Lost and Found| December 20, 2022
7 tales of treasures lost — and regained
Devastated and desperate, they surveyed the ruins
Until finally they found that precious vial of pure olive oil
Bringing hope and light to these battle-worn warriors
7 tales of treasures lost — and regained
I can vividly remember the last time I saw my diamond ring.
The ring was worth over $13,000, so I wasn’t keen on wearing it everywhere all the time. I remember how I twisted it off my finger and placed it on the seforim shrank, right next to our little container of keys and coins and odds and ends. Why? Was I about to wash for bread? Was I going to start bath time? That part of the story remains fuzzy, and the five years that have passed since then have done little to sharpen the memory. I never saw my ring again.
The ring was special for its beauty and its significance. But above all, I felt reassured by the security its financial value provided. We had one son. I imagined that one day, it would be his yerushah.
I knew I probably would never own another piece of jewelry like it.
And now it was gone. That hurt.
In desperation I contacted neighbors, friends, and random acquaintances. Has anybody seen my ring? My cleaning help offered her assistance as well, asking pointed questions about the ring and its worth. But the following week she disappeared as well, and her phone number was disconnected. Her abandonment left a bitter taste in my mouth. I had treated her so well; could she really have betrayed me so deeply? To this day, I prefer to leave her involvement a question mark. Maybe she ran into immigration issues and had to leave suddenly. Maybe she was urgently called back home. I will never really know.
And yet… There were still so many questions, so much frustration and pain. Thirteen. Thousand. Dollars. How? Where? Why?
Four days after I lost the ring, we found out that I was expecting our second child. Our joy knew no bounds; our gratitude overflowed. Every child is truly a brachah, but with our medical history, having a sibling for our bechor was not something we’d taken for granted.
The exhaustion of early pregnancy was sprinkled with regret about my ring. My husband grimly placed an order for a CZ replacement while I restocked my prenatals. Our joyous secret grew while our hope for finding the ring faded.
But we were okay. The ring wasn’t all that important. We had been gifted something far beyond our dreams in its stead; we were rich and blessed. True, the two occurrences had happened at the same time, but that was a fluke; they were unconnected.
Late one night, when the first flush of joy and wonder at our news had begun to calm, and the frustration of losing the ring had diminished somewhat, my husband shared an ironic observation. One child, one yerushah ring; that’s simple enough. But two children, one ring? Maybe there was a hidden gift here….
My boys have since grown into the most handsome and adorable little men around. They play hard, and fight harder, and I delight in their very existence. But on the days when the rough and tumble gets just a little too tough for my liking, I catch sight of the CZ stone winking up at me from its place on my finger. Two little boys and a recipe for shalom. Could a mother get any luckier than that?
AS a new kallah, I stood in Bed Bath & Beyond, a little too trigger happy as I scanned every enticing item to add to my gift registry. I’d finished with the towels already — I must have scanned three quarters of the towel section. Because those towels were absolutely divine… more than I could ever dream of, buttery soft, with detailed stitches forming elegant flowers along the edges… and really, the hand towels with the brown and gold tassels on the end were just begging me to scan them.
I felt as if scanning each item for my registry meant I already owned it. Which wasn’t so unreasonable — as the rabbi’s daughter, hundreds of guests were invited to our wedding, and many of those guests would send gifts.
Thankfully, my gift givers had some sense in them, and though I did receive many of the beautiful towels on my registry, the wise women of Atlanta also purchased practical and useful kitchen items that would serve me well in setting up our new home.
But I was off to start my married life in Eretz Yisrael, and there were only so many things I could send along with others traveling from Atlanta to Yerushalayim. So towels aside (I couldn’t bring myself to give those back. They were too pretty to return or to use; they still sit in my linen closet, mostly untouched nearly 15 years later!) I returned most of the gifts to Bed Bath & Beyond and took advantage of their cash back option.
With every gift I returned, I filed the cash away in an envelope and I marked down the item I had given back. My plan was to use the money to buy the same items once I got to Yerushalayim. Back to the store went the beautiful pink KitchenAid. Back went the pots, the cookie sheets, the measuring cups, and the mixing bowls. Back went the elegant glasses and tablecloths.
But not to worry, I told myself, as I meticulously recorded my returns. I’ll buy it all when I get there. It’s worth it to have Israeli appliances and to not have to schlep all of this halfway across the world.
We got married in Elul, stayed in Atlanta for Rosh Hashanah, and finally, we headed to Yerushalayim during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. Upon arriving we went directly to the Kosel, and then we flagged down a taxi to take us to our apartment. I wore my trusty wristlet on my wrist, with my envelope filled with money and purchase lists stuffed inside. I wanted to keep it on me instead of in a suitcase or backpack. It was definitely safer that way, I thought.
It wasn’t more than two minutes after the taxi let us out that I realized my wristlet was no longer on my wrist. My stomach dropped as I slowly recalled what was inside. My license. My debit card. My parents’ credit card. And — no, no, no… all of the perfectly tracked and perfectly planned wedding money!
My husband and I looked at each other in horror. We immediately made every effort to track down the taxi. We called every cab company multiple times. But it was to no avail. My wallet, and all of our wedding gift money along with it, was gone.
I never found that wristlet. I had to make do with less expensive pots from Imperiat Hachesed, and I made challah by hand (and still do!) instead of with a fancy bread maker.
But I found something in that experience that I hadn’t had before. I found in my new husband a deep kindness and generosity. I found in myself a resilience and acceptance I hadn’t expected.
When I called my parents to let them know about their lost credit card, my mother immediately pointed out that it was two days before Yom Kippur. “It’s a kapparah,” she said without skipping a beat, and I knew it was, didn’t doubt it was, and was grateful, even, that it was.
Man plans and G-d laughs, they say. In this case, young woman planned and G-d cleansed. I felt that I went into that first Yom Kippur as a married woman with a cleaner slate. I felt that Hashem really did know what I needed, and He’d given it to me in my husband, my apartment in Yerushalayim, and of course, my luxury towels that filled two suitcases.
I like to think that every recollection of this incident is a kapparah all over again, especially when I remember another item I’d forgotten about, like that beautiful pink KitchenAid mixer. And the truth is that now, quite a few years down the line, I don’t miss what I lost in that wallet. I do hold tightly to what I found, and I almost envy the certainty and clarity I had in that experience. But I know, deep down, where I can really hold on to it, that this is something I will never lose.
A Hundred Wasted Nights
I grew up a five-minute walk from my great-grandmother’s house. A slight woman with a great spirit, Bobby was remarkably astute, and regal — so regal. Despite having lost both her parents to typhus at the age of four, and having survived the horrors of the Holocaust and the subsequent upheaval and resettlement in the US, she carried herself with exceptional grace and good humor. There was an aura of contentment about her, the serenity of a woman who’d seen life, faced life, and risen above it.
Bobby was blessed with independence until her last day. Far from needing anyone to care for her, she instead took care of others. After my grandmother (her daughter-in-law) passed away, Bobby cooked supper for her 60-year-old son every single day, well into her nineties! Nevertheless, as 80 gave way to 90 and her life partner departed for a better world, the family grew concerned about a woman her age being alone at night. A two-week rotation was arranged; the teenaged great-grandchildren would take turns sleeping at her house.
At 14, I was less than thrilled with this arrangement. I did not enjoy trekking out every two weeks to a house that was perpetually too hot and a bed that wasn’t my own. Every so often, I’d grumble about having to go. And every so often, my mother would remind me to appreciate my great-grandmother while I had her; she wouldn’t be around forever.
She was right, I knew she was right. And yet. I wanted my routine, I wanted my space. And while I revered my great-grandmother, I couldn’t seem to find much common ground with this woman 80 years my senior. Theoretically, I knew that no one lives forever. But I felt like Bobby would always be here.
Every second Tuesday evening, I’d show up at her house. I’d dutifully make the requisite few minutes of conversation, after which Bobby, ever attuned, would tactfully disappear into her room, granting me the phone and the freedom I desired. Come morning, we’d eat breakfast together; I never paused to marvel at the fact that my 95-year-old grandmother had prepared breakfast for me. Then I’d wish her a good day and head out into the sunshine, relieved that I didn’t have to do this again for another two weeks.
So it continued, every other Tuesday, for the duration of my high school years. Throughout it all, I never made an effort at fostering any sort of meaningful relationship with this remarkable woman.
The years passed. I graduated school, got engaged, then married. On day two of my sheva brachos, Bobby was niftar.
There was no single thud of realization. It was more of a gradual dawning as reality sank in, in bits and pieces, with the passage of time. I’d see an old woman shuffling down the street with her grandchild. I’d hear a witticism repeated in Bobby’s name. I’d remember her smile, her warmth and her wisdom, and a hundred wasted Tuesday nights. Worse than the ache of loss were the sharp pangs of regret. I’d had a treasure that most people don’t get. And I’d let it go without a second thought.
Some losses are forever. Bobby wasn’t coming back, and the memories of my time with her would always be just that — memories. But I did gain perspective on something I’d always known, but now I knew it, in a way that hurt. There are moments too valuable to lose, relationships too precious to let go. The world around me isn’t static; circumstances evolve, people change, and the opportunities I have today won’t necessarily be around tomorrow.
And some things, once lost, can never be found again.
Iclosed my eyes really tight when I said yes.
My husband’s family was making plans for a nesiah to Europe for their grandmother’s yahrtzeit, as well as to daven at kivrei tzaddikim. I knew what a special opportunity this would be for my husband, and hard as it would be for me to stay home alone with my kids over an extended weekend, I encouraged him to join.
I was glad I did. From the moment the trip was finalized, my husband came alive, excitedly planning the itinerary with his father, uncles, brothers, and cousins. In the span of several short days, they were going to cover every inch of the map.
I did my share, packing his suitcase and some pastries for the way. And at last they were off, tzeis’chem u’vo’achem l’shalom.
They lived it up, soaking in the kedushah and history of European soil. Back home, though, I couldn’t relax until my husband’s safe return. Phone connection was spotty, so we couldn’t conduct normal conversations. Still, every time we spoke, the spirit in my husband’s voice was unmistakable. He was gaining so much from this trip.
That’s why, when my husband called to touch base on his way out of Kerestir, I was surprised to hear an edge of sadness in his voice.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I lost my Tehillim.”
His Tehillim was a beautiful leather-bound sefer I’d given him when I was a kallah. He’d put it down for a minute after saying Tehillim in the ohel in Liska, and due to some distraction, he’d left it behind. He only noticed it was missing when they arrived in Kerestir, at which point my uncle determined that they wouldn’t have time to return to Liska to retrieve it.
My husband tried to move on, but the loss put a damper on an otherwise incredible trip.
Months later, on a random afternoon, I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize.
“Is this Heller?” the caller asked.
“Did you lose a Tehillim at the Lisker tziyun?”
He asked me to describe the Tehillim to him, and when the description matched, he said, “Well then, looks like I have your Tehillim.”
How did this caller trace us?
When he’d spotted the Tehillim at the tziyun, he automatically assumed its owner was a New Yorker. My husband’s name is engraved on the cover of the Tehillim, so he brought it back home with him, sat down with a phonebook, and proceeded to call all the Yitzchok Hellers in New York.
My husband never dreamed he’d see his Tehillim again. We were in awe over this Yid’s ahavas Yisrael and gained a newfound appreciation for the mitzvah of hashavas aveidah.
Just a Thing
Many years ago, I lost my engagement ring and wedding band. They were a set, uniquely designed to click together. I turned our apartment upside down looking for them, gave money in memory of Rabi Meir Baal Haneis, made deals, said hocus pocus — to no avail. My diamond was gone, along with the wedding band, and as a somewhat custom-designed piece, gone meant gone.
About a year after I had last seen my rings, I was cleaning for Pesach when I was interrupted by a phone call. It was my sister, in tears, asking me to stop everything and daven for her husband’s cousin, a bochur who had just been in a horrific car accident. The paramedics were trying to keep him alive until they reached the hospital, but it didn’t look promising. The accident happened while he was dorming in an out-of-town yeshivah, and his parents were racing to meet the ambulance at the hospital. There was no guarantee that they’d make it in time to see their son.
I began davening with all my heart. I sat over a sefer Tehillim, saying the words aloud, becoming very emotional as I thought of my own brothers, also away in yeshivah. Life is so fragile, I remember thinking; Hashem, please! Let every mother who sends a son away merit having him come back home again, safe and sound and whole. Please, keep this boy alive! Save him — and keep my own sweet, tayere brothers safe….
I didn’t know this bochur, but for some reason, it hit me very hard, and I simply could not stop crying.
I stopped saying Tehillim, the tears continuing to fall, and began speaking to Hashem. “Hashem,” I said aloud, “only life is important — things are not important! I’ve been begging You to give me back my rings, but really, jewelry doesn’t matter, only life matters. Please, please, please save this bochur, and please keep my own brothers safe. If You need to take something away from me, please only take things. Keep my diamond, let me never see it again, I beg You to just keep my family safe!”
I continued alternating between talking and saying Tehillim for a full hour. At that point, I was completely exhausted. It was time to return to my Pesach cleaning before my kids started coming home.
The very first thing I turned to was a Pack ’n Play that had been sitting in a corner for ages. I figured I’d check it for crumbs before bringing it down to the machsan. As soon as I began to open it, I heard something clink onto the tiles — and watched as my wedding band rolled in slow motion across the floor. If my wedding band was there, that had to mean…. I opened the Pack ’n Play fully, gave a good shake, and there it was, my diamond ring, wedged in the corner.
If I was a superstitious person, finding my rings would have filled me with dread: Did that mean Hashem was saying I could have my rings back — at the expense of something more important? But no, for some reason, I just had a sense of clarity: Now that I had learned whatever the missing rings were supposed to teach me, Hashem was giving them back to me. I thought I’d be ecstatic if I ever found them, but instead I simply felt whole, like somehow my tefillos of the morning had been heard. I had learned what I was meant to, and now I could have my insignificant rings back. Here, Shoshana, now that you understand that they’re unimportant, take them. And remember….
And yes: In His infinite greatness, Hashem saved that bochur, who is now a father many times over to the only diamonds that really matter.
As told to Miriam Klein Adelman
Rachel has been my mentor since the summer I was in eighth grade — and I’m a grandmother now.
She was the division head and I was her camper, and we bonded instantly. From that summer on, I never made any major or minor decision without discussing it with her.
In the last few years, however, I’ve come to realize that our relationship has steadily become more and more detrimental to my emotional development. I think the reason it’s taken me so long to grasp this is because Rachel really does genuinely love and care about me. And who doesn’t want to be loved and cared for?
I think it boils down to our different approaches to showing love and Rachel’s erroneous assumption that we are temperamentally alike. I’ve always suffered from a lower sense of self. (Not Rachel.) But instead of building me, Rachel expected me to be tough and thick-skinned like her.
If something someone said wouldn’t hurt her, then it shouldn’t hurt me. As a young adult, I wrote to her explaining how pained I was when she said certain things. She’d reply, “I read your letter, but I don’t agree.” That confused me. Don’t agree with what? That what she said felt hurtful to me? I wasn’t asking her to agree whether objectively her words were hurtful, I was asking her to honor my feelings when I said I felt hurt.
When I shared private information about what was going on in my life, her responses felt dismissive. “That kind of thing happens to everyone,” she’d say. Perhaps she said that so I wouldn’t feel alone in my pain; nevertheless I felt totally invalidated and unheard, and it reinforced my belief that I just wasn’t good enough.
So why did I keep on keeping on? I think it was because I knew she cared deeply for me, and I longed for that love and security. I kept thinking if I could just get her to understand my point of view, everything would be okay. Instead, after every phone call, rather than feeling energized, I’d feel frustrated and misunderstood. Over and over, I’d replay our conversations, imagining myself explaining my position so she’d agree with me and approve of me.
Finally, there was an incident that opened my eyes: Someone wronged me badly, and Rachel believed I should push myself to go “above and beyond” for them. I said I was feeling too depleted to give anything more to this individual, but she wouldn’t accept that. When I told her I had to take care of myself, she said, “But you already did that!” not recognizing that for some of us, self-care is an ongoing process.
The next time she called, I said, “I’m sorry, Rachel, but I can’t talk to you. Every time we speak, I end up feeling bad about myself.” She said she understood but I’m not sure she did.
Losing this relationship has been like amputating a diseased limb to save the rest of my body. I still miss and need that limb, but it was causing more harm than good. It had to go.
Although there will always be a part of me that misses Rachel’s love and concern, I’ve found that love within myself now. Even more, I’m learning how to access Hashem’s genuine, unflawed, unconditional love for me.
Losing my gold necklace at age 12 shouldn’t have been a big deal, except that it had been my deceased aunt’s necklace. Which wouldn’t have been such a big deal either, except that I was named after her. Which was a big deal because Bubby gave it to me with so much hope — I was a consolation for the loss of her only daughter; so her friends told me in choked voices.
I never looked for my aunt’s necklace. I was young. And, if you want psychobabble, I needed to escape the pressure I felt wearing it, the pressure of being positioned to continue my deceased aunt’s life and so console my grandmother.
I spent a lot of time in Bubby’s house. We played Rummy and unlike my siblings, I always let Bubby win — she’d lost so much already. I also always held on to the railing as I walked down the stairs in her house, just as she warned me to. I couldn’t risk falling; it would be too much for Bubby.
As a child, I was obsessed with my aunt’s stuff. I’d curl up in the closet and read the Talks and Tales she left behind. I snuck open the buffet when Bubby was asleep and skimmed through my aunt’s bookkeeping ledger. I scrutinized her report cards. Analyzed her handwriting. Figured out who she was so I’d know who I was.
When I got married, my in-laws gave me a necklace that reminded me of the one I’d lost. By then, my aunt was I and I was she, so it didn’t matter much that I’d lost her necklace. I expected to get another piece of jewelry — her diamond ring — like Bubby had promised, but she never gave it to me. In her old age, when her medical condition necessitated placement in a nursing home, my mother got that diamond ring. I asked her for it. I felt like it belonged to me.
My aunt’s diamond ring rested in my jewelry box while I continued running her life. Everyone said she had been the kindest soul, so devoted to her parents, school, husband, job. My aunt always succeeded. She never succumbed. So admonished the voices in my heart. Obviously, I had to do it like she had. And when I failed to keep the house tidy or earn an extra dollar… I felt small.
Then things happened. Bubby passed on. And my diamond ring became too tight. I could get it enlarged. Or I could wear my aunt’s diamond ring. It fit perfectly. The first Shabbos I wore it, I was so teary I couldn’t walk straight. But every Shabbos thereafter, I wore the ring, and the tears slowly ceased.
I discovered strength to call older relatives and my aunt’s friends and ask questions about my aunt. I needed to know what she liked and how she lived. Her fears, her foibles, her failures. People hemmed and hawed. They said a little of this and a little of that. And I knew in a way I never knew before: Those who are gone can do no wrong. But I’m here, so I can. And I will.
With lots of talking and empathy and reflecting, I was able to let go of my aunt and find my own self. Take my life where Hashem wanted it to go instead of following my aunt’s journey. I enlarged my own diamond ring and returned my aunt’s ring to my jewelry box.
I may have lost my aunt’s gold necklace when I was 12. But I found something even more valuable — my own true self.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 823)
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