Several months ago, just before the start of the summer, my boy lost his Tefillin on the subway. Due to an emergency situation on the train, while passengers were evacuated, in the commotion that ensued as he departed the train, he left his precious Tefillin on the subway. It is difficult to put into words the feelings that my son had, following this incident. The guilt, the remorse, but most of all the pain that he felt at the loss of what to him was his prized possession. I assured him that this was not his fault, and we did, in fact, engage every contact and connection that I had to comb the subway system in search for my Avi’s Tefillin. But all our efforts were for naught.
No matter how much I tried to comfort him, he simply refused to be consoled. Loss is difficult for any person, but for children of divorce, who have already lost so much, loss is magnified. He spoke lovingly to me about how precious these two black boxes were to him. How proud he was to wear them every day, and how he imagined keeping them for the rest of his life. As he left for camp, I got him a loaner pair of Tefillin, and assured him that I would make my best efforts to purchase him a new pair of Tefillin, just as beautiful and precious as the original.
Over the last eight weeks of camp, in every phone call, this was his primary concern. As I was begging for information and stories of how wonderful camp was, he only wanted to know what would be with his Tefillin. I decided to go back to the original scribe, a saintly and elderly scholar in Israel, and asked him to prepare a new set of Tefillin. Each week, I made a payment towards the balance, until finally it was paid in full. On Sunday morning, I received a call from the Sopher in Israel, that the Tefillin were ready, and he was sending them to New York, with a colleague, and they would be available for pick up on Monday.
Just two days ago, on Monday afternoon, my boy returned from camp. As he stepped off the bus, I rushed over to him and gave him a huge hug. There are times in life, where words simply do not do justice in painting a scene and describing an emotion. This was true for that special moment on the corner of 18th Avenue and 56th Street. As he sat in the car before he could utter a word, I told him that I had his Tefillin. His eyes lit up. If I had told him that we had won the lottery, I’m not sure that he would have had an as happy expression. I took the Tefillin out of the bag, and I gave it to him. I sat in awe as I watched his reaction. He took each Tefillin in his hand, and carefully and lovingly unwrapped them. He kissed them with intensity and such deep respect. I watched as he placed the Tefillin back in the bag, and my heart was filled with pride and joy.
As parents, we wish so much for our children. We want them to be the greatest achievers. We want them to know a life shielded from pain and sorrow. But most of all, we want them to succeed and find true happiness. How often do we lie awake at night, unable to fall asleep, worrying about our children? The moments of joy are sporadic, but when they arrive, they are blissful and magical, as they are beautiful. What more could a parent want, than a child who puts such great value on a pair of Tefillin?
It is likely not in my cards to ever be able to deliver to him a world of affluence and unlimited luxury. But if through any of my efforts, my child has gained love, respect, and a deep connection to our tradition, I am forever grateful. Two months ago, my boy suffered what to him was a tremendous loss, while riding on the D train. Eight weeks later, we were blessed with a special moment. That twenty minute ride on the D train brought our family closer. It taught us that you can find G-d, even on a simple subway ride. But most of all, it gave me a new appreciation and respect for my child.