Friday, November 20, 2015

The One Less Traveled By

The goal of this blog is to turn the Shabbat table into an adventure. Please print and share.

Danny Kaye Travel QuoteA couple years ago I wrote an amazing "true" story that allegedly happened in an airport.

This week, I learned that the version I told is not entirely accurate.

In fact, the true story is even better.

Last week, someone asked me if I had ever verified the story, and I hadn't. So I decided to do so.

I was able to track down one of the actual participants.

His name is Mordechai Koval. I reached him at his home in Cleveland. Here is his story, in his own words.

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It was mid-August, 1988, a month before Rosh Hashana. I, my brother and a business partner were traveling to New York for a trade show at the Jay Javitz Center.

Because it was going to be Rosh Chodesh, we really wanted to davven in a minyan. So my brother worked out that if we took the first plane to Laguardia at seven a.m., we would arrive early enough to make a minyan and still get to the trade show early.

I'm telling you that I never oversleep. I'm usually up before my alarm. But for some reason, that day, I am lying in bed and am awakened by a knocking on the door. I'm thinking, "Who's knocking on the door in the middle of the night?"

I go to the door and it's my brother and his partner. They're ready to go and I'm in my pajamas.

What am I going to do? I still have to get dressed and get my coffee (I don't go anywhere without first having my coffee).

My brother said, "What should we do?"

I said, "You go without me, I'll see if I can catch up. There's no point in all of us missing the plane."

You know, I've never got dressed and out the door so fast in my life. Eleven minutes, including the coffee.

I also grabbed my radar detector, because I was going to need it.

It was early the morning, maybe I didn't need the radar detector. Don't the cops have anything better to do than to stop a guy trying to catch a plane? But if I was going to catch that plane, I had no choice. At one stretch of the highway, I floored it - you couldn't even see the odometer! A couple times the radar detector lit up and I slowed down, but fortunately I didn't get pulled over.

I get to the airport and am running like mad, and I caught up to my brother and his partner on the shuttle bus, totally out of breath. You should have seen the look on their faces. They were totally amazed. I was totally amazed! I don't know how I made it, I don't know why I made it, but I made it.

The flight from Cleveland to New York should take about an hour, and when we should have been landing, I could tell something was wrong.

We were not landing. We were circling.

Sure enough, the pilot came on the PA and announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen, all New York airports are fogged in. We have to land at Washington Dulles. There will be an estimated half-hour wait until we can take off again for New York.

As I said, it was Rosh Chodesh, and we needed to davven. Now, that Shabbos, Cleveland had hosted a Rebbe. The Nikolsburger Rebbe 
(also this
). It was Sunday morning, and he and his entourage were going back to New York, they were on the same plane. We counted the Jewish men on the plane.

Would you believe we had exactly 10? I said to myself, "That's why I made the plane - I made the minyan! It was meant to be."

So we went through the airport and found one of those glass rooms that was empty and we davened in there.

As we finished, this guy pops his head in. He's wearing one of those black mourning ribbons that the Reform wear during Shiva. He asks us, "Can I say Kaddish?"

"Sure," we say.

So he says it, and he's crying.

Afterwards, someone says, "Hey we're going to miss our flight." We all dash out of there. Except the Chassidim. They seem to be taking their time. Their attitude is more like, "If Hashem wants me to make the flight, I'll make the flight." Don't worry, they made the flight.

Anyway, the whole day I'm just so happy that I made the minyan.

That night, my brother says, there's a Jewish event at the New York Hilton, let's go. So we go. After that, we find there's another dinner in the same hotel, for a school for special education for chassidim.

We pay a visit there and I happen to run into a friend. When he finds out that I came on the early flight from Cleveland, he says to me, "That's an amazing story of what happened this morning!"

I'm about to ask him, "How do you know?" when he continues, "This guy Robert, just an amazing story!"

I say to him, "Who's Robert?"

It turns out Robert is the name of the mourner. After we dashed to catch the plane, he told the chassidim his story. He said that he lives in Virginia far from any Jewish community. On Saturday night (the night before), his father came to him in a dream and said to him, "Please say Kaddish for me."

In the dream, he said to his father, "But Dad, I don't live in a Jewish community, there's no minyan here."

"Robert, if I get you a minyan, will you say Kaddish?"

"Sure Dad."

He wakes up and thinks, "What a strange dream!"

"Imagine," he told the chassidim, "I'm walking through the Washington-Dulles Airport. I see all these Jews davvening. I said, OK, Dad, you got me a minyan, I'll say Kaddish."

travel quoteSo I thought that the reason I made the plane was to make a minyan. But little did I realize there was an even bigger plan at work.

God in his kindness has been ery good to me. I see the hand of God in everything. Only the Creator of the world can put things together that way. But the average person just sees randomness.

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Question for your table — What's more important, the journey or the destination?

Shabbat Shalom (and happy travels)

PS - How many days did you say it is until Hannuka? (You may need to click here too.)

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