What is hashgachah pratis? Sometimes it is Hashem protecting an individual from harm in ways he never saw coming.
The life of a yungerman learning in kollel is generally one that keeps to a set schedule. Many young men learn three s’darim a day in their yeshivah or kollel and come home in between s’darim to help out around the house, watch the little ones, or just to eat a quiet meal with their wives. A regular pattern tends to develop and continues in this manner, usually until one of the holiday seasons arrives or bein ha’z’manim (vacation period) is upon them.
Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein shlita tells an incident that occurred to one yungerman learning in a Jerusalem kollel. The man’s day started out like any other, and he learned with a number of chavrusos (study partners) during the morning, afternoon, and evening s’darim. When the last seder was over, the weary young man donned his hat and jacket and began to walk home. Suddenly, a boy no more than 11 years old met him in the street and asked if he can join him in his house for a siyum. His older brother had just completed a masechta and it was quite a big simchah in the family. They were short just one man for a minyan and he asked if the kollel man could stop in for a few minutes.
The yungerman was quite tired and eager to get home to spend time with his wife and children, but the simple look of pleading on the boy’s face was too much to resist. As much as he wanted to get home, he could not disappoint this boy and his family, who apparently were making a big deal about the siyum for one reason or another. He agreed to join them.
Well, the siyum took a bit longer than he would have liked, but he was happy to complete the minyan and the family was quite appreciative. Finally, the siyum was over and the man walked out again into the night sky to make his way home This time, he hurried with an extra bounce in his step, and he was just about home, when he heard a voice call to him from an upstairs apartment. “Excuse me, please. We need one more for a minyan so an aveil (mourner) can say Kaddish. Do you mind, please, to come upstairs and join us for the minyan? It’ll only take a few short minutes and you’ll be on your way!”
The yungerman stood still, unsure of what to do. He really, really wanted to get home! Why, his wife is probably worried about him – but his silent reverie was cut short as the pleading voice called out to him once again: “Please, it is really important. Please come upstairs and complete the minyan. I know it’s late – but it will only be for a few minutes!”
How could he say no? Twice in one night, he was called in to complete a minyan. Hashem was obviously sending him these z’chuyos (merits) although he had no idea why. Good-naturedly, he trudged up the stairs and was the tenth man for the minyan in the beis aveil (mourner’s house). When Maariv was over and he paid his respects, he was once again on his way.
This time, he actually made it home. The moment he opened the door, his wife and children came running towards him, white-faced and panic-stricken. His wife looked like she’d seen a ghost, and she was so happy to see that he was all right.
“What happened?” he asked with concern, and a torrent of words came flowing out. It seems that at precisely the time he would normally walk in the door from night seder, there was a loud, insistent banging on the door. When she opened the door, three burly men burst into the house and began asking for her husband. These men were not from around these parts – in fact, they looked like tough-guy gangsters who were there to “rough up” the man of the house. They insisted on searching for him throughout the apartment, and when he was not to be found, they hustled his wife and children into the living room and forced them to sit there, terrified, while they all waited together. They claimed, the man of the house owed them money and needed to pay his debt, and as much as she tried to explain that her husband was a kollel man with very little money, and did not even own the apartment, they continued to sit and terrorize the family. Finally, after waiting for over 30 minutes, they decided that they probably had the wrong house and stormed out in search of their next victim.
“Had you come home on time,” she exclaimed, “they would have beaten you up and asked questions later!” Obviously, Hashem made sure that he would not come home when he normally did – and he even picked up a few z’chuyos to boot!