It’s fascinating how something can be so exciting for one person and so anxiety-provoking and upsetting to another person.
During the winter last year, I had the good fortune to spend a week in Eretz Yisrael, visiting our son Shalom who was/is learning there. For most of my trip, the weather was very pleasant, particularly for a New Yorker in January.
Then I started hearing murmurings about snow forecasted for Yerushalayim. Still, I was reassured that even if it did snow in Yerushalayim, it would likely be gone by late morning the following day.
I was slated to return home on the Thursday night red-eye and arrive in New York early Friday morning.
On Wednesday night, I heard gleeful shouts of “Sheleg! Sheleg!” from outside my window. For the next few hours, there were endless sounds of giggling and carrying on.
When I woke up on Thursday morning, I was stunned to see that the city was blanketed under five or six inches of snow. I hadn’t thought to bring boots with me on my trip, so I trudged through the mostly unplowed streets in my sneakers. It felt like I was walking through snow in slippers.
As I walked home from shul, I saw that the Jerusalemites were having a great time. There were mini-snowmen everywhere, and children (and adults) were having major snowball fights on the still empty roads. Because it was above freezing, as soon as the snow was plowed, slushy water rushed in its place. It was a gloppy, messy, freezing mess. Transportation in the city was mostly nonexistent.
After Shacharis, as soon as I arrived home from shul, I began calling taxi services. It wasn’t just a matter of getting to the airport. I first had to get to the vicinity of the central bus station to get a Covid test (remember those?), because it had to be done within 24 hours of the flight. In addition, I was sad to realize that even if I somehow was able to make it to the airport, I wouldn’t have a chance to say goodbye to Shalom in person.
The first three taxi companies I called told me in no uncertain terms that they weren’t running at all. I was becoming despondent. I found one more number to a taxi service, and they told me they could send someone to pick me up and bring me to the central bus station. It was a small miracle. As soon as I exited the cab near the central bus station, a crowd of people jumped in front to try to hail it.
So, there I was, almost knee deep in despondency and wet snow, freezing and soaking, when my phone rang. It was my friend from camp, Reb Chaim Itzkowitz. I had spoken to Chaim a few days earlier, and he told me that he was also going to be visiting Yerushalayim that week and perhaps we would meet. But we were both busy and hadn’t touched base.
When I answered, Chaim jovially asked me what I was doing that day. I replied that I was spending the day having heart palpitations trying to figure out how I can possibly make my flight, and not get stuck in Yerushalayim for Shabbos.
Chaim replied that he was thinking of going to Bnei Brak anyway and would be able to drive me if I wanted. He had rented a car and was driving around anyway. I almost dropped the phone. Here was Elijah the Prophet himself coming to drive me. Still, I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to see Shalom in Talpiyot, which is located on the other end of Yerushalayim.
But then Chaim told me that he was actually in Talpiyot, taking some of the boys from camp out for lunch, including Shalom Staum. He told me to hail a cab and meet them at the pizza shop in Talpiyot and he would take me from there.
I got my Covid test, finally caught a taxi, and enjoyed lunch together.
On the way out, I grabbed my stuff, and we headed off to Bnei Brak. As soon as we were beyond the hills of Yerushalayim, there was no trace of snow.
In Bnei Brak, we were able to procure a meeting with Rabbi Moshe Hillel Hirsch and receive a brachah from Rabbi Dov Landau. (We were outside Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky’s home, but he wasn’t feeling well, and we weren’t able to see him. Sadly, he passed away on Purim a few weeks later.)
After going out to eat together in Bnei Brak, Chaim drove me to the airport before he headed back to Yerushalayim with Shalom.
That day is a reminder to me how quickly things can change. What began as an almost impossible situation, ended up being one of the most memorable parts of my trip. That morning, the most I hoped for was to make my flight, even without saying goodbye to Shalom. In the end, not only did I comfortably make my flight, but I was also able to have a particularly enjoyable afternoon, including receiving brachos from two g’dolim.
Sometimes, we find ourselves in challenging situations, and we cannot imagine how things can improve. My experience that day reminds me that things can improve on a dime if G-d so wills.
Although more often than not, we won’t have such instantaneous turnabouts, we can always maintain hope.
I do have to conclude by sharing that on that Shabbos there was a major snowstorm in the New York area. It’s a good thing I made it back in time to catch it.