Sometimes synchronicities occur like little ripples riding to shore. For example, the morning after I posted my last entry (004: "There Once Was a World"), in which I mention congregation Emanu-El B'ne Jeshurun in Milwaukee, I was about to sit down to meditate, when the phone rang. It was a telemarketer. I went back to my chair. About 10 seconds later, the phone rang again. I almost didn't answer it but decided on impulse to pick it up. To my great surprise, it was the wife of Rabbi Herbert A. Friedman, my beloved childhood rabbi, who conducted my bat mitzvah at Temple Emanu-El nearly 50 years ago (find his remarkable autobiography here). Rabbi Friedman is 89 years old now, and was not able to make the call himself, but his wife wanted to thank me for the prayer book I sent him, so she just decided to pick up the phone, which I almost didn't answer . . .
Then this morning another ripple: After Shabbat services I was walking back to the parking lot when a young man I hadn't spoken to in a long time (I'll call him Rick) was walking behind me and called out my name. He asked me how I was doing. I told him that I was thinking about this morning's Torah portion—the part when Moses balks at God's assignment to speak to the people, but God tells him to just do it and God will tell him what to say.
I told Rick that I was thinking about this because I've been doing a lot of public speaking about my book lately, and I never know exactly what I'm going to say until I say it, and even when I carefully plan a talk, I often say something entirely different. Rick said he gives talks that way, too, and then asked me what my book was about. I told him about my being estranged from my son, Adam, for more than 11 years and then finding a 19th-century prayer book, called Hours of Devotion, that contained a prayer for a mother who was missing her son. I told him that within about six weeks of finding that book, Adam was back in my life—in part, because that prayer had given me the courage to reach out to him again.
"I was estranged from my mother for more than 11 years, too—12 years, actually," Rick said.
"Really?" I replied. Ever since the book came out four months ago, many people have confided their personal stories of estrangement, but virtually all of them have been parents, or relatives of parents. This is the first time I'd encountered a young person who went through what my son did—and under very similar circumstances.
He said he would read my book. I gave him my card. Maybe we'll talk. We'll let God tell us what to say.