It happened shortly after 8 on a summer Sunday morning. I was driving on a rural section of Interstate 75 in Northern Michigan on my way to Mackinac Island to officiate at a wedding. I had left home at 5 a.m. for the four-and-a-half-hour trip, allowing extra time so that I wouldn’t feel so rushed to make my 12:30 p.m. ferry reservation. The extra time was especially important as this was my first lengthy drive since recovering from a rather significant surgery six weeks before.
The drive started out perfectly. I was singing along with the radio, thinking about the d’var Torah I had written for the wedding when I suddenly heard a noise. It concerned me but I put it out of my mind quickly. Then, a few minutes later, the car started bumping fiercely so I pulled over to look. It wasn’t a flat tire. It was a blowout.
So, there I was. In the best of circumstances, I’m not a good tire changer. But, with strict orders from my surgeon not to lift anything heavy, there was no way in the world I could do it.
I reached for my cell phone. “No service”.
Worst-case scenarios came easily into my mind: missing the ferry, leaving the couple standing alone at the chuppah with no way to let people know why the rabbi didn’t show.
I have never felt so helpless as I stood on the side of the desolate road almost in tears.
A moment later, I looked up, and out of the morning fog, I saw that a car had pulled over. It was odd that I hadn’t heard the car coming.
The driver, a man who appeared to be in his 60s, got out and asked if he could help. I explained my situation and he said: “Okay.” He took out my spare and silently changed the tire in five minutes.
I offered to pay him. He refused.
I asked him for his name and address so I could thank him properly. He would not tell me his name, simply saying: “I’m glad I could help.”
He drove off into the fog as quickly as he had arrived.
I made it to the wedding with time to spare.
I have thought about him often.
Or perhaps an intercession from those who look down on us.
Quite frankly, that is the explanation I prefer.
Rabbi Rob Dobrusin is Rabbi Emeritus of Beth Israel Congregation, Ann Arbor, Michigan where he served as rabbi for 30 years. He was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1982. An animal lover, he volunteers at the Toledo Zoo and at the local Humane Society. He continues to teach, writes a blog on his website at robdobrusin.com and has a podcast: wrestlinganddreaming.podbean.com. Rabbi Dobrusin and his wife Ellen live in Ann Arbor and are the parents of two adult children.