Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Randomness versus God's plan?

It is funny who you will meet in unusual places. There I am coming out of the Chicago Ohare airport. Tomorrow I shall officiate at the funeral of a beloved friend from Sacramento. The family has kindly provided me a cab to take me to the hotel. Phil, the cab driver, is a friendly and articulate man. He knows I am a rabbi and is respectful. We begin a conversation heading through the Dan Ryan on a cold but clear Chicago winter night.
It turns out Phil has been driving cabs for 38 years. He gives me his analysis of the economy assuring me that the economy is doing great. According to Phil the companies are doing great but now they need to start hiring. The second issue is housing and Phil proceeds to give his analysis of the home foreclosure issue.
Now that we have finished those issues Phil, a nice Jewish guy, turns out to be a member of a local reform congregation. Of course I know his Rabbi quite well. We start talking about the congregation and prior clergy who have served his congregation. As we talk the cell phone rings and he is coordinating other cab pick-ups at the airport. This guy is a real entrepreneur wearing a pony tail and a beret.
I said to him, “What are the chances that I should have a reform Jewish cab driver pick me up at O’Hare airport?” Then he explained to me that someone, maybe a friend of the grieving family, asked their friend who works in a local congregation to call a cab driver to pick me up. I could not have asked for a better welcome to Chicago! Such connections we experience each day!
I am sure we could all tell plenty of stories just like this one. Is there something about the randomness of these kinds of encounters that is so intriguing?  We like to think each day that we are in control of our lives. Then so often something happens whither it is a coincidence, a moment of insight or just a fortuitous meeting that practically teases us into thinking that there is a something behind these kinds of events.  Jews will say something like this was an incident of B’shert or God ordained moment of divine intervention.
Trust me I understand that going down this road evokes the negative side of this issue such as when bad things happen to good people. I am not going further in this line of thinking on such a deep and sensitive philosophical issue. But there is something inside many of us that defies the logic of a philosopher. We are emotional and despite our rational mindset, humans tend to speculate about divine providence when peculiar things happen like what I experienced tonight. The things we sense as more than coincidence but cannot explain in a rational way make for the great stories in life.


Jack said...

there have been a number of times in my life where events occur that are unexplainable/even mystical. They seem to be at times of difficulty, but that's probably because I am more aware of such changes at those times in the journey thru life.

Rabbi Arthur Segal said...

Shalom Rebbe Brad et. al:

I have been teaching for a while that there are no coincidences, only G!d-incidences. When we decide to put our lives and will into Ha Shem's hands (where they always were anyway, but we scoff too much to admit it...and i was a scoffer and hence ''there'' for most of my life), we realize that G!D does for us, what we could not do for ourselves, no matter how much our connections or gelt or planning.

My amen to your tephila ha derek, and pray the winds off the lake in Chi-Town do not chill your wonderful neshema and warm lev. And condolences on the passing of your friend. May you and the family be comforted with all who mourn in Zion and Jerusalem.

Please call when youre back.
Shalom uvracha,
Your chaver, Arthur
Rabbi Arthur Segal

Rabbi Brad L. Bloom said...

Thanks for your comment Jack. That is an interesting and probably not uncommon experience. We are all taken back by the unpredictability of these moments. Right? Handling is part of the skill that life experience teaches. right?