Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – The Nod from G-d


Operation Inspiration

One of my favorite lines is a somewhat cynical quip from a television character. He said, (at least as it was written for him,) “If you speak to G-d, you’re religious. If He speaks to you, you’re psychotic.”

The joke is based on the fact that though many people daven to Hashem, none would be crazy enough to think He actually responds, right? And I don’t mean that He answers the prayers by making things happen that you’ve asked for, because I think most of us will agree that He does that. Those who do hear Him speak to them may have an issue that could require medical attention, or some time to sleep off whatever is affecting them. But that’s not what I’m discussing.

What I’m talking about is an actual response saying, “Yes, I heard you. I am listening and involved with your life.” We don’t even hear Hashem say “No,” or laugh when we ask to win the lottery for the umpteenth time and promise all sorts of charity if we do.

I think we’d all be in agreement that we don’t have prophets who can hear Hashem talking to them, and that we’re not likely to have a dream in which Hashem appears to us and tells us a specific message.

But does He ever send you hints? Not like you see some numbers and that’s what you buy for your lottery tickets, but something that lets you know He is there with you? I submit that He absolutely does and that if we train ourselves to see them, we’ll pick up the subtle clues that Hashem is an active part of our lives.

I’ll give you an example. A few weeks ago, I wrote about saying thank you to people. Not because you have to be polite and say it, but because you’re actually thinking of them and reflecting on the benefit you received from their actions, even if they didn’t intentionally do them for you.

I was telling someone the story of how the fellow I thanked for sponsoring a sefer called to thank me for thanking him, and suddenly, I noticed that the car in front of me had a bumper sticker from some school or college that I’d never heard of. At least, I imagine it’s an institution of higher learning because it was laid out in a way that universities do.

What was so unusual about that? The name of the school I’d not heard of before was the same as the name of the father in whose honor the book was dedicated! It struck me as a “nod from G-d,” a small gesture from Hashem that He and I are on the same page.

Speaking of being on the same page, how many times do we find that the Daf Yomi contains something relevant to what’s going on that day or week? Quite often! When we do, I’m sure many people smile with satisfaction appreciating this “coincidence,” which is anything but. It’s all part of the plan to let us know we’re in contact with Hashem.

I’ve often found connections between two different things I was learning and I take it as a loving sign that Hashem is joining in on those study sessions and shiurim. He weaves those little threads together to show me that He’s happy I’m learning. And get this one:

I was writing my weekly Parsha sheet, and chose a topic that involved the trumpets sounded when the Jews went into battle. Perhaps a slightly obscure topic, but I found a lesson in it and decided to expand on the concept. Soon afterwards, I had to pause my writing in order to pick up my daughter from an appointment.

When I got into the car, my phone connected to the stereo via Bluetooth and began playing a song. I’m not big on music; my kids control the playlists and song titles. The volume wasn’t even very high but then I looked down and noticed the name of the song playing. It was called “Hariyu,” and referred to a posuk in Tehillim (98) about blowing trumpets before Hashem,

Not only was it connected to the trumpets for blowing, but the lesson I was bringing out was precisely about the fact that it must be “before Hashem,” as Dovid HaMelech wrote!

At that moment, I felt validated. My efforts earned me a wink from my Heavenly Father; an acknowledgement that I was on the right path. Just as the bumper sticker let me know that I was right for thanking the fellow, I could feel Hashem communicating with me.

We might experience this other times, too. Like if we’re about to say something we shouldn’t and we bite our cheek inadvertently. It’s Hashem reminding us that He’s in the moment. Sometimes it’s more subtle, and it’s a phrase we overhear, or a glimpse we get of something that triggers a connection to the thoughts in our brains. But it’s there. He DOES speak to us.

No, Hashem doesn’t speak to us as He did to Moshe or even to the other Nevi’im. But don’t ever believe that He isn’t communicating with us frequently, using signs or signals that aren’t too obvious, but nevertheless remain, a distinct nod from G-d.

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