Hocking Hills State Park. Home to beautiful scenery, zip lines, horseback riding, canoeing, and Old Man’s Cave hiking. Not many Jews out there, unless they’re visiting.
My family and I rented a house in the area to get in the last few licks of summer before school resumed. We let ourselves into the cabin amidst my kids’ urgent questions, such as, ”Where am I sleeping?”, “When is dinner?” and most importantly, “What’s the WiFi password?”
We got settled. Lots of fake bears here and kitschy slogans like, “What happens in the cabin stays in the cabin.”
Then we found it. My son did, to be exact. A yarmulke. Under the couch.
Is it yours? we asked my husband and sons. But it was not. Whose could it be? Was it possible that another kippah-clad family had rented this very cabin deep in Logan, Ohio??
It kinda made sense. It was a spacious cabin with plenty of beds. Another large family would have been attracted to the spot. But still, it felt like kismet.
In the morning, we stepped outside to pray. The cabin stood on 20 acres, and in the back there was a beautiful, peaceful spot where a tree had fallen, creating a natural meditation spot sorrounded by towering trees and birds. There we prayed the Hebrew words that have been said by Jews for thousands of years, in thousands of remote spots all over the world.
As we were getting ready to leave, the owner of the cabin and his daughter-in-law came to clean up the place. (Did I mention that “running late” is synonymous with “family vacation”?)
We got to chatting. He was curious as to why we’d brought our own toaster oven. His T-shirt suggested that he was a religious man, and indeed, he said, “I’ve always been curious about kosher. What are the rules?” Little did he know he’d hit the Jewish jackpot, asking a rabbi-in-disguise married to a professional Jewish educator. We talked a bit about kosher. About Israel. About how he always wanted to travel there, to experience all the history. And then it was time for us to go.
Jewish mysticism teaches that the universe is filled with “nitzotzos”—sparks of holiness. It is the job of every Jew to collect those sparks and gather them in. When we find ourselves in locales that are far from Jewish hubs, we can act with holiness and thus pull the sparks from their dormancy.
That another Jewish family had stayed in our cabin meant the sparks of holiness had been roused and activated. That our Christian host wanted to learn about kosher and Israel, giving us the opportunity to share what we’d been privileged to learn and hopefully be a light unto the nations (tardiness notwithstanding), meant the sparks of holiness were alive and well out in this spot in Logan. That our little private spot out in the woods was the perfect place to pray signaled that there were sparks here, just waiting for us to light them up.
Because everything is meant to be.
Also, if anyone lost a yarmulke out in Hocking Hills, just let me know—I think I can help.