June 13, 2024
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June 13, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Ten years ago, my younger brother, Reb Yaakov got married to our wonderful sister-in-law, Michal, on the first night of Chanukah in Yerushalayim. It was very special for our family to join the simcha. It definitely wasn’t easy with five children — the youngest being an infant — but it was a special experience.

When we were trying to figure out airlines and plane tickets before our trip, it seemed so logical. If we were to have a stopover on our way to Eretz Yisroel the week before Thanksgiving, where better than Turkey? And that’s basically why we decided to fly Turkish Air (the vastly cheaper ticket prices were only incidental) with a stopover in Istanbul, Turkey — one of the top 20 places in the world I would love to not be in. (Truthfully, the Turkish were very cordial, and our brief visit was — otherwise — uneventful.)

When we finally arrived in Ben Gurion airport, we wearily made our way through customs and passport control, and finally arrived at the baggage carousel. We had checked in 11 bags. Ten of them came out relatively quickly. All we needed was one more, and we could find our prearranged ride to Yerushalayim. But the carousel kept circling, as the masses dwindled. We finally came to the stark realization that our last piece of luggage — the one with all of my wife’s clothes — wasn’t coming around.

We dejectedly filed a claim with the overly unenthusiastic fellow behind the claim’s counter. Hence, began the lone damper on our otherwise wonderful trip. Each afternoon included more phone calls that ended in frustration and futile checking of emails. Istanbul, Kennedy and Ben Gurion airports, as well as Turkish Air, all assured us that they were doing their utmost to blame the other for our loss, and that we would hear back from them soon. (Actually, no one even answered the phone at the Turkish Air desk in Ben Gurion.)

When we departed for our return trip, we wanted to ensure that we did our utmost to locate the lost luggage. In Ben Gurion airport, the luggage department assured us that it wasn’t there. When we arrived in Istanbul, the fellow seated behind the information desk directed us to “Hava’s desk” on the first floor. Hava’s desk! It sounded like we had found what we were looking for. Surely, Mr. (or Mrs?) Hava would know where our luggage was. But alas, Mr. Hava directed us to the Turkish Air desk down the corridor. It seems Hava only dealt with luggage that wasn’t lost.

When we arrived at the Turkish Air desk — before we even reached the counter — we were greeted by a representative, who insisted that we needed to go to the lost-and-found desk. I replied that we had been informed that we could only get to that desk — which was beyond the departing flights area — with a visa to enter Turkey, which we didn’t have. He looked at us for a moment, and then nodded that I was correct. “So, in other words, you’re telling me there’s nothing I can do.” “It seems that way… Have a great day.” (No wonder the European Union didn’t want to allow Turkey in!)

The Torah relates that before Yaakov Avinu descended to Egypt with his family, he dispatched Yehuda to create a yeshiva where Torah could be studied and taught.

Why was Yehuda chosen above all the tribes (Yissochor were the Torah scholars, and Levi was the future priests)? In a moment of incredible darkness and confusion for their entire family, it was Yehuda who stood up and took responsibility. It was Yehuda, who guaranteed Binyamin’s safe return from Egypt. Building a framework of Torah, and raising a generation that follows mitzvos and avodas Hashem, requires individuals who take responsibility to ensure that it will be done properly. Yehuda was chosen as king, because he felt that burden of responsibility for his brother. On President Truman’s desk was a sign that read: “The buck stops here!” That is the attitude of a true leader.

It was a long and fascinating story — but, eventually, we did get that last piece of luggage back, well after we had returned home and after much heartache. But, one thing was for certain: the “Hava (nageela) turkeys” in the airports were not the ones who found it.


Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is a popular speaker and author. He is a rebbe in Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, NJ, and an experienced therapist, recently returning to seeing clients in private practice, as part of the Rockland CBT group. For appointments Rabbi Staum can be reached at 914-295-0115. Looking for an inspirational and motivating speaker or scholar-in-residence? Contact Rabbi Staum for a unique speaking experience. Rabbi Staum can be reached at [email protected]. Archives of his writings can be found at www.stamtorah.info.

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