My son lost his backpack when traveling back to his base. He had put it in the hold of the bus in which he was traveling. He would need to replace his wallet, tefillin, clothes, books, phone charger and all of his documentation. Of course the tefillin was the most important item of all. It was a bar mitzvah gift from his grandparents and specially written for him, and we all know how expensive tefillin are. But obviously the sentimental value was irreplaceable.
We were both very upset. It was certainly possible that someone had mistakenly taken it and would call. But what if it had fallen out of the bus? What if someone had purposely taken it (though I’ve never heard of this happening)? My son went to the lost and found department at the Egged Central Bus Station (the terminus of the bus) in Ashkelon. Not holding out too much hope that the backpack would be recovered, I searched on the web for the prayer attributed to the Tanna, Rabbi Meir Baal Haness, that one says for lost objects. I’m not usually one for segulos, but I felt that a miracle was needed in this situation. I gave 10 shekels to tzedakah and said the prayer three times. The very second I finished my son called to tell me that someone who took the bag by accident returned it. Baruch Hashem, I’m a believer!
Wanting to publicize the miracle, I wrote to a few people telling them what had happened. One wrote back, saying that a lady she knows has a secular son living in the South Pacific who is slowly mellowing to Yiddishkeit. He had lost his glasses and hadn’t been able to replace them for a month. It suddenly occurred to her that she should say the prayer for finding lost objects. The very same day she said the prayer, he called her to report that the glasses had been found!
On 14 Iyar, Pesach Sheini, the Yom Hilula of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness takes place. When a Jew is in trouble there is a longstanding custom to give money l’ilui nishmas Rabbi Meir Baal Haness. But it is most popularly used as a segulah for finding lost objects. The money should specifically go toward helping the poor in Eretz Yisrael because Rabbi Meir Baal Haness said he would help those that gave to Eretz Yisrael’s poor – for the sake of his soul.
The source for this custom is the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 18a-b) where we learn that Rebbi Meir bribed a guard to release the imprisoned sister of his wife Bruriah, who had been dispatched by the Romans to a brothel as punishment for her parents teaching Torah. The guard asked what would happen if he’d be caught. Rebbi Meir told him to say the words, “Eloka d’Meir, aneini – God of Meir, answer me” three times and he would be saved. The guard secured the release of Rebbi Meir’s unharmed sister-in-law, and the guard was miraculously saved when he uttered the words Rebbi Meir had instructed him to say.
The first part of the prayer that begins with “Amar Rabbi Binyamin” derives from Bereishit Rabbah 53:14, referring to Hagar having her eyes opened and being able to see the well from which she could draw water to save herself and her son. The lesson: Something might be right under your nose, but you need God’s enlightenment to see it. This is often the case when we lose something.
Especially on the Tanna’s yahrzeit, it is very meritorious to give charity or light a candle l’ilui nishmas Rabbi Meir Baal Haness and to say “Eloka d’Meir, aneini” three times.
As ultimate redemption, of course, comes from God, we shouldn’t attribute the miracle to the Tanna; we are, after all, calling out to Hashem. But it is in the merit of tzaddikim that we can ask for a little more help from Above. Apparently we can get it – if we’re not at a loss for words.