I normally do not contact news sites, but feel I have to share my story with you.
I am graduate student and work for a non-profit Jewish educational organization. One of the things I have learned working there is that my co-workers like Matzav or YWN as one of their Jewish new sources. Ever since then, I started to learn more about Matzav and YWN.
On Wednesday, February 15, 2011, Chaf Bet Shvat, I left work to catch a bus service from Port Authority to Newark International Airport so that I can spend my time earlier with my family in Miami around President’s Day Weekend. After waiting a while for the bus, to my dismay, the bus was not running on time, the waiting became longer, and there was nothing anybody could do.
By the time I finally arrived at Newark International Airport, I ran as fast as I could and asked the few people waiting in line if I can go ahead so that I will not miss my flight. The lady in front of the line was reluctant, made a grimace at me, and didn’t even show any empathy.
When I finally arrived at the front desk, one of the representatives from Continental Airlines informs me that I cannot board at this time and I will miss my connecting flight from Washington, DC, to Miami. Flustered, I asked her when the next available flight will be. After finishing helping a previous customer, she began typing on her computer and at the same time speaking to customer service on the phone for what seemed like an eternity. She kept typing feverishly, checking other cities, upgrades, continental branches and partner flights, but to no avail. She told me that there are no other available flights to Miami (or even to Ft. Lauderdale), but that I could leave tomorrow or Sunday morning. However, the booking fee, changing fee, and tax fee basically equaled a round trip ticket to Israel.
Hysterical, I explained to her that I am a student. (Moreover, I wouldn’t be able to spend my only Shabbat with my family and old friends.) Seeing how distraught I was (and the fact I was getting several stares from travelers), she told me that I should go to the ticket sales department and explain my situation to them. But she tells me that I didn’t hear it from her. I said thank you and left.
While shlepping my heavy duffle bag, feeling almost helpless, I saw a crowd of chassidim in front of the ticket sales department area. As I passed, I could not help but notice a rabbi who people were trying to speak to. I quietly asked one other rabbi on the side, “Excuse me, who is that rabbi?”
“[That’s] Rav Yitzchok Soloveitchik,” he said.
To be honest with you, I heard of his name before, but I didn’t really know who he is. I prodded further and asked, “Does he give brachos?”
The man seemed hesitant, but then he turned cautiously to another chossid, who came up to me and said, “Sure.” When the crowd became quiet and I saw Rav Soloveitchik, I said hello, told him my name and told him that I missed my flight. He smiled and said, “BARUCH HASHEM!”
One person from the crowd asked me when the next flight for me will be. I said, “There is no other flight available.” I then asked Rav Soloveitchik for a bracha and he told me, “Hashem should always be with you.” I replied, “Amein,” and left. As I walked towards the ticket sales department, one chossid walked over to me holding a cell phone to his right ear and asked me for my name, my mother’s name, and my family name. After I did so, he smiled and left with the phone still held to his ear.
Okay, I told myself. Even if all does not work out, at least I got a bracha from a great rov, at Newark International Airport, in the Continental Airlines terminal, and will not leave with nothing.
When I came to the ticket sales department, I explained my story, but the representative told me that I need to speak with the agent at the other front desk and not him. I explained my situation frantically to the agent. After hesitation, she smiled, asked me for my destination and ticket number, and began typing on her computer. She then asked another agent at the front desk to help her. After a short time, they both handed me tickets for a flight to Washington, DC, departing at a different time and a ticket for a connecting flight to Miami – the one I was supposed to take – free of charge. I cannot begin to describe how I felt.
As I walked back, the same chossid who asked me for my name stopped his conversation with someone, walked to me with a huge smile on his face, and asked if I got a flight as if he knew the whole entire time! I wanted to ask who in the world he spoke to on the phone, but decided that it would be best if I kept quiet.
I expressed my gratitude, tried to control my emotions, and walked to a different front desk to express my gratitude to the lady who suggested to me about the ticket sales. When I told her my story and showed her my tickets, she was ecstatic and took my tickets to double check if I will be on standby. As she was searching on her computer, her eyes widened. She then asked me, “How in the world did you manage to get a seat?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“There are 5 people waiting to get a seat,” she replied, “and 6 people on standby. I guess there was an opening at the last minute.”
Before she handed me my tickets back, she looked back at them one last time to make sure her eyes were seeing correctly.
I would like to thank Hashem, Rav Soloveitchik, the kind shliach, and the crowd of chassidim who were so nice to me. If any of you who were there that day, please tell Rav Soloveitchik thank you from me!