The Night Hashem Did the Rest

By Ruby Ginsberg

My son had a Rebbe in first grade who used to tell the boys “You do your best and Hashem will do the rest”. 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 Hashem’s wonders at Ausable Chasm (“The Grand Canyon of the East”) 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 don’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 “early” 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: “There is no way”, she replied “that you are going to miss the last tefilah b’tzibur after missing not a single one till now. Figure something out.” 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 don’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.

“Sholom Aleichem. Are you from Monroe?”


“Would I find a minyan there in about an hour or so?”

“Sure. Even later. You’re looking for a minyan? There’s a heimishe oilam here. We could probably pull one together now.”

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 b’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.

19 comments on “The Night Hashem Did the Rest

  1. I am obsessive about not missing minyan and my wife hates that. She knows I won’t go on a vacation without minyanim. In the past ~six years I’ve missed minyan only 10 times, none recently.

    I’ve asked Shailos about it but can’t make myself miss unless it’s REALLY REALLY important. One big Rav said it’s not a matter of Hashgafa but plain Halacha when you must miss. Other Rabbaim confirm you need to miss for Shalom Bayis. My wife knows that it’s not worth it for her to ask me to stay home if she needs help (or go on vacation w/o a minyan) because Shalom Bayis will be hurt by how upset/sad I’d be about missing minyan.

    I asked some FFB friends tonight at Maariv about what kind of balance did they learn growing up, when it’s ok to miss. One said his father, to his knowledge, never missing Shachris, but did miss Mincha/Maariv occasionaly, and he said that he is the same. The other guy has missed sometimes, especially for vacation. He’s been told to miss even on Shabbos but both guys said they are not comfortable missing for Shabbos.

    I used the loaded word “obsessive” at the start of the post deliberately. My wife and I joke sometimes about my obsession being OCD but I don’t have any other OCD symptoms.

    I am afraid that if I miss once without it being really-really-important then I’ll miss again and again. I acknowledge that there is a but of bragging rights in being able to say “I haven’t missed minyan in … years” — stupid I know.

    I joked with a friend who had been sick and missed Shabbos davening that I have an advantage over him: I have the Yetzer Horah helping me not miss minyan so I don’t get so sick that I can’t force myself out of bed to shul (ble ayin horah).

    So how do BTs get that balance?

  2. So we discussed this in the shiur a bit yesterday. It can get very deep. It seems that for this to have been HP the actions of the other participants of the minyan would have to have been “manipulated” in effect compromising their free will to some extent. Our Rebbe started getting into some very complex Ramchal philosophy on this issue.

    Clearly it’s important for everyone in their own to feel Hssheme’s presence. Some people are more atuned to it than others. Some people are less analytical of the circumstances.

    As an aside, here in Israel one needs much less divine assisstance to find minyanim. I got on a train from Tel Aviv yesterday about 45 minutes before sunset feeling pretty confident that there would be a mincha minyan on the train. And there was. :)

  3. One more factor which I think adds to the HP element here-when Ruby & Fanmily were on vacation and especially on their way back, they knew that the only places that might be frequented on that section of the Thruway might be other Frum Yidden in a similar situation-on their way back to NYC from a summer vacation or a simcha in Montreal. However, even assuming those facts, the percentages of a minyan being present at that time and place are not exactly promising. It is HP that a minyan was there at time and place.

  4. In the summer, you will find plenty of frum Yidden in the Harriman to Albany and beyond sections of the Thruway. AFAIK, New Baltimore has gornisht in the way of any Jewish community. Certainly, Tannersville, which is either north or south of the New Baltomore, has a thriving minyan or two during the summer.

  5. “On a practical level the Thruway is frequented by frum Jews and it’s probably not all that uncommon for minyanim to form at rest stops.”

    That is true along the Catskills-NYC corridor. I have run across minyanim at rest areas in those parts and I wouldn’t consider writing home about it. New Baltimore, however, is about 80 miles north of the corridor. That pushed it way off the “ordinary” charts for me. A few more notches up the HP-meter?

    Regarding HP and free will, the thesis of the story was that my FW choices (“do my best”) can merit HP. This is consistent with Rav Dessler’s teachings that facing a “nisayon” – standing up to tests of my free will – is from the same root as “nes” – Hashem bringing a miracle through His HP.

    As to how my HP can impact the FW of others, i.e., causing them to be at the right place for me, is a much more complex question.

  6. Menachem Lipkin asked, “Bob, How do you know that?”

    That was based on some things I read that made sense to me. I can’t prove the concept and don’t have the citations. (I read those things either because of HP, my free will, or both!)

  7. It’s a little more Hashgacha Pratisdik. :)

    But I guess my fundamental question, with due respect to Bob’s comment, still stands.

    On a practical level the Thruway is frequented by frum Jews and it’s probably not all that uncommon for minyanim to form at rest stops.

    But even if one wants to say that it was true HP that a minyan formed “out of nowhere”, the people who congregated at that spot all made individual free choice decisions to get there then and all for your benefit.

    I have no problem whatsoever with believing that Hashem is “capable” of arranging anything He wants to. My issue is more in how often we ascribe HP to events that are not all that “miraculous” or even out of the ordinary.

  8. Menachem, a minor clarification – at the time of night and along our intended route it was most UNlikely that we would find a minyan (unless we veered way off course to Boro Park, thank you Mrs. Katz for that Timely article). I did not discover a frum community; AFAIK, New Baltimore, NY has no Jewish community at all (but I leave that to Steve’s bekius in the Hudson Valley to confirm). A minyan formed at a gas station/mini-mall along a highway in the middle of no where in the middle of the night. I can’t say I know that Hashem arranged for all those Jews to be there at the same time, but it certainly felt like His hand was there playing a role.

    Does that change your question? If not, can you give an example of HP that you understand more clearly that addresses your questions?

  9. Regarding Menachem Lipkin “trying to figure out where free will ends and HP begins”:

    The real difficulty for our comprehension is that the two overlap. The selfsame event or sequence of events can reflect both, each on a different plane.

  10. AS someone who is also a minyan fanatic I truly appreciate this story. Many times I have felt the exhilaration of finding a minyan when I had just about given up hope.

    However, I’d like better to understand in this case where the Hashgacha Pratis actually comes in. Ruby was very focused on finding a minyan and it was highly likely that at some point during that trip home he was going to find one. He discovered a frum neighborhood that he didn’t know existed.

    So where exactly is the HP?

    Does the lack of knowledge of an existing frum town qualify as H.P?
    Do we say that Hashem “arranged” for Ruby to set his route and departure time?
    Do we say that Hashem arranged for this Chassid to be there to great Ruby?
    Do we say that Hashem created this town years ago just so that Ruby could happen upon it that night?
    Is HP something we really can’t objectively measure and just a term we apply when “feel” Hashem’s “hand”?

    I’m not being facetious at all. This is a major issue for me. I tend to be very analytical and am truly trying to figure out where free will ends and HP begins.

  11. Ruby ,I hear what your sayin, I didn’t realize how the minyan thing was classified. I was under the oh so erroneous impression it was one of those annoying habits that you were taught you should do or whatever.Generally I find the stuff that I understand why I’m supposed to be ignoring or not doing will somehow manage to re decorate in bling bling fashion and live an in your face existence begging for attention and to be used noticed and experienced 24/7. While stuff I’m not sure about…. sometimes that four leaf emerald studded clover starts workin its charm.

    Steve Brizel, impressive. Sullivan County knowledge thanks for the çorrection. PA has way more fun names to choose from though. Or if your feeling roadtrippy and daring Truth or Consequence New Mexico.

  12. JT-WADR, as a former resident of Sullivan County, NY, your geography is slightly off. Neversink is located between Woodbourne and Liberty off Rt.55. New Baltimore, IIRC, is off the NYS Thruway on the Hudson River side of the Catskills-a long way from Neversink.

  13. JT, the point of my story was that when you work hard and with mesirus nefesh at achieving a spiritual goal which you actually consider highly worthy, sometimes you are privileged to see Hashgacha Pratis smile upon you. My particular goal of tefillah b’tzibur clearly doesn’t speak to you – nor should it. (It was ingrained in me as a young child when my father, ob”m, would take me to shul with him at 6:00 A.M. while the rest of the world slept. The emotional connection was very special and fostered a powerful religious one, one which is extolled greatly in the Gemara). But I am sure that you, like everyone, have your own spiritual goals that speak to you, towards which you put extraordinary efforts; maybe you’ve even sensed Hashgacha Pratis at work…

    R’ Gershon, it’s been a long time. I look forward to our paths crossing again someday.

  14. Ruby, quite the corundum studded coordinating on the minyan conundrum.Your resistance to the weathering of laziness is especially impressive as is your concern for your kids emotional and spiritual health ;-). Isn’t Baltimore NY right near NeverSink NY (I always had this thing for creative town names and actually base roadtrips sometimes on cute names for shotglass collecting).
    I know what you mean though when your like tryin really hard to keep a promise your not sure is that important and suddenly for no apparent reason the pink Christmas lights start twinkling ànd there is actually a person holding them and offering to help you keep your promise even under the twinkling lights.

  15. Great mayseh Ruby. You always did the right thing. (for the folks reading this, Ruby & I were in the same class in elementary school a “few” years ago) Not surprising that your wife is made of the same stuff!

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