It’s late Wednesday afternoon. We’ve just taken the kids out for an early supper (a rare treat).
As I get into the car, I extend a coin to the car guard. He’s an older, affable fellow, but I’m late for Mincha and need to tip and scoot.
He stops me mid-handout.
Turns out, he’s found a purse lying on the pavement. He is sure it belongs to someone Jewish, and wants me, the rabbi, to trace its owner. I peek inside to find a few credit cards and a driver’s license.
Not quite Jewish. Unless her great-grandparents were desperado Jews during the Inquisition.
Now, I’m really late for Mincha.
Samuel- the car guard- is disappointed. He’s keen for the mitzvah of hashovas aveida (returning lost items). I have a twang of Jewish guilt- surely the rabbi should be more excited for the mitzvah than old Samuel.
I snap a photo of the driver’s license, because I doubt I’ll remember Vanessa’s last name, rev the engine and promise Samuel I’ll do my best.
Chassidim do, after all, believe that everything happens for a reason.
Traffic’s backed up on the freeway. I’m really,really late for Mincha, and I know that today they don’t have a minyan without my boys and I.
Who should I ask about Ms Carvo (or whatever her name is)? My contacts in the local Portuguese community are scant at best. I have one Greek friend and an Irish one (Iceberg, Goldberg), should I try them?
The brainwave hits during the Amidah (as it usually does).
“Oseh Shalom”, the mourners wind up the last kaddish and I quickly tap out a precis of Samuel’s story on social media. I copy some local radio stations, a couple of journalists and my European friends. Does anyone know Vanessa?
Later that evening, a Jewish woman I don’t know messages me on Facebook. She knows Vanessa C and has confirmed that she had dropped her purse in the vicinity of where Sam found it. How can she retrieve her personal items?
I direct Hazel to tell Vanessa to meet Samuel on his street-side beat in Norwood. After all, he’s waiting to do the mitzvah.
Vanessa catches up with Samuel Thursday lunchtime. They flash smiles and celebrate with a selfie, which they send me as a thank you.
Mitzvah accomplished, compliments of Facebook.
Jews believe that G-d created every person and every item with a purpose. That fellow you look right through as your park your car might retain some simple values- like care for a stranger- that our sophisticated world has forgotten. And the sophistication of technology is best used for a basic act of kindness.
* She asked me not to use her real name.