By Ruby Ginsberg
My son had a Rebbe in first grade who used to tell the boys â€œYou do your best and Hashem will do the restâ€. At no time has this credo been more meaningful to my family and me than on one summer night three years ago.
With the kids back from sleep away camp, we were getting set for a family vacation to Montreal. Aside from fun and family togetherness, a good family trip should have its chinuch aspect as well. Towards that, we took upon ourselves, as best as we could, the challenge to daven three times a day with a minyan while on the road. Together with finding accommodations and attractions along the way, our planning included mapping out the minyanim across our route.
And so, on day 1 we headed north, and after spending the afternoon at Howe Caverns, we made sure to arrive in Albany shortly before sunset to catch mincha and maariv. And on day 2 after shachris, we drove through the Adirondacks. After marveling at Hashemâ€™s wonders at Ausable Chasm (â€œThe Grand Canyon of the Eastâ€) we made sure to arrive in Montreal in time for mincha and maariv. Once in Montreal, with its vibrant Jewish community, davening with a minyan was not difficult.
For Shabbos, we found a chalet in Mont-Tremblant, an hour north of Montreal, in what was somewhat similar to the bungalow colonies of the Catskills. Yeshiva had already started for the children of Montreal, so we barely had a minyan, but a minyan nonetheless. The upside of that was that everyone packed out on Sunday morning, leaving our family with a private lake for swimming and boating. You donâ€™t give up something as rare as that so easily, so we stayed well into the afternoon. We packed up and headed back into Montreal for an â€œearlyâ€ 6:00 P.M. mincha. And then we were faced with a dilemma.
The first maariv in town was at 8:00 P.M. If we were to wait, then we would complete the 6.5-hour drive to Queens close to 3:00 A.M. One of our sons had his first day of Yeshiva the next day, and subjecting him to that was just too irresponsible, even for me. So we set out for home at 6:15.
I immediately started making maariv calculations. Albany? We get there close to 10:00 P.M.– too late. Queens? After 12:30 A.M. — too late. Not looking good. Somberly, I informed my wife that we were about to lose our perfect streak. Her response is the hallmark of the akeres habayis: â€œThere is no wayâ€, she replied â€œthat you are going to miss the last tefilah bâ€™tzibur after missing not a single one till now. Figure something out.â€ Whoa.
So I thought for a while until it occurred to me that Monroe/Kiryas Yoel was somewhere near Thruway exit 16, which we would pass around 11:30. I had never been there before, and I certainly donâ€™t know their minyan schedule, but the Satmar community must have a minyan factory that operates well past midnight, right? A bit short on the details, but a plan was in formation.
10:30 P.M. New Baltimore rest area. Time for a rest stop. As we waited for the ladies to finish powdering their noses, I noticed a chassidishe fellow standing by himself. Great! A chance to flesh out The Plan.
â€œSholom Aleichem. Are you from Monroe?â€
â€œWould I find a minyan there in about an hour or so?â€
â€œSure. Even later. Youâ€™re looking for a minyan? Thereâ€™s a heimishe oilam here. We could probably pull one together now.â€
HERE??? In Yennemsville, N.Y??? At 10:30 at night? How could that be??? But sure, enough, within minutes a minyan had gathered, and we davened tfillah bâ€™tzibur in the corner of the parking lot in New Baltimore, N.Y.
The joy that I felt davening that maariv under the stars, completing our perfect streak, is indescribable, and something that I will remember for the rest of my life. Hashem had sent us a gift. He delivered us a minyan. We had tried our very best. And Hashem did the rest.