Mort Laitner

The Charm Bracelet

As I stepped out of my SUV, I scanned the hot surface of the empty mall parking lot.

A twinkle or was it a sparkle caught my eye.

It looked like a small dime.

I walked toward it, bent down and picked it up.

It wasn’t a coin.

But a charm attached to a torn, red braided, leather bracelet with two coiled silver fasteners and a clasp.

Hooked into the clasp was a round silver charm containing Hebrew letters.

The eight carved letters housed in a circle, touched one another as they clung to the circle’s edge.

Sunlight cut through the charm’s openings and reflected on my finger.

I studied the letters with my rudimentary knowledge of Hebrew.

My brain untangled them.

I read two words, “Shema Yisrael.“

Unconsciously, my lips mouthed the first sentence of the Shema.

“Hear, O Israel: the Lord our G-d, the Lord is one.”

I multitude of questions ran across my mind:

“What’s the history of this child’s string bracelet?”

“Why did this item of jewelry carry only one memory?”

“Was this child reminded of the presence of the Almighty when she wore this bracelet?”

“Did the giver of the bracelet think the Shema would protect the child by warding off evil spirits, bad luck or the evil eye?”

“For how long it had touched the ground?”

“Since this is a religious object, am I obligated to pick it up—give it a new home?”

I heard the little girl crying, “Mommy, I lost my Shema bracelet!”

“Mommy, we’ve got to go back to the mall and look for it.

“It brought me good luck!”

“Honey, don’t cry. It wasn’t expensive. I’ll buy you another one.”

As I placed the charm in my pocket, I wondered, “Was this child’s loss—my gain or had the Almighty sent me a message?”

“What were the odds that I get out of my truck and find a charm with the Shema carved into it?”

“About a million to one.”

“Well, in South Florida maybe a half million to one.”

Here  were the words I prayed as I put on tefillin.

Words bound to my arm and head.

In temple, I prayed those words when I remembered my parents and grandparents.

I prayed those words before surgeries and during times of crisis.

Here were the words my hand kissed when I touched a mezuzah.

Here were the words Jews recited when death reaches their doorstep.

As the rescuer of this sacred charm, I tasked myself with properly housing it and interpreting its role in my life.

At first. for safekeeping. I placed it in the top draw of my writing desk.

The charm kept the evil eye off of my written words.

For a year, the charm recuperated from it’s tortuous time in that steamy parking lot.

Then I bought my granddaughter a bracelet and added the Shema charm to it.

“Honey, here’s the story about how I found the charm and where it’s been for over a year.”

She asked, “If I accept this gift, does it come with any responsibilities?

“Yes, my little one, with a life time of responsibilities.” I replied.

Then holding the charm in her small hands, I taught her the meaning of the Shema.

I taught her how an Israeli soldier said the Shema as he jumped on an enemy’s grenade to save the lives of his troops.

I taught her how millions of Jews prayed the Shema as the gas spread in the death chambers of the camps.

I taught her how I prayed the Shema on contemplative moments as well as times of joy and sorrow.

I taught her how we are commanded to love G-d with all of our heart, soul and might.

I taught her how we like the charm’s Hebrew letters—touch one another with love while we live on the edge of our own planet.

And how our people would be lost, just as the bracelet was in that empty hot parking lot, if we didn’t have the Shema to comfort and guide us.

About the Author
Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed online. ChatGPT says, Mort is known for his works that often explore themes of love, loss, and the human connection. Laitner has published several books , including “A Hebraic Obsession.” His writing style is characterized by its emotional depth and introspection. Laitner’s works have garnered praise for their heartfelt expression and keen insight into the human experience. Mort is in his third year as president of the South Florida Writers Association. He was a correspondent for the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Jewish Journal.
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