This is a story for anyone who has ever misplaced or lost something.
During the height of COVID, I couldn’t find my wedding band. I looked everywhere and eventually accepted the fact that it was lost. I hypothesized it had slipped off my finger during intense hand washing. A couple of months later, I found the wedding band wedged in between a pile of papers. I experienced a special kind of joy at having found something that I thought was lost forever.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I received a phone call from someone I didn’t know. The man told me that in his synagogue, he recently found a blue tallis bag with a Hebrew name embroidered on it. He translated the name to English, Googled it, and searched for our telephone number. I checked this out with my husband and sure enough, he reminded me that he had lost this blue tallis bag about 10 years ago. Since that time, he replaced it with a new, red one and tried not to think about it.
I walked over to the synagogue, introduced myself to the caller, and picked up the bag. Not only was this the lost tallis bag, but inside was a tefillin bag—tefillin were always safe at home—and a tallis. Over the past decade, my husband and I pushed these lost items out of our minds, but we were overjoyed at having them back.
So what is there to be learned from this story? First of all, there is a special joy at finding something a person thought was lost forever. I experienced this with my wedding band, and my husband experienced this with his tallis bag. Secondly, the person who found the bag made a special effort to search for a person he didn’t know. We try to do favors for people we do know, but how often do we make the effort for people we don’t know? Here was a man who did just that, and now I understand the importance of the commandment of returning a lost object to its rightful owner. This is also known as the mitzvah of hashavas aveida.
There is a final note. The tallis and tefillin bags were a gift to my husband from his father, who passed away in November of last year. The tallis inside the bag was my gift to my husband on our wedding day.
Judith Eisenberg Pollak is a speech therapist and lives in Manhattan.