When my very busy friend and former neighbor called to say, “I have a story to tell you,” I knew it had to be a good one. I wasn’t disappointed.
The story involved her husband, who teaches in the same yeshiva as my husband. They are good friends from our old neighborhood and meet daily over lunch.
Rav S., she recounted, was traveling back from attending a wedding in Toronto and had a stopover in Frankfurt, Germany. With plenty of time for morning prayers between connecting flights, he reached into his carry-on bag for his siddur. When his initial search surprisingly proved futile, he began a more thorough search that likewise produced nothing. With a quick glance around and no landsman in sight from whom to borrow a siddur, he decided to begin saying the prayers by memory.
He was doing fine until he got to an uncommon addition and found himself a bit stuck. There he was in the midst of a stalled tefillah and unclear of his next move when an airline employee approached him and said, “Excuse me, but we found this book and we don’t know what to do with it. You look like someone who might know what to do with it.” Rav S. smiled and made as much a sign of acknowledgement (an mmming sound) and appreciation to the clueless attendant as was possible in the midst of reciting his tefillah.
Overjoyed with this perfectly timed turn of events that made for a convenient resumption of his prayer, he opened the siddur and glanced at what was written in the inside cover: Eliyahu Kalman Estrin.
With that conclusion to her tale, my heart skipped a beat because that’s my son’s name!
We were as unaware of Rav S.’s trip as he was of ours. My husband had taken our boys to Vancouver to visit family and had likewise stopped over in Frankfurt a few weeks earlier. One of the first things I heard when they walked in the door was: “Eliyahu lost his siddur on the plane.” It couldn’t have been easier; my husband retrieved the lost siddur the very next day in yeshiva over breakfast.
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