We met in Lima, Peru. It’s the kind of meeting that could not have happened without G-d’s direct involvement. There’s just no other way to explain it!
I was studying in Buenos Aires, Argentina and had two weeks of vacation between my summer internship and the start of school, so I decided to spend one in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador and one in Peru, visiting Machu Picchu. I happened to know the Chabad Lima shaliach’s daughter and so decided to stop there for Shabbos in between the two other legs of my trip. If it hadn’t been for that friendly connection, I might never have shown up there.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Ben was one year into his initial four-year round-the-world travel plan. He stopped in Lima, planning to spend just a couple of days. While he was there, though, he found the book Garden of Emunah by Rabbi Sholom Arush. He decided to sit down and learn it, which took him a full three weeks. At the end of that three weeks, I walked in.
Rabbi Ben was sitting at a computer and I thought he was an employee, so I began to speak to him in Spanish.
“I speak English,” he said dryly. “And your accent is terrible!”
I was insulted because I thought my accent was perfect, but when he announced that he wanted to split the cab fare and accompany me into the city, I accepted. I am Jewish, after all! During the whole cab ride, he made jokes about my degree in philosophy and I decided I had to find a way to get rid of him. But although I kept disappearing into museums he didn’t want to enter, he patiently waited for me outside every one of them. We also did other “romantic” things like to visit the Museum of the Inquisition. In spite of all that, we actually ended up having a really great time together.
We didn’t see much of each other on Shabbat, but afterwards, we went to the open-air market at Miraflores, where we joked with local children. When it was time for me to go back to my hotel, he walked me back and then had me add my contact information to his “address book,” which contained the contact information of every other person he’d met in his travels (I’m guessing it contained about 250,000 names). I figured I’d never hear from him again, especially since he had a flight to Europe booked for later that week.
To my surprise, Rabbi Ben did email me, just a few days later, to tell me he canceled his flight and was still in Lima! A friend of his had gotten engaged and Rabbi Ben was staying in the Americas for a while so he could attend the wedding. Plus, the Chabad of Lima had offered him a chazzan position for the high holidays that he couldn’t refuse. I happened to have the first flight into Lima that Thursday, and the last flight out, giving me an entire day free there. As a result, we were able to spend my last day in Peru walking together in Lima and getting to know each other. Unfortunately, Rabbi Ben was still insistent on continuing with his round-the-world travel plan and I was not interested in waiting for him. We parted ways and I thought I would never see him again.
For the next two-and-a-half years, we kept in touch sporadically via phone and email. In December of 2009, Rabbi Ben was finally in the same time zone as me, so we were able to talk on the phone more. It took me two months, but I finally managed to convince him to visit me in Miami, Florida, where his grandparents also happened to be at the time. He found the perfect flight: one that got him into Miami in the morning, so he could have lunch with his grandparents, but flew out in the evening, just after having dinner with me. Then he’d fulfill his longstanding promise to visit me, but instead of staying too long, he’d end up on the beaches on Puerto Rico.
But G-d had different plans.
Rabbi Ben had accumulated quite a few air miles over the years, so he always checked his statements meticulously. However, this time, he had misread the date of their expiration. He had mixed up the day and the month, reading it European style instead of American style, and as a result, he found his air miles expired. He called the company to try to fix it and they told him the only way to do so was to take a flight of a certain distance within the next couple of weeks. A flight to Miami was just what he needed.
So he had to forego his planned “perfect” flight to Puerto Rico in favor of one that went just to Miami, but was on the right airline. Late on a Tuesday night, as I was driving home from work, Rabbi Ben called me. “I’m flying in tomorrow afternoon – can you pick me up at the airport?”
This was a huge surprise to me, since I hadn’t seriously expected him to come visit. But I was happy to see him again, so I rolled with the punches. He only planned to spend a couple of days visiting his grandparents before continuing on to Puerto Rico. But he never made it to Puerto Rico.
Instead, after only a couple of months of dating and a Pesach trip to meet his family, we got engaged. A few months later, we were married in Jerusalem, Israel, overlooking the Kotel. And now our first year has passed… It’s amazing how time flies!
G-d had to work hard to get us together, across thousands of miles and several years, but in the end, everything happens in its proper time. It is a true story of divine providence, as is every story of “how we met.” But in our case, I think G-d had to work extra hard!