Thursday, December 26, 2013

Coincidence or Fate?

Synchronicity:  the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality —used especially in the psychology of C. G. Jung
Definition according to Merriam-Webster dictionary

There is an age-old debate regarding there such a thing as a coincidence or is it the work of fate or destiny?  Personally, I've experienced these odd, seemingly random moments in my life that have completely taken me by surprise and while a part of me has always known - since I was a young girl - that there are no such things as coincidences, it's only now, as an adult that I can fully appreciate how intricately woven our world is and the unique space that we take up in this short stretch of time that we call 'life'.  Whatever happens, it's all part of G-d's plan.

I can't tell you how many times the name of someone I know, but haven't seen in more than a decade, pops into my head for no apparent reason and then I suddenly hear from them a few days later.  Completely out of the blue.  And it happens to my husband all the time.  Most of the time, when these events happen, it doesn't really affect my life. It's like a, "wow, that was weird," moment that might have had my jaw drop for a few minutes, but once it's over, it's over.  But every once in a while, I experience a more significant occurrence that stays with me for a long time.

When I was in 4th or 5th grade, we had a young art teacher who not only taught art but was responsible for all the art displayed in the school hallways.  She was lovely, in her mid-to-late twenties and not yet married.  Bothered by the fact that she had yet to find her soulmate, she decided to take time off from teaching and went to Israel for forty days.  She had heard about a "segulah" (a spiritual remedy) for finding a mate that involved going to the Kotel (the Wailing Wall) for forty days in a row and praying to G-d for help in finding a loving partner and husband.  She returned to school after her 40-day trip and a few months went by, but nothing happened.  Most of you would not be surprised by this as you're thinking that this 'forty-day-Kotel-hopping-mumbo-jumbo' is nothing but an old wives tale.  Anyways, within six months, she met someone and the two fell head over heels in love with each other.  One night, shortly after their engagement, she was showing her fiancée her photo albums.  In one of the albums were the pictures that she had taken during her trip to Israel.  On her fortieth and final "segulah" trip to the Kotel, she had asked her friend to take a picture of her so she would remember this journey of faith that she had embarked on.  She told her fiancée that she was so annoyed because once she got back to Toronto and had her film developed (no digital cameras back them...) she noticed that some random guy had walked behind her just as her friend snapped her picture.  It bothered her, she said, that this meaningful picture was ruined.  Her fiancée leaned in closer to the album and then looked at her in complete wonder.  "That's me," he said...

This story spread around our school like wildfire.  I remember standing with a bunch of friends and saying, "wow, what a coincidence!"  Our teacher overheard our conversation and she said something that stuck with me forever.  "That's not a coincidence.  That's G-d's way of telling us that He's listening."

There are not always clear answers or neat explanations to why these occurrences happen to us. But it makes you sit up straight and wonder whether one day it will all become clear.  When I visited Poland last June, I was amazed to discover that I had two ancestors buried in the same cemetery in Krakov.  What was amazing was not just that they both lived around 1640 but that they were from completely different sides of my father's family.  My great-great-great (etc.) grandfather on my grandfather's side is buried not far from my great-great-great (etc.) grandfather on my grandmother's side.  How cool is it that more than 375 years later, their two descendants married each other?  You could call it a coincidence, but I know that it's fate.  I don't know how this knowledge affects my life any differently had I not known this, but maybe it's enough that I can see G-d's hand in it.  Maybe that's the whole point.

And while I thought that was super cool, my husband and I experienced another "wow" moment just last week.  When we took our daughter to be inducted into the army, I knew there'd be no chance I'd know any of the girls going in with her.  There was a relatively small group - maybe 30 girls total - and after looking around, I knew I was right.

Well, it turns out I was wrong.  There was a family standing with their daughter and both my husband and I noticed that they were speaking English.  Once we went into the hall, I noticed the mother looking our way several times, as if she knew us.  She finally came over to us and called my husband by his name.  It took us a minute or two, but we realized that not only did we know one another, but we both had quite a history with her.  She had been on Shlichut (emissary sabbatical year) with her parents in our fair city of Toronto back when I was about 11 years old.  She, stuck in a strange city unable to speak a word of English, struck up a warm and meaningful friendship with my husband who was about 14 at the time, and while she helped him learn Hebrew, he eased her transition into the city and the community.  And if that wasn't enough, it turned out that her family were distant cousins of mine from my grandmother's side.  I actually remember having them over for dinner.  What's funny is that they now live in Modiin - just a skip and a jump from Chashmonaim - and that their daughter was inducted into the army the same exact day as my daughter.  When I spoke to my daughter the first night after she got to her base, she told me that she was in a tent with ten other girls and that this distant cousin of hers is one of her tent-mates.  These two 19 year old girls share the same great-great-great grandfather and just happen to be serving at exactly the same time, in the same base, in the same tent.  It stuns me to think about what their mutual great-great-great grandfather - Nachum Lipa Channaniah - might be thinking as he looks down on his two descendants who have bravely chosen to (unwittingly) stand side by side to protect the Jewish people and the land of Israel.  I'm not sure what this all means - for now or for the future - or whether it supposed to mean anything except what it is, but if there's one thing I do know it's this:

Coincidence?  I think not....

1 comment:

  1. Excellent, as usual!
    Coincidence that I am your mother? Not at all ;-)
    Keep writing...We are always looking forward to your next blog!