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The Rebbe Shining Through
By Elie Estrin

Baruch Hashem, things were proceeding smoothly as the entire family was getting ready for the wedding of my eldest sister, C.R. As this was the first frum wedding in my family since my parents were married 26 years ago, we had many plans, some of them decidedly very “shticky.” My younger brother, Sholom Ber, was interested in buying fireworks (!) to make things a bit more interesting for the not-yet-religious people in the crowd. In Pennsylvania it is illegal to sell fireworks, so we had to travel an hour to Youngstown, Ohio to buy them. The small quirks of hashgacha pratis on the trip were apparent immediately when, at first, I couldn’t find the keys to our car. I noticed the cell-phone, and decided to take it.

As we left home, I noticed that my car had a strong pull to the right. Since I hadn’t been home in six months I figured something was wrong that I did not know about, so I asked Sholom Ber if he knew what was wrong. “Oh, it’s nothing,” he replied. “Ma brought it in to the mechanics and they didn’t see anything wrong.”

Steadily, though, as we traveled the pull became worse, and when we reached Youngstown, we decided to pull over. (Interestingly enough, I was going to pull into the first driveway that I saw, but I felt a sudden urge to continue. Afterwards I realized that first driveway was made of gravel, and it is very dangerous to jack up a car on gravel!) By this time we had realized that the problem was a flat tire, and we quickly called home to report in.

“The spare tire in the car is a donut [a small sized wheel]. Should we use it, or should we buy another?” I asked.

My father told us to continue. “Just be careful driving with it,” he cautioned.

Shortly after changing the tire, we arrived at the store. The owner happened to be Jewish, so we spoke to him a little about Yiddishkeit. For some strange reason, we did not end up buying any explosive fireworks, just sparklers and poppers and the like.

After leaving the store we got back on to the highway, keeping in mind the rule not to drive faster than 50 mph with this tire. We kept our hazard lights on as a warning to other cars, and drove steadily on cruise at 47 mph for about an hour and a quarter. We had just passed the “Pittsburgh, 2 miles” sign when I noticed something big and white in my rear view mirror. Alarmed, I swung into the break-down lane to let the eighteen-wheeler, which was bearing down on to me, get by. But just as I swung to the right, he smashed into the left rear of my car. Despite full pressure on my brakes the car went off the side of the road. From the force of the truck and the downhill incline, the car sped down uncontrollably, flipped over sideways, bounced off a ditch, and landed on its roof.

As we flew, Sholom Ber yelled out “Shma…!” and I just gripped the wheel tightly. It is here that I must thank my teachers in the Lubavitcher Yeshiva of Tzfas who filled me with a strong emuna, to such an extent that I remained calm during the entire experience, understanding that all is for the best. (Obviously, my adrenaline was racing and I was in shock, but I was not hysterical as one might be in such a situation.) As we landed, I quickly proclaimed a heartfelt “Yesh Elokim!” – (There is a G-d!) and “Yechi.” Sholom Ber and I quickly unbuckled our seatbelts and dropped to the roof. At this point, we realized miracle number one – neither of us was harmed in the slightest way! A witness came down and opened the door for us, and we crawled out of the wreck.

Now we saw a small hint as to in whose merit we were saved: The trunk was smashed from the impact of the truck in such a way that it was slightly open. Crushed inside that hole was a pamphlet of a friend’s wedding, with the picture of the Rebbe on the front cover shining through!

We sat down on the grass to wait for the police and the medics. The medics came first. After a quick look over, they pronounced us perfectly fine. (“Boy! You were lucky!”) Then one of the medics pointed out miracle number two – not more than ten feet away from the crash site lay a gas line. “If this ditch hadn’t stopped you…!” Everyone there agreed that this was an outright miracle. As we waited, and after passing out “Good Cards” to the various bystanders, we realized a few more miracles. Beyond the gas line were a few houses, with eight or nine children playing in the yard just a few feet away from us. We were also “lucky” that I happened to see the truck the second before he hit us, and had enough time to turn. And what would have happened if we had explosive fireworks in the car? Not only that, but the way we bounced off the ditch, our gas tank was vulnerable (and in fact, that side of the car was dented along its length, reaching until the gas tank) – but, again, nothing.

In the meantime I called home to report the little episode. (Again, thank Heavens for the cell-phone!) My parents quickly borrowed our neighbor’s car and drove over to the nearest tollbooth to wait for us. When we arrived, my mother soberly told us the second part of the story – when we called in to report the flat tire, she became inexplicably nervous, and decided to write in to the Rebbe for a bracha that we should get home safely! When we arrived at home, I opened the letter to see what the Rebbe had answered. The letter, in vol. 21, was a letter to a person who had spent time with children who do not have a connection to a Jewish educational institute. The Rebbe requests of him to continue this connection in the future, and ends off, “Bi’vracha le’brius ha’nechona” – With blessing for proper health. I should point out that I had just returned from Yalta, Ukraine, where I had spent the summer in an overnight camp with 75 children. For at least 85% of them, that was their first Jewish experience, and only a handful had a connection to Jewish education.

A week later, we passed the site again. Sholom Ber noticed another interesting fact – the crash site was the only open clearing in a few miles, conveniently located next to an emergency stopping area, in other words, the “safest” crash site possible in the area!

It is also worthwhile pointing out that I had placed a Chitas in the car the day before the accident. We had, unfortunately, forgotten to say “Tefilas Haderech” on the trip. Oops.



I noticed something big and white in my rear view mirror. Alarmed, I swung into the break-down lane to let the eighteen-wheeler get by.



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