It is Chodesh Elul.
I have a story.
We traveled to Europe during bain ha zmanim. One family member was carrying an expensive and vital medical device. In the rush, it was left on board the plane, under her seat. Once inside the terminal, when we realized what had happened, it was too late to turn back. The doors were locked and we did not even know if the plane was still in the airport!
We went immediately to the “Lost-and-Found” department in the baggage area. Please imagine: a young girl is in tears and a worried family of observant Jews approaches the airport officials in charge of lost items. My friends, it was like Nazi Germany. The official was like ice. He had to “help other customers. Next please!”
But …. “You didn’t help us yet!”
We asked to see the supervisor. He screamed, “The airline is closed; it is after six. There is no one there. Come back tomorrow.”
“But this is life and death! If you want to find someone, you can.”
He turned and left. He was not interested in us.
Actually, he was very interested in seeing us suffer.
This, my friends, is our world. Do not think this is an isolated occurrence. This is Chodesh Elul. The shofar is sounding. “Ain Od milvado!” We are alone in a dark world. There is no one but Hashem on Whom to rely.
But the story is not over.
Do you think Hashem will ever abandon us? “Yeshuas Hashem k’heref ayin … Redemption comes in the blink of an eye,” just when you don’t expect it.
We had been to the airport lost-and-found on the arrivals level, but there was the airline itself, on the departure level. I had a feeling we should go there and see if we could find a representative. So two family members went upstairs, while the rest went to the waiting van with the luggage.
At the departure gate, people were arriving for an outgoing flight on that same airline. (Reminder: this was the airline that was “closed for the night.”) At the entrance stood a young lady checking documents.
I told her how this girl was in physical danger. The lady jumped. She felt the pain. She ran to the phone. Then she told us, “My supervisor is checking. He will get back to me.” And we waited. About half an hour later, I decided I had better daven mincha; it was getting late. I left for a few minutes. On returning, I made a pledge to donate to tzedakah, hoping that merit would help us find the lost object. Then I returned to the departure gate and asked if there was any news.
“Yes, the supervisor just called back. They are bringing the package over in ten minutes!”
What! I couldn’t believe my ears! Usually, the “Lost and Found” says, “Come back tomorrow” or “Fill out these forms” or “Your package is at another airport and we will deliver it next week” or even, “I’m sorry, but that item was evidently thrown in the trash.”
But no! Ten minutes! Hashem hears our tefillas and turns the world upside down for us!
“Hodu Hashem ki tov, ki l’olam chasdo! … Give thanks to Hashem, for He is good; His kindness endures forever!”
Ten minutes later a worker appeared, carrying our package.
The lady at the gate was from Kurdistan, almost undoubtedly a Moslem. Whoever she was, she was a malach sent by Hashem to save us. I gave her many brachas and her face lit up with happiness. She saw a Jew and she knew immediately where the bracha comes from in this world.
We should know that malachim surround us. On Friday night, we should welcome the Shabbos angels with great reverence and beg Hashem to send them to accompany us and all of Klal Yisroel wherever we go. Hashem’s protection has not left us, and it never will. Yaakov Avinu himself spoke of “Hamalach ha goail … the Angel who redeems me from all evil,” the angel Hashem sends to watch over us.
Rabbi Elchonen Wasserman zt”l once asked, “What is lacking in G-d’s world? Why has the economic situation deteriorated?”
This was his answer: “Hashem repays His creatures midah keneged midah. Since people have lost their faith in G-d, He has destroyed their faith in each other. No one trusts his neighbor. [But] all commerce … is based on trust…. The same is true in the political situation. Because no nation trusts another, fear develops and eventually leads to an arms race. The lack of faith [in Hashem] is the source of all evil, the root of the malaise from which mankind is suffering. What is the remedy? Let mankind repent and then the One Who dwells in Heaven will restore the belief of man in man. Complete repentance is the only remedy for this sick world.” (Artscroll, “Reb Elchonen”)
During Chodesh Elul, our job is to restore our lost relationship with the Ruler of the Universe. As we say in Tachanun, “Shomer Yisroel … Guardian of Israel, protect the remnant of Israel. Let not Israel be destroyed, those who proclaim, ‘Hear oh Israel.’” This will heal all evil and bring the Geulah Shelemah, may we see it speedily in our day.
Ain Od Milvado: “There is no one but Hashem”
Bain ha zmanim: the yeshiva break in mid-summer.
Chodesh Elul: the Jewish month leading up to Rosh
Hashanah and Yom Kippur
Mincha: Afternoon prayer