Signaling Intentions: A Lesson from the Road

While driving on a busy street in an unfamiliar part of town, I saw a car parked in front of a house. Its front end was a bit into the road with the front wheels turned sharply towards the street. As I passed, it struck me that the driver may have been trying to park, or he may have been trying to leave the spot. He didn’t have his blinker on, so I didn’t know which one it was. Had he signaled, I would have been happy to pause and let him enter traffic. But he didn’t.

The Power of Clear Intentions

Instead, he stayed where he was, possibly waiting for traffic to let up so he could get on his way, or maybe hoping there would be a break in the line of cars so he might straighten out and back into the parking spot. Why wouldn’t he have signaled by turning on his blinker so I could help him? I realized that sometimes, people don’t like to let others know their intentions. Instead, they wait for the opportune moment to make their moves unimpeded. Since no one knows what they are up to, no one can try to stop them. But there’s a flaw in their calculations.

Seeking Assistance: A Divine Perspective

True, not broadcasting your intentions keeps people from getting in your way on purpose, but it also prevents them from helping you. As I said, had the driver signaled, I would have tried to help. I would have waited to let him in, or stayed back so he could make his maneuvers to straighten out. Because he didn’t, he possibly lost out. I realized, also, that I’m not alone in my desire to help people reach their goals. No less than the Ribono Shel Olam, Himself, shares this desire. As the ultimate giver, Hashem wants to help us achieve – but we have to signal our intentions.

Desiring Guidance from Above

Chazal tell us, “In the way a person wishes to go, so is he led.” If you desire to be good, Hashem will help you to do it. If you start a project, He’ll give you the strength to continue. However, if, like my driver, it’s unclear what you really want to do, Hashem may sit back and wait, or just pass you by. You can try to do things on your own, to no avail. Just as the driver at the curb was at the mercy of the traffic flow, unable to safely do anything until the cars stopped passing, so are we not really in control of our destinies. If we think we can do things or avoid them, we’re missing the big picture. We’re forgetting about the fact that we are only part of the equation. Whatever efforts we make, are only as successful are Hashem lets them be. With so many factors able to stand in our way, our only hope is to ask for help.

Embracing Divine Assistance

We need to make our best efforts, but at the same time, ask Hashem to guide us in the right way. If we do this, then, like the helpful fellow driver I hoped to be, Hashem will give us the room to complete our desired maneuver. It’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of wisdom. So often, we like to feel in control of a situation or the things we want to do. If we rely on our wits alone, though, we may be waiting a long time for an opportunity that never arises. That’s what is written in Chovot HaLevavot, “If you rely on your intellect, wealth or strength, Hashem will step back and let you explore those avenues.” But when they don’t work out, and you realize how you can’t rely on anything but Hashem, He will be there waiting for you to signal that you want His help. There’s an added bonus as well. When you give clear signals of where you want to go, not only do those around you have the opportunity to assist in your journey, but you, yourself, have a better idea of what has to happen. By identifying where we want to go and starting to head that way, our plans gain more concrete footings. When you open yourself up to Hashem’s help and direction, He assists you. It’s sort of like when a car dies and you want to get it out of the roadway, or when it’s stuck in the snow. If you want someone to push the car, there has to be someone in the driver’s seat directing the wheels so it goes where it needs to. Otherwise, it’s wasted effort and nobody will bother. When you articulate your desires, you get to hear them like an outsider and identify whether they make sense. Deep down, you know you want to be going the way Hashem wants you to go, since He’s the one pushing, so you turn the wheel the way He instructs you to, and then you get out of the rut and back on your way. We get lots of lessons on our journey of life, and this, my friends, is just one more for the road.

By Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz

Rabbi Gewirtz (Operation Inspiration) welcomes comments and feedback. Write to him at to share your thoughts. You never know when you may be the lamp that enlightens someone else.

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