One book seemed out of place, seemed to cry out, “Help me, I’m not in my right place, I’m lost!”
When I arrived at Camp Nageela on Friday afternoon, I knew it would be an intense Shabbos because I’d been invited by an amazing organization called Chazkeinu to be part of their rabbinical support team.
Chazkeinu is a movement that connects women going through the challenges of mental illness, as being connected to others going through the same or similar challenges helps to remove the feeling of isolation and loneliness from those struggling. And although I was there to give chizuk, I received more than I gave. I met so many women who, despite seemingly hopeless situations, held on to their emunah and reclaimed their mental stability. Women who had lost their menuchas hanefesh merited having Hashem restore their tranquility after almost giving up on ever getting it back.
I was assigned to a room called the library, which contained many Jewish books, a real hodgepodge collection, all in English.
But one book seemed out of place, seemed to cry out, “Help me, I’m not in my right place, I’m lost!”
The sefer was Chayei Olam authored by the Steipler, Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky ztz”l, the father of Rav Chaim Kanievsky ztz”l.
This sefer, which is only available for sale at the former home of the Steipler and his daughter on Rechov Rashbam, glaringly stood out as being “lost.”
I opened the sefer and saw a name, Dovid Gerber, on the inside cover, along with a phone number. I rushed back to my room, excitedly telling my wife that I may have hit upon the mitzvah of hashavas aveidah.
After Shabbos, I called Dovid Gerber and left a message.
By Sunday, Dovid had responded, telling me it was indeed his long-lost sefer.
Camp Nageela, as it was doing this Shabbos for Chazkeinu, rents out its scenic facilities when camp is not in session. Dovid told me that his yeshivah spent a Shabbos there four and a half years ago, and he’d brought along his precious Chayei Olam to learn over Shabbos. After Shabbos, however, the sefer was nowhere to be found. Dovid had no choice but to leave camp without it, but had spent the last four and a half years missing it.
I desperately wanted to get Dovid back his sefer as soon as possible.
Dovid told me that he worked at the Z. Berman seforim store in Lakewood. The easiest way to get him his sefer was for me to bring it to the Z. Berman store in Passaic, and they would arrange the transfer.
I found the sefer on Shabbos afternoon. On Monday, I brought it to Z. Berman in Passaic. By Tuesday, I had received a text from Dovid, “Thank you. I got the sefer.”
A sefer lost four and a half years before had been returned to its owner less than 72 hours after being found.
Dovid hadn’t known how his beloved sefer would return to him, yet he always believed and trusted that one day he would get it back.
The epiphany was clear.
This was the lesson I learned from my Shabbos with the remarkable women from Chazkeinu, brave women who had lost their menuchas hanefesh, yet trusted in Hashem that one day they, too, would recover their emotional stability. With Hashem’s help, and through the support of their sisters at Chazkeinu, they were privileged to have what they thought was lost forever returned to them.
Before I returned the sefer to Dovid, I had looked at the first page.
The Steipler begins Chayei Olam with a pasuk from Yeshayahu (8:17): “I will wait for Hashem Who hides His face from the House of Jacob, and I anticipate His help.”
I now understood the secret of Chazkeinu and the power of these special women.
Many things can be lost, and we feel bereft. Sometimes it’s a sefer, and sometimes it’s our menuchas hanefesh.
Yet the ultimate recovery always comes in the same unexpected way: “I will wait for Hashem… and I anticipate His help.”
It may take longer than expected, but His help is always forthcoming.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 919)
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