A few weeks ago, I mentioned our guinea pig Oreo, who needed to take medication for a heart condition. Unfortunately, about seven months after Chestnut passed away on a Shabbos, Oreo passed away this past Shabbos, even though he seemed to be getting better. I followed the same routine as when Chestnut died. I buried him the next day and went to the animal shelter in Brooklyn and obtained a new guinea pig whom we are calling Slinky (I had nothing to do with naming him). Now there is the one-week period when they stay cage by cage until they get used to each other. The next step is to introduce them in a neutral area. Hopefully, it will work out and they will get along.

Now to my main article. There are individuals who look at life as a series of random acts or mere coincidences. As Orthodox Jews, we understand that nothing is random or by chance. The hard part is seeing the hand of G-d in everyday events and why it turned out that way. I will give three examples, two of which happened during Pesach and the third on the Shabbos after Pesach. The first might seem trivial. I was riding my bike in Flushing Meadows Park and then by the Flushing Marina. The place was packed with many Chassidic families. Most of them were in the park by the Queens Zoo. While riding my bike by the marina, I saw a Chassidic family taking a picture of their children. After I passed them, I rode to the end of the path and then turned back. While passing them a second time I saw the mother taking the picture of her husband and the children. I was not exactly wearing Chassidic garb while I was riding. I passed by and said “Good Moed,” and then asked if they wanted me to take a family picture, which they agreed to.

The second story involves me walking past Vleigh Place Park on the eighth day of Pesach. I saw a boy who appeared to be about four years old climb over the fence onto the sidewalk on Main Street. Meanwhile, his mother, who had other children with her, was trying to locate him. I got her attention. The boy was unable to get back over the fence. He also had no idea how to get back into the park. I ended up leading him to the entrance.  Normally I would not have been at the location at that time. There was a combination of factors that led me to be there at that time. First, since we were unable to have a hashkamah minyan on the seventh day of Pesach, we cancelled the minyan for the eighth day. As a result, I davened at the early minyan at the Young Israel of Queens Valley. After we finished, I stopped for a couple of minutes to speak with Izzo Zwiren, who was staying with his parents in Queens for Yom Tov.

Concerning the first story, if I had not been there, there would not have been a family photo taken. Maybe if I had not been there when the young boy jumped the fence, nothing bad would have happened anyway. Nevertheless, I was put in the position to do a chesed. In both instances I took the initiative. If we have the mindset that we are put in situation for a reason, we may be more proactive instead of wondering why I should get involved.

The final story involves reading the Torah on Shabbos Parshas Shemini, April 15. The last time I read the Torah was at my first go around as gabbai for the CAY hashkamah minyan more than 20 years ago. It was on the eighth day of Pesach. I wanted to be an example that if necessary, people should volunteer to lain, so I read the short, easy parshah. It was not a perfect job, but I thought I did okay, until someone said to me that they had to go to another shul because they did not fulfill the obligation to hear the Torah reading. That was my sign that maybe I should leave it to those who are more capable. Then came Parshas Shemini. Our regular baal korei was in Israel. The backups were also away. I asked the backups if they knew of anyone who could lain. I made an announcement at the minyan on the first days of Pesach. I reached out to other people who can read the Torah asking if they would do it or knew someone to do it. No luck. I had no choice but try to do it myself. One of the members in the minyan first said he would read one aliyah, the longest and hardest one, and then he said he would do another one, which was the second longest and hardest. I had spent some time preparing one of those aliyahs. I spent hours preparing for my share of the laining. When I was practicing, it may not have been perfect. However, I was making at most a couple of mistakes per aliyah. Then came the big day. Per request of my fellow Torah reader, I asked guests if they knew the laining. One of them knew how to lain but he had not prepared the entire parshah. He said he could do the first Aliyah, which I was supposed to do. I let him do it. He did a perfect job. Then came me. It started well enough but went downhill fast. After I finished, I spoke with someone present at the minyan who mentioned that he has a family member who knows how to lain and has done it for years.

I learned a few things. One, I have not gotten any better with age. Second, confidence is a key factor. When you lack confidence, you become nervous and it starts to snowball. Third, and most importantly, I realized that my being forced into reading the Torah was not mere coincidence. I could be upset that I was forced into having to do something that I knew was not going to end up going too well. It made no sense based on how things normally worked that I was in this predicament.  So many things had to happen for this to occur. No matter what I did it led to this result. The message I received is that I had taken those who lain regularly for granted. I did not appreciate the time and effort involved until I was put into the same position. I also may have been spoiled by the quality of the laining so when a few mistakes were made by someone, I was critical in my mind about the quality of the laining.

The bottom line is that we need to look at events in life not as mere coincidences or random occurrences, and try to appreciate why they happen and when it’s necessary to act on them. 

Warren S. Hecht is a local attorney. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.