Coincidences or higher plan? Maybe both

I hope you read about Eddie Dinkowitz’ death in this space two weeks ago, because that story leads logically to an exploration of coincidences.
Think about the house alarm that malfunctioned for no discernible reason, shocking writer Salvador Litvak out of sound sleep just hours after he prayed that the outpouring of love and blessings he had originated for this poor, lonely man would comfort his soul: “Eddie, if you are receiving these messages, please send us a sign…” Litvak’s comment: “Even if there is a rational explanation for the alarm, it’s a huge coincidence that it sounded on the same night I asked for a sign.”
Litvak says his only other major life coincidence was buying Book One of the Talmud on the very day that the Conservative movement started its first Daf Yomi cycle: reading one page of Talmud every day for 7 ½ years.
Myself — I believe that every coincidence represents a moment when God chooses to be anonymous! Example: After I had finished writing about Litvak and Eddie Dinkowitz, I turned on the TV and saw the story of an elderly man who lived alone and had fallen in his home; he was found by the person who just happened to be delivering his Meals on Wheels at the very same time.
Two coincidences here: the major one about the life-saver’s timely appearance, and the minor one about my tuning in the right channel at exactly the right time to find out about it. I have to feel that there was both intent and purpose to these happenings, that they were not random events, and not randomly connected.
Or try this: Sarah Silverman, the comedian now on the big screen with I Smile Back, tells how she found a needlepoint, worked by her late mother, with this message written on the back: “Your mama loves you,” on the day that was her mother’s first birth date after her death. “It was so random,” says Silverman. But — was it, really?
My cousin Rhea, a Barnard graduate, went back to New York from her St. Louis home for a milestone reunion. Other cousins live in New York, but Rhea said she wasn’t going to contact any family — those few days would be just for her.
Yet when she returned home, she told me, “On my third day there, I started feeling terribly guilty, so I phoned cousin Debbie. ‘I’ve been waiting for your call,’ she said. ‘I was looking out a bus window yesterday and saw you walking on Fifth Avenue.” Three elements made this “coincidence” possible: Why did Rhea decide to call Debbie rather than any other family member? Why was Debbie sitting on the side of the bus where she could spot her cousin? And indeed, what is the minuscule chance of one person spotting another, unplanned, in downtown New York — let alone someone the “spotter” didn’t even know was in town?
There are many stories about life-saving “coincidences.” Several tell of people who for one reason or another missed boarding a plane that later crashed, and several more are about people who didn’t make it to work at the World Trade Center for one reason or another on 9/11. Among the latter: the nine men gathered early in the nearby small shul that serves Orthodox businessmen, watching their watches, waiting anxiously for the 10th man who never came to make a minyan that day.
Not long before that fatal day, Fred and had I spent an afternoon on the WTC’s observation floor, enjoying its incredible 360-degree view of the whole city. Before we left, we got into one of those old take-your-own-picture booths to do just that. From a selection of appealing backgrounds, we finally chose for our souvenir the one that fixes for all time our smiling faces in front of the two tall buildings that are no more.
I believe in God — and coincidences. How about you?

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