Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz
Know Your Place
Whenever things happen that inspire me or provide me with an interesting insight, I pull out my phone and jot them down. In the old days, people would carry a pencil and paper with them for when ideas hit, but in the modern age, it’s easier for many to use a phone.
It’s funny, because when I was a kid in school, teachers would say things like, “You need to learn math because you won’t always have a calculator with you!” Well, times have changed, and we carry so much with us, all rolled into one little device. Might as well use them to the fullest, so I do.
Be that as it may, I write my notes in a sort of shorthand. I don’t need to recall all the details, just enough to transport let back to the place in my mind when I experienced the epiphany. When I relive those moments, I can reexperience the inspiration and lesson.
So here goes: One day I was going to the bank. The bank happens to be located in a strip mall next door to a very busy supermarket and, quite often, the spots are filled with people who are going shopping at places other than the bank. Well, one day, I saw a spot maybe five spaces away. That’s pretty close, but then I saw a few motorcyclists who were parked in the second spot from the bank, and it looked like they were putting on their helmets and gear, getting ready to leave.
I waited for a few moments, then decided it wasn’t worth the wait because they were chatting amongst themselves and didn’t seem to be in a hurry to leave. I decided I would just back up and take the farther spot. However, as I put the car in reverse, suddenly the car in the closest spot, right in front of the bank and even closer than the bikers, pulled out, leaving the spot open for me! I quickly put my car into Drive and took the spot, with only one thought in my mind: Hashem is in control.
Yes, I know some people think that something as mundane as a parking spot is beneath Hashem’s paygrade, but I know He loves us and cares about us so much that He is intimately involved in every aspect of our lives. Indeed, the first of the Ani Maamins is that our Creator, Blessed be He, is the One who directs and performs every action in the world.
While it seems hard to imagine a boss doing everything in his company, that’s because a human is limited but Hashem is not. He can run the entire cosmos and still care about whether your tooth aches when you bite into a piece of gum.
I had given up on getting a parking spot very close to the bank and was about to go elsewhere. Hashem’s response was, “Not so fast! I’ve got something better in mind.” And I recognized at that moment, that despite all our understanding and reasoning, we don’t see the big picture. We can imagine that we’re smarter than everyone else in the room, and only we can see what needs to be done, but it isn’t true.
You see, you might be the smartest man or woman in the room, but Hashem is also in the room. And His understanding and knowledge eclipse anything you can think of. When people sit and pontificate about what the politicians ought to be doing, or how we ought to be handling one situation or another, they are just engaging in the daydream of superiority which is somewhat misguided.
I often joke that I’m used to being wrong – I’m married. But we should be used to being wrong because we’re human, and time after time, things don’t go the way we think they should, or the way we think they will. To be honest, most of the time, things work out better than we think they will, because Hashem’s plans are always good. We may not see how they are good, or why they are good, but they are good.
People will challenge this and ask, “How can the deaths of innocent children be good? How can the horrors that people do to each other be good?” My answer is that you’re asking the wrong person. There’s no way I can answer that for you, because I’m not Hashem and I don’t have His knowledge, wisdom, or perspective. But this much I can tell you.
When I think I’m in the best possible situation, as good or as bad as it might be, Hashem can always surprise me with something I didn’t see coming. He puts me in my place. Not the one I think I should have, but the one where I need to be. And that is all the answer I need.
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