A few years ago, after her petirah, my husband read an anecdote about Rebbetzin Amelie Jakobovits, a”h, or Lady J, as she was always known, whose husband Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits, had been Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom. She was very well known for her amazing acts of chesed and particularly about how, despite her overflowing timetable, she took the time to make everyone she met feel special and important.
The story recounted how on erev Yom Tov she would seclude her self in a room with her phone and personal telephone book and make over 600 phone calls to people she knew, especially those who were on their own, to wish them good Yom Tov. The calls were not long but were personal and came from the heart, and everyone whom she called felt their spirits lifted by her kindness and thoughtfulness.
It made a profound impression on my husband and he decided he was going to call up some of his relatives and maybe even long lost friends whom he’d barely spoken to in years – not for any particular reason but because they’d just lost touch.
Men don’t tend to chat unless they are face to face with someone, so for them physical distance can mean the end of any real relationship beyond the occasional meeting at a family simcha.
Being female and the more talkative of the species and using email almost every day, I never felt out of touch with my friends and relatives. But my husband, who had no clue how to turn on the computer, uses a very unsmart kosher cellphone when necessary and stays as far away from the telephone in general, was definitely not in the same situation.
The first call he placed – and I’ve no idea why he chose him as his first call – was a cousin who lives thousands of miles away from our home in Jerusalem and as far as we knew had little connection to practical Yiddishkeit. We had last seen or spoken to him at our own wedding over 40 years ago.
His reaction was immediate and very surprising. “Oh how lovely to hear from you. Tell me are you still a sofer?”
“Yes.” my husband said, very surprised at the question, surprised even that he knew what a sofer was.
“Oh good” he continued, “My rabbi says I should get a new pair of tefillin – the one I wear, which are the ones I got at my bar mitzvah, are not really suitable for me any more – if they ever were.”
In that one astonishing sentence he suddenly learned that this cousin a) has a rabbi, b) obviously goes to shul in the week and c) he has a pair of tefillin – all things he would never have imagined before this call.
Almost speechless, my husband stumbled through the rest of the conversation and put the phone down to go off and write some tefillin parshios for his cousin.
Would his cousin have ever rung him up to ask him for a new pair of Tefillin? Would he maybe have bought some locally in the small town where he lived and likely been sold another pair of dubious kashrus having no one to ask professional advice from?
I’m not sure how many more phone calls my husband made but he’s quite sure that Lady J has the biggest share in the zchus of his cousin now at last wearing a pair of kosher Tefillin.