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    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
    and soul.
    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.