29 Aug THE PLANNER
Sometimes, one writes an article that touches
a familiar chord with the reader, evoking a
This past week, I wrote about hashavas
aveida, the mitzva of returning a lost object.
The article prompted my friend and reader,
Ruthie Braunstein to email me her personal
hashavas aveida story. A story I would like to
It was twenty-nine years ago. The week of
parshas Ki Seitzei – the parsha which
includes the mitzva of hashavas aveida.
Ruthie’s husband Josh, was driving down
the West Side Highway, and realized that he
had to make an important phone call. It was
pre-cell phone days, and Josh exited in
search of a pay phone (remember those?).
He spotted one, parked, and ran to make his
call. There, resting on the shelf beneath the
phone, he found someone’s planner – another
relic of the past. Today, we store all our info,
from contacts, to calendar appointments, and
“to do lists” on our smartphones. Then, we
had “planners” or diaries, with a section to
fill in names and numbers (who even had
email addresses back then), and another
section to record appointments.
Every Shabbos, Josh had the honor of leining
the parsha. He was aware that it was the
week of Ki Seitzei, and he would be reading
about returning what was lost. It was a no-
brainer. Josh was determined to locate the
owner. How could he not make an effort to
return the forgotten planner.
Josh took the planner home with him and
made some calls to several numbers found in
the book, but no luck. Josh didn’t give up.
Eventually, Josh and Ruthie found the
winning clue – “MOMMY” – written on the
back page. It had a Florida number. Ruthie
was happy and eager to make the call.
Mom picked up and confirmed – yes, she
had a daughter living in Brooklyn, and yes,
she would be happy to share her number.
She then asked Ruthie a most pointed
question. “Why are you making the effort,
why are you even bothering?”
Ruthie understood that this was her moment
to make a kiddush HaShem. She explained
that as an Orthodox Jew, she lived a life
committed to Torah and following HaShem’s
mitzvos, one of which is returning lost
Ruthie proceeded to call the daughter who
was very much relieved to be reunited with
her little book.
Just before Shabbos, Yehudis came to Ruthie
to retrtieve her planner, bringing a beautiful
bouquet of flowers. They struck up a
conversation, and Yehudis explained that
ever since she became religious, her
relationship with her mother became
strained. But when Ruthie explained to
Yehudis’ mother how there are mitzvos
guiding every aspect of our lives, including
returning lost items, she had a new respect
and appreciation for living a Torah life.
“Hashev teshiveim l’achicha, you shall
surely return them to your brother. (Devarim
22:1) Ruthie and Josh not only merited to
return the planner, but helped bind a closer
relationship between Yehudis and her mom.
To this day, Ruthie and Yehudis keep up with
each other, sharing in one another’s simchos.
My mother, the Rebbetzin a”h, taught that
the weekly parsha reflects upon our
personal lives and what is happening in
the world around us. We just have to open
our eyes, listen to our messages, and see
HaShem’s hand in everything that
This week, we read parshas Ki Savo.
“Vehayah ki savo, It will be when you will
come.” (Devarim 26:1) The nation is
about to enter Eretz Yisroel, the promised
land. They are given the mitzva of
bikkurim, bringing the first fruit to the
When offering bikkurim, the donor would
recall the nation’s past. The difficult days
in Egypt, the people’s crying out to
HaShem. “Va’nitz-ak el HaShem, They
(the generation in Egypt) cried out to
HaShem…, va’yishyma HaShem es
koleinu, and HaShem heard our voice…”
(Devarim 26:7) The offeror of bikkurim
concludes his words by expressing
gratitude to HaShem for bringing the
nation to Eretz Yisroel, “Eretz zavas
chalav u’devash, a land flowing with milk
and honey.” (Ibid. 26:9)
The power of prayer. A message that
speaks to all of us… for who isn’t in need
of HaShem’s help.
Elul is HaShem’s gift of time to us. Vanitz-
ak, to really cry out, and ask HaShem to
answer our personal tefillos, and our
prayers for the peace and well-being of our
nation. It’s time to daven with all our heart
There is a well-known chassidic teaching
“HaMelech b’sadeh, the King is in the
field”. During the month of Elul, HaShem
travels, so to speak, outside of His palace
and comes closer to us than any other time of
the year. The time is now. HaShem is
amongst us, more than ever. Totally
accessible, waiting for our tefillos.
My mother would tell a story she heard from
her zeide about the Be’er Mayim Chayim,
Rabbi Chayim Chernovitz zt”l (1716-1816).
The rov had a son that left the path of his
father and ancestors. A delegation from the
town decided to approach the Be’er Mayim
Chayim and tell him that his son must leave,
for he was a negative example upon the
youth of the community.
It was Chodesh Elul. The group arrived to
the rov’s home. They were ushered in, seated
and told to wait as the rov was davening.
Suddenly, they heard the rov crying, pleading
to HaShem. “HaShem, please find love,
kindness and compassion for all of Klal
Yisroel. They’re Your children. Please, love
them and bless them. And, if you ask, who
am I to say this, I will say that I have a son
who falls and stumbles on Your path, who
sometimes is very distant. But if someone
would come and say ‘send him away’, I
would fight for my son and not listen.”
Without saying a word, the contingent rose
and left the rov’s home.
It’s Chodesh Elul. We turn to HaShem,
begging him to forgive and forget. To bentch
us with kol tuv, with all that is good. Let’s
learn from the Be’er Mayim Chayim. To be
accepting. Not to be judgmental. To find
love in our hearts for others. In that z’chus,
“va’yishma HaShem es koleinu”, as HaShem
listened to the voices of our ancestors, we
ask Him to listen to our voices today.