The world was filled with idolatry. One man, our Father Abraham, understood that there had to be a Creator. He found the Torah and its Author. From our Father Avraham descended a nation of Priests, “goy kadosh … a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:6) In today’s darkness, Hashem is still close to us. If we look for Him we can find Him. We simply have to keep looking.
Recently, my wife and I were privileged to have a family simcha, which – we decided – was so important that we had to return briefly to the U. S. from Israel. Thus, the night after the Fast of Gedalia, we found ourselves on a plane to John F. Kennedy Airport, where we landed at 1 a.m. We passed through the usual formalities, loaded our luggage onto a cart, and made our way to “Passenger Pickup Area D,” where our car was waiting. By the time we fell asleep, it was 4 a.m.
At 6:30 I arose for Selichos Services. Wait a minute! Where are my tallis and tefillin?
Suddenly, a terrible fear struck me! We had our suitcases; we had our hand luggage, we had everything … except my tallis and tefillin! Not just tallis and tefillin: inside that case was the precious siddur (prayer book) inscribed to me by our children on a special occasion, the siddur I have used for years. In addition, there were books, glasses and other important items.
And it was gone, lost somewhere in the maze of JFK Airport!
I tried to reconstruct the events of the previous night. I realized in retrospect that I had left these precious possessions in the small section near the back of the luggage cart. But how does that help? This is not exactly a “heimishe” airport! Anyone could have picked it up. In case you aren’t aware of it, there are people out there who don’t like us. Who knows what someone might do if he sees that beautiful velvet case embroidered with Hebrew writing? Or perhaps it had simply been ignored in the darkness. It could wind up in some obscure and unclean place, G-d forbid, never to be seen again!
I grabbed a spare tallis and ran to shul. Perhaps I could borrow tefillin. I tried to pray, but the words would not come. My brain was numb. I said “Shema” without tefillin, jumped in the car and raced home. I located the number for the Port of New York Authority Police Department and called “Lost and Found” for Kennedy Airport.
“Press 1 if the lost item was at Terminal 1. Press 2 if the lost item was at Terminal 2…..”
Oy! This will never work!
“Press 1 if you lost the item at security… Press 2 if you lost the item at baggage claim … Press zero if you wish to speak to an operator…”
Anyway, no one will answer at 7:30 a.m. Maybe there won’t even be anyone there at 9 a. m.! I will never speak to a live person! This is hopeless!
“Hello. Oh, I can’t believe you’re there! My name is Mr. Neuberger and I left a very important religious item on a luggage cart this morning at 1 a. m. when I landed on El Al Flight 011. It is a velvet bag about two by two feet with a clear plastic case around it. Did anyone turn anything in like that?”
“Does it have Hebrew writing on it?”
“I have it.”
“I have it.”
“Did you say you have it?”
“Yes, I have it!”
“What! You have it!”
“Yes, I have it.”
I was laughing and crying, but … still … maybe it was a mistake!
“I’m coming right over!”
“Hodu L’Hashem ki tov, ki laolam chasdo … Give thanks to Hashem, for He is good!” Hashem is so kind to His children. Even in this terrible darkness, He never abandons us. I drove directly to the International Arrivals Building and located the Lost and Found. Two women, perhaps Indian or Pakistani, sat behind a desk. I told my story. One of them went to the back of the booth, and returned … to my everlasting simcha! … with my precious tallis and tefillin, waiting to be used once more in the service of the Al-mighty G-d! The ladies were actually very happy, and I blessed them for their help in allowing me to serve the Creator.
Once, long ago, when I was far from Hashem and His service, I felt totally alone. I began to search for something True in a world devoid of meaning. I discarded one empty way of life after another. Along the way, Hashem sent me a helpmate and we continued to search together. At a certain time, we ran out of lifestyles to investigate. We had tried everything, or so we thought. And then we met Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis at a shul in a city in the Hudson Valley. She opened up the one door we had never tried before, the door leading to the Torah way of life. Light began to dissipate the darkness.
In ancient days, in his dark world, Avraham Avinu found the Light which he knew had to exist. Because he found it, his children, in distant generations, understand that we too can find it. Hashem’s Presence is never far from us. “Lo bashomayim hi….” It is not only in Heaven; it is always near. He holds our hand, even when we are unaware of His Presence! “Though I walk in the valley overshadowed by death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me….” (Psalm 23)
Soon the Holy Temple will stand once again upon the Temple Mount and the entire world will be flooded with light. “Hashem oz l’amo yitain, Hashem yevorach es amo b’Shalom!... Hashem will give might to His people; Hashem will bless His people with peace.”(Psalme 29:11)