| Impressions |


People are tearing their tops and you’re buying a new one

Friday morning, Lag B’omer.

That one three years ago, the one that had my mind reeling, thoughts scattering haphazardly like dry leaves in the wind on a fall day. Step here and crunch.

Meron? Rabi Shimon. Holy fire. Bodies falling over one another, heat, cries. Tragedy, how is it possible?


But my seven-year-old son needed a shirt for Shabbos.

You can’t go and do a normal thing like buy clothes. Not today.


But he really, really had nothing to wear — the weather had turned so unbearably hot, and he’d spent the last two weeks melting in his knitted winter top.

I struggled all morning while the news came in fits and starts, heart and hands numb while I stirred and chopped, choked and cried over onions. Go. Don’t go. Go. You can’t.

“Go,” said my husband. So I went, thoughts tumbling over each other: hot, it’s so hot, how and why

The white plastic bag lay on the ground next to the bench at the empty bus stop.

My eyes roved over it. Hmm. Left behind? A perfunctory glance. The bag seemed to hold a hoodie.

I looked one way and the other. No one. Hot and I was rushing, rushing to make it to the store before it closed.

The store was open. Because life has to continue? I hesitated slightly over the threshold and plunged inside.


I forgot about that abandoned bag while I hastily flicked through the racks in the empty store, and pulled out something that looked suitable.

What are you doing here?

I’m buying clothes lichvod Shabbos.

I paid for the good-enough shirt and left the store while the owner flicked off the lights.

Crunch. People are tearing their tops and you’re buying a new one.

My son needs it.

I marched home, past the bus stop. The plastic bag had moved, was lying on its side, contents spilling out. Clearly, someone had looked through it and found no contact details.

Still, it was good to ignore the dead leaves swirling in my mind and focus on sleuthing. Under the hoodie, a plain black wallet.

Inside: a key, a twenty shekel note, a teudat zehut card, and a kupat cholim card.

A name, we had a name. I called my husband and asked him to look for this very unusual name in the local phone book. Negative.

A boy’s face looked up at me from the identity card. A quick calculation, he must have just become the proud owner of his first card. Born in Argentina, hmm, interesting.

But that was all I had to go on.

Crunch. Go home, stop messing around. Meron! Men, boys, kedoshim, tragedy.

I left the bag and walked away.

Three minutes later I retraced my steps. Such a headache to replace the identity card. And he must be so proud of it!

I found the wallet and withdrew the health fund card. Each health fund in Israel has a hotline for making appointments, so I asked a friend for the number and called, entering the system using the identity number from the card.

After explaining that no, I wasn’t a 17-year-old trying to see his doctor, I asked them to call the number registered in their records and say that someone had found his wallet.

There was no answer at either number, so I left the bag again and hurried ho—

My phone rang.

A very Spanish accent.

“Hello, yes, you have my son’s wallet?”

The poor boy had traveled through night till morning from Meron, navigating the terror and the chaos on the roads, getting on the first bus he could find that would bring him close enough to home. Now he was fast asleep, trauma pushed aside until he woke up coherent enough to talk to his parents.

They lived in a small yishuv some 20 minutes away, todah rabah, could maybe someone please come to pick it up?

I walked back to the bus stop once again, picked up the bag once again, and took it home.

Somehow, holding that plastic bag of someone else’s belongings made me think less about the other one holding the new shirt.

Shortly, there was a soft knock at the door.

I opened it, bag at the ready. The boy’s father stood there, a small man with a small knitted kippah on his head.

He could not stop thanking me until I felt embarrassed. De nada, really it was nothing. I’m happy to help!

I closed the door and went back to the kitchen, back to calling friends and saying nothing because really, there was nothing to say except wonder how Shabbos could come to a world reeling from its losses.

Ten minutes later, a soft knock at my door.

The boy’s father was back, holding out a box of palmiers and a box of mini meringues.

Seh Badatz,” he said.

“Please,” I said, “Really, it’s fine!”

“Shabbat Shalom, todah, todah, gracias.”

On the top box, the most heartwarming Post-it note, broken Hebrew blessing me with goodness and peace and health and wealth…

I stood holding it, a sudden heat behind my eyes. I thought of the power of a random act of hashavas aveidah, and a reciprocal outpouring of hakaras hatov. How nothing and everything might connect me to any stranger in this holy land of my brothers. Of souls rising from holy flames, upwards, upwards… and prayed that this small act of chesed might lift them ever higher.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1012)

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