A25. Guided through Life

During the summer prior to medical school I met with the Cantor at my parents’ synagogue and asked him to help me to continue to learn how to chant from the Torah.  While in medical school I joined the University’s Jewish organization and began to read regularly from the Bible.


As a resident in pediatrics I did not have time to attend synagogue because of our intensive schedule.  (In those days, we spent 80+ hours a week in the hospital.  While on the pediatric surgical rotation for 2 months, I spent 120+ hours a week there.  They called us residents because we mostly resided in the hospital!)  However, by the time I entered fellowship training as a pediatric pulmonologist, I had some time for my personal life, and started reading for the synagogue in Boston.  Also, I began preparing students to become Bar and Bat Mitzvah as I enjoyed mentoring and counseling youngsters, which later morphed into my hypnosis practice!


During my third year of tutoring, word had gotten out that I was available as a Jewish educator, and I branched out to teaching children even after they became Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  I even traveled 20 minutes by the Boston T trains to meet with a class of three students at one the student’s homes.


When I moved to Philadelphia for my first job following fellowship I bought my first house. I did not have a car, and therefore, first identified a synagogue and then found my house a block away.  Soon after moving into my new house, I went to synagogue and asked if I could help teach Bar Mitzvah students there.  I was told by the Rabbi that they already had a Bar Mitzvah teacher.   However, they would be happy to have me read from the Torah, which is an uncommon skill.


Two months later, at the beginning of the Jewish New Year, I was approached by a gentleman member of the synagogue, who had heard me read from the Torah.  He asked if I had somewhere to go for the meal on the evening before Yom Kippur.  When I indicated that I did not know anyone in town, he invited me to his home to join his family, and I accepted gladly.


That evening, exactly 13 years after the pivotal day of my spiritual growth at La Jolla shores, I met my future wife, Hannah, who was the daughter of the gentleman who had invited me to dinner.  We suspect that he was trying to set us up.  And if so, we are forever grateful. 


I guess I must have made a good impression on my future wife’s family, because my wife, her sister, and her mother all invited me to return to join the family for the breaking of the fast meal after Yom Kippur.


On our second date I told Hannah that I did not know who I was going to marry, or the year of my marriage, but that I knew the date of the wedding.  I told her it was going to take place on the first Tuesday of the Jewish month of Elul.  Why?  I had figured out the date over the years as I studied Judaism.  Elul is an acronym in Hebrew for a verse from the Song of Songs:  “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”  Thus, it is the lovers’ month.  Tuesday, because on that day when G-d created the heavens and the Earth, He said it was good twice.   So, this is considered a very good day for a wedding.  And first Tuesday because, “Why wait?”


Hannah later told me that she thought I was arrogant for making such plans, but 6 months later when we became engaged, we looked up the calendar and found that in 1990, the first Tuesday in Elul fell on August 28.  And that became our wedding date (which was made easier because one of our friends was being married on Sunday, August 26, which was a more “sensible” day to have a wedding.)


Several months later, we were fortunate to be expecting our first son, whose due date was Labor Day.  Cute date for a birth, but I found out that all of Hannah’s mother’s children were born early, so it made sense that our son would be born early.  I became convinced that he would be born on August 28, and even bet on it!  Indeed, Joshua became our first anniversary gift!  I felt the fact that my first child was born on our first anniversary represented a divine affirmation of the choice of date for our marriage.


When we moved to Syracuse, we checked out a couple of the synagogues.  When we came to Adath it became crystal clear that this was the synagogue for us because our Rabbi’s son needed a pediatric pulmonologist, which is my field of medical expertise.  Of course, I believe this was a guided choice!


When Joshua turned 13, the Saturday of his Bar Mitzvah turned out to fall on August 28, coincidentally enough, and which became yet another anniversary gift!  Joshua began talking about the special nature of August 28 in his life, and always considered it to be a blessed day.


Until August 28, 2013, when Joshua was driving his brand new car to meet the rest of the family for an anniversary/birthday celebration, and got into his first traffic accident.  His car was very damaged and the air bags deployed.  Fortunately, Joshua was unharmed.  He lamented to me later that night, “I always thought August 28 was a special day, and yet this is the day I got into an awful accident.”


I responded, “Things are not always as they seem at first glance!”  He was puzzled.  I continued, “August 28 remains your lucky day.  Today, your life may have been spared.  Or perhaps, now you will drive much more carefully, and a future accident will be avoided as a result of your experience.”


My second child, Rebecca, was due to be born in late May.  Like with Josh, I thought she would be born earlier, on a significant day in our family’s life, and therefore got it into my mind that she would be born on my birthday, May 9.  However, Rebecca surprised us by being born 6 days earlier.  At the time I thought that there was no pattern of universal guidance evident in her birth date.  However, 13 years later, when it came time to schedule the date of her Bat Mitzvah ceremony, it was scheduled 13 days after her birthday.  This was an identical pattern as with my own Bar Mitzvah that occurred 13 days after my birthday.  Almost predictably, the Torah portion pre-assigned for the week of her Bat Mitzvah was the same one as my own Bar Mitzvah portion.

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A23. Return of a Friend

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