosh Boruch Hu, as the posuk says, “The heart of kings and princes are in HaShem’s hand.” That means that every action that takes place on the world stage is directed by the Ribono Shel Olam. We can’t dictate what needs to happen, we can just play our parts to the best of our ability.

So, the next time you’re tempted to pontificate about world events (other than to initiate Tehillim or learning as a z’chus,) or you’re thinking about racing to the shortest line at Wal-Mart (call it poetic license – there’s no such thing,) remember that HaShem is directing your movements and those of the players around you. Then just smile, it’s time for your close-up


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