By Yoel Nissan Guller
One autumn morning, Miriam was walking through the park on her way to school when something shiny caught her eye. There, in the grass at the edge of the walk, was a small gold locket. She picked it up and examined it. It was shaped like a book with gold trim and a mother-of-pearl cover and had a gold Jewish star on it. It opened to reveal the pictures of a man and a woman from some bygone era. She thought to herself, “Today must be my lucky day!”
Later that morning, Rabbi Greenberg was trying to teach his class but a constant murmuring from the back of the room was disrupting. It was Miriam showing her friends her newly acquired locket.
“Sorry, Rabbi,” she said, “but see what I found!”
“It’s beautiful. What a precious find,” said the Rabbi.
“Do you mean that it’s worth lots of money?” asked the students excitedly. “Is Miriam going to be rich?”
“No,” replied the rabbi. “It’s not a very expensive locket but it is very valuable.”
“Was it owned by someone famous? Is the picture inside some famous Rabbi and Rebbitzen?”
“I don’t think so,” said the Rabbi.
“Then why is it so valuable?” the class demanded.
“Because now Miriam has the opportunity to perform the mitzvah of ‘hashavas a veida’ – returning a lost object.”
The class looked disappointed as their visions of their friend’s great financial reward faded away.
The Rabbi continued, “What reward could be greater than the chance to ‘connect’ to G-d? Remember, s’char mitzvah, mitzvah – the reward of the mitzvah is the mitzvah.”
Miriam’s eyes lit up. “I’ll find the locket’s owner!” she said in a determined voice.
Right after school that day, and everyday for the next few weeks, Miriam went to the park and asked everyone she saw whether they had lost some jewelry. She put up signs all over the neighborhood. She put an ad in the local newspaper. The other students in her class helped also.
For weeks she heard nothing, yet she still tried even harder to find the rightful owner of the locket.
Then one Sunday the phone rang. It was an aide from the nursing home next to the park. She described the locket exactly and explained that the locket belonged to a patient whom the aide had taken for an outing a few weeks before.
Miriam was overjoyed! She joyously headed for the nursing home.
Rachel Feinberg sat in a wheelchair in her room in the nursing home. When the aide brought in Miriam, her eyes lit up -- first with expectation, next with tears of happiness. She explained that the locket was a gift from her parents for her eighteenth birthday and it was their pictures inside.
Rachel told how a few weeks later they were all sent to a concentration camp. There, she was separated from her parents and all her possessions were taken. The only way she was able to keep the locket was by swallowing it. She never saw her parents again.
Rachel talked on – not just about the bad times but about the good as well. It was as if regaining her locket had opened up a floodgate of memories that had been restrained by the loneliness of the years. Miriam listened in amazement.
Finally it was time for Miriam to leave. They hugged, shed some more tears together, and Miriam promised that she would return.
The next day Miriam went to school. In Rabbi Greenberg’s class she gave a full report on the previous day’s encounter. The class sat in silence, taking in every word.
After class, some of Miriam’s friends asked if she were going back, and if so, could they go also. They arranged to go with her later that week.
Rachel Feinberg was thrilled to see Miriam return and to meet Miriam’s friends. She introduced the schoolgirls to her friends in the nursing home and soon they were all laughing and chatting and having a wonderful time.
Miriam and her classmates returned to school the next day and all they could talk about was how much they had enjoyed their visit to the nursing home. Soon these visits became a common occurrence and more and more students joined in and more and more nursing home residents participated. The students would talk amongst themselves and compare notes and Rabbi Greenberg would just smile and say “mitzvah goreress mitzvah” – one mitzvah brings another mitzvah.
As summer approached and vacation was about to start the Rabbi spoke to Miriam. “Do you remember last fall when you found that locket and I told you it was a precious find?” he asked. “What do you think of it now?”
Miriam smiled. She knew that the rabbi was right. No amount of money could compare to the joy and happiness she received from doing a mitzvah. Nothing could compare to the closeness she felt to HaShem. She was thankful for the opportunity and made up her mind never to miss the opportunity to do a mitzvah again.
from the November 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine