Photo Credit: Jewish Press

It is heart-warming when people, in this rushed era, take the time to respond in writing to something they’ve read. The story-sharing campaign I proposed last week has elicited several responses and will hopefully trigger more. The following anecdote was shared by a reader:

Some years ago, a group of secular reporters were writing an article on the Ponovezh Yeshiva of Bnei Brak. The yeshiva’s fame had reached their ears, and they wanted to see the beis medrash which they heard was filled with diligent students at all hours. So they contacted the person in charge to set a time to visit the institution and were given a tour of the imposing building.

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They realized that the reports they had heard were in no way exaggerated. In disbelief, they absorbed the aura the yeshiva radiated. (Anyone who has visited Ponovezh – or Lakewood or Mir – knows that the sight is, indeed, quite impressive.)

Before leaving, one of the members of the group said, “I know that my colleagues were impressed by the throngs who fill the benches in the study room. However, what caught my attention and what – in my opinion – is more remarkable is the ‘Lost and Found’ bulletin board at the entrance of the yeshiva covered with notes attempting to locate the owners of items as insignificant as pens, bus cards, key chains, etc.

“It is completely the opposite of the philosophy I grew up with: ‘Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers.’ I was just fascinated. I have never seen anything like it.”

What for us seems normal was for him a total surprise.

Another reader made the following observation in reaction to the story I shared last week about hashavas aveidah: “May I call your attention to the fact that some of our sefarim hint that the most sublime form of hashavas aveidah, returning a lost item to its source, is kindling the spark of a forlorn Jewish soul – guiding a Yid who drifted away back to his origin.” Indeed, doing so is a unique way to fulfil this precious mitzvah.

And one accomplish this task at times simply by acting the way one should. One cannot appreciate enough the far-reaching effect of mitzvos and their role in awakening a soul that has drifted away. What is routine for an observant Jew may trigger amazing, unforeseen repercussions and cause people to literally change their lives.

My thoughts wander back to a Shabbos guest of ours of Russian origin. He was a regular at our table, and I always found his story extraordinary. After making aliya, he worked at Ben Gurion airport and was assigned to return scattered luggage to their proper place. One hot summer day, he stood in line, impatiently waiting his turn at a drinking fountain to quaff its cold water and get some relief from the unbearable heat. But the girl in front of him, instead of gulping water down when her turn came, paused for a short moment and mumbled something attentively before drinking.

At first, he wanted to lash out. What could be more important in this heat wave than gulping down a drink? But his curiosity got the better of him, and he started wondering what she had whispered that was more significant than sipping water in such hot weather. He decided to unravel the mystery and discovered… the world of berachos. Today this man lives in the city of Beitar and is the proud frum father of 10 wonderful children.

The most amazing part of the story, in my opinion, is that the girl who caused this “earthquake” by innocently saying a “shehakol” has no inkling of what she accomplished. Completely unbeknownst to her, her blessing started an amazing chain reaction.

All of us can have the same impact she did by doing acting like Hashem wants us to. More than once have I heard people who experienced their first Shabbos in a Torah-observant home say they were convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the meal they attended was a “show” put together to impress them. It didn’t occur to them that in the rushed, busy lifestyle of today’s era, people would break away from the “race” once a week, stop all creative activity, and sit together to eat, share thoughts, and sing zemiros whether there were guests present at the table or not.

When exposed to our lifestyle, people often stare in disbelief. I just wonder if we are fully aware of the wealth we carry.

(To be continued)

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Rebbetzin Miriam Gross was director of education and assistant dean at EYAHT – Aish Hatorah's College for Women in Israel – for close to 30 years. Born and raised in Antwerp, Belgium, Rebbetzin Gross today lives in Jerusalem where she lectures, teaches, and serves as a Torah-based counselor. She can be reached at RebbetzinGross.JP@gmail.com.