In reality, only a couple months have passed since it took place, but it feels like so much longer ago… Perhaps I am not introducing my story in a most clear and formal manner, but I can barely contain myself as I type; my soul sings, and all the excitement of those precious moments courses through me once more as I relive the stunning occurrence…
It was one late November afternoon, crisp and golden as the sun began its descent. My mother, siblings and I were making our way home after a marvelous JLI class from the course “Great Debates in Jewish History.” We were just privileged to study “the Chassidic Renaissance” with our Shliach R’ Avrohom Sternberg. We were en-route and not even beyond Downtown, when my mother turned into the driveway of a Dime Bank. As an impromptu errand, my brother Tal, who had just turned Bar Mitzvah (Mazal Tov!), requested to deposit the checks he received from family and friends in honor of the simcha. You never know what Hashem has in store for even those most minute and unexpected activities…
My mother and brother hopped out of the car, instructed me to lock up, and proceeded into the bank. I smiled, loving the distinctive appearances my family presented. My mother looked queenly in her tichel and long skirt; Tal sported a neon CTeen kippah, a dark sweatshirt on which the name and date of a family friend’s Bar Mitzvah was printed, and tzitzit that swung free.
My youngest brother Gan (10) and I remained in the car; I resorted to people-watching and analyzing, which I take great interest in. Moments after the door closed behind my family, an older woman and her daughter pulled up in a small car and parked beside us; nothing so unusual… The minutes ticked by, and I silently wondered what might be the cause for my family’s delay. Finally my mother and brother returned., and as my mother settled into the driver’s seat, she remarked matter-of-factly “The lady behind us in there was Jewish.” Slightly shocked, I probed as to how she learned that. She explained that the unfamiliar woman saw the term “Bar Mitzvah” printed on Tal’s shirt, and expressed something along the lines of “Congratulations! I’m Jewish, too…”
As my mother shifted gear and began to pull away, I spoke up. “Please, don’t drive away yet! Let’s wait until they come out; I want to talk to them.” As these words glided from my lips, I stared at one of the most beautiful things right in front of me, on the dashboard: It was my NeSheK/One More Light candlestick package that I assembled with so much love. It had been waiting patiently there for probably a month, (finally beginning to annoy my parents, as it was slightly in the way), waiting to be given to another Jewish woman or girl I found, to inspire her with to take on her special mitzvah.
My mother consented. “Please, ‘Hashem sifsai tiftach’ (Hashem open my lips)… and help me to find the right words,” I whispered, and anticipated the women’s reappearance on their way to their car. When I caught sight of them, I jumped up and ran over; I introduced myself, explaining I was the daughter of the woman they had just met inside, and how she told me they were Jewish.
We struck up a wonderful conversation for a few minutes, and although I regret to say I can’t distinctly remember everything we discussed, between what they shared and what my mother had relayed to me, I was overawed by the Hashgacha Pratis of it all… Just earlier that day, this woman, a local of New London CT., commenced an ancestry project, tracing back to her roots. As it turns out, three of her four grandparents were from Russia, and she anticipates learning more about them. She imparted that she was brought up an Orthodox Jew, but over time fell away from practice and commitment. The shul she attended (or at least had an affiliation with) just closed down, and she didn’t know what to do or where to go. She was clearly upset about this difficulty, and she’s searching for her place in the community – and to perhaps begin her own path of return to Yiddishkeit – so we invited her and her daughter to come to ours! We assured her we are very warm, welcoming and family-like (which is actually how she described her previous shul!).
I am deeply happy as well for my mother and brother, that they were the catalysts of such a Kiddush Hashem!
After such an experience… all I can say is ברוך השם!
Oh, and one more poignant thought I intended to share with you, my dear readers: It was beautiful how this woman expressed her value of her Jewish identity. She also stirringly mentioned that while in the bank with my family, she explained, whenever she sees ‘one of her kind’ – one of her faith – she must talk to them…
You never know when you’re going to bump into a fellow Yid, another Jewish soul. I encourage you, from personal experience – as would hundreds and even thousands of others – to always be prepared, with a smile, invitation, or contact info; and it doesn’t hurt to be ‘armed’ with a mitzvah object (candlestick, tefillin, etc…). Hatzlacha Rabbah, for we’re all shluchim, messengers of Hashem, in our own right!