We Are Surrounded By Good People

Thursday, 8 December, 2022 - 11:55 am

A member of our community had their Talis and Tefillin bag stolen from their vehicle one night this week. In addition to the religious and sentimental value of one’s Talis and Tefillin, their loss comes at a significant financial cost. According to the Chabad custom, we use two pairs of Tefillin, following the ruling of Rashi as well as that of Rabbenu Tam. Each pair is handwritten and assembled with extreme attention to detail. Replacement value for what was in that bag could top $4,000. Needless to say, it was a devastating occurrence.

Two days later, the phone rang at Chabad House. I was on the other line, so I did not take the call. A minute later same caller tried back again. I told the person with whom I was conversing that someone is trying very hard to get a hold of us. I answered the call and a woman identified herself as someone who lived in the neighborhood. She said, “I was walking near my house, and I found a bag with a prayer shawl, some boxes with straps and Hebrew lettering.” Why she decided to call Chabad House, I do not know. But I immediately understood that she was referring to the missing Talis and Tefillin bag. Her location was just a block or two from where the theft occurred. Apparently, the thief decided that these items were of “no value” so he dumped them on the street. If he only knew...

I thanked her profusely and within an hour I was at her door to retrieve the bag. She was very glad to be able to restore what she understood to be important religious articles to the owner. I explained to her their value, and she was ecstatic to play a role in seeing them returned. I thanked her for being such a wonderful neighbor and wished her well.

When I left her home, I did a quick check to see if everything was there. To my chagrin, one of the pairs of Tefillin was missing. After consulting with the owner of the Tefillin, I decided to do a little reconnaissance of the area. I walked to spot of the theft and then proceeded toward the home of the woman who called. I was looking on the ground and, in the bushes, nearby to see if the other pair of Tefillin would turn up. I passed her house, and about half a block further, I saw a Ziplock bag with the other Tefillin inside taped to an electric pole.

There was a short message scrawled in marker on the outside of the bag. The finder was either Jewish or was at least aware of what Tefillin were. He wrote that he hoped the person who dropped them would find them. The tefillin bag had been opened and the Tefillin themselves had been scattered on the ground. The finder thoughtfully bagged them and left them where someone who was looking, could find them.

Thanks to the kindness and thoughtfulness of two neighbors, the Talis and Tefillin have been restored to their owner. We do not know who the second person was, but may G-d bless them both for their kindness. To paraphrase the jingle, “and like a good neighbor they were really there” to be thoughtful and kind to a neighbor. This is a heartwarming reminder of the inherent goodness in most people. At a time when there is so much negativity out there, it feels great to know that we are surrounded by good people.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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