My husband and I were driving back home after services on Yom Kippur Eve.
I was trying not to quarrel with him, what with the solemnity of the night and all — but it wasn’t easy.
“I’m telling you, I just don’t want to take this car into Brooklyn for your family’s break-fast tomorrow,” I told him.
“Why not? You agree with me that it’s the better car for city driving.”
“I used to agree, until that indicator light showed up on the dashboard.”
“What indicator light?”
“That one right there — with the oil can and the exclamation mark!”
“Oh, they’re exaggerating. It’s not serious. We’ve got another hundred miles before I need to do anything about it.”
“You keep saying that, but tomorrow we’re going to be stuck in traffic on the BQE, up in the air, not an exit in sight — and I know that’s when the engine’s going to give out. I’m not going at all if you insist on this car. I don’t know why you couldn’t just change the oil already!”
“You’re just cranky because you’re hungry, Judy.”
“Of course I’m cranky! It’s Yom Kippur! Why are we fasting, anyway? It’s a terrible idea!
Have I ever, once, been a better person when I was hungry?”
“You make a good point,” said my husband; and he turned off the road home, stopping the car directly in front of the local diner. “What should I get you?”
“Whatever you want. I can’t think straight enough even to order; I’ll just stay in the car.”
I decided to distract myself by thinking about the rabbi’s sermon. She had pointed out that, in the High Holy Days’ Torah portion, Abraham is about to slaughter his son, Isaac (at God’s behest) until “angels of the Lord” show up at the very last minute to stop him.
“They are there to stop Abraham from making a terrible mistake,” the Rabbi told us. “Imagine, what if angels showed up in our lives, stopping us before we made terrible mistakes?”
History would sure look different, I thought. A little closer to home, I would never have eaten that food-cart hot dog that torpedoed an entire weekend in the 1980’s.
Indeed, that entire decade could have used a little more scrutiny. The frizzy hair, the shoulder pads — What were we thinking?
And I never would have worn those fancy stiletto heels — at least, not to that party in the Hamptons garden where the paving stones were exactly one stiletto-heel’s-width apart. I spent all night sinking into and then wrenching my feet out of the ground. Where were my angels then?
Ouch, stiletto heels! My feet hurt just thinking about them. Or maybe the problem was my high-holy-day shoes, which weren’t much better.
Just then, my husband gets back in the car with his purchase, and turns the key. There’s a click, and then nothing. Click-nothing, again.
The battery has died.
“That’s great — just great!” I say. “How are we going to explain that our car died, going home from services, in front of the diner?”
“It could be worse,” says my husband.
“How could it be worse?”
“You could be a Rabbi, having to explain all that.”
I laugh in spite of myself. It reminded me of the joke about the assistant rabbi who decides to play hooky on Yom Kippur, and takes himself for a round of golf instead of attending his synagogue’s services.
An angel spots him, however, and rats him out to God. “I’ll handle this,” says the Holy One, Blessed be He.
Next thing you know, the Rabbi has hit a hole in one.
The little angel is outraged! “You said you’d take care of that guy, and instead you give him the best golf day of his life?”
“Think about it,” says God. “Who’s he gonna tell?”
So okay, I’m not a rabbi. I’m still cranky, though.
Eventually, we called the AAA; they came and got us started; we left the car at our local garage, and got dropped off at home in time to have soup, at least, for a nightcap.
Here’s the surprising part. In the morning, when the garage folks came in, they saw our car, and fixed not just the battery, but the oil, too.
In other words, it was finally fit for the drive to Brooklyn…and all because the battery died!
It’s enough to make a cynic believe in angels. Almost.