A True Lesson in Faith in God

    February 2012          
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Opinion & Society


A Lesson in Emunah

By Gennadiy Baruch Faybyshenko

It happened in the middle of June of 2008 when I was in search of finding myself a shidduch (date) that would potentially lead to meeting my bisheret (a soul mate). Now I am happily married with a baby boy. Back then, I was set up with a really nice girl but things did not work out for both of us, however something did happen that needs to be shared among the public. I am a baal tshuva (someone who returned to Judaism). I made a return on 2006 and one old Chabadnik back then gave me an old Tefilin (Phylacteries) to put them on every day according to Jewish Law. At the beginning I was putting up once a week but as I was learning more about Judaism I put it on more frequently until I reached daily.

After going out on a few dates with that girl, she asked me to visit her parents. She was from Rochester which is located on the northern part of New York. She came to New York City also to date since there were few Jewish guys living in Rochester . I was very excited for few reasons. First it might just be my chance to get married since meeting the girl's parents is a close step in that direction, especially to such nice girl, who was religious and very righteous person and secondly I never been to Rochester before so it was an opportunity for me to see this city. I like to travel and have been many times overseas with my parents and friends.

A week before the trip I decided to buy myself a new Tefilin since the other one was very worn out. I wanted to have my own personal one. I went to a store on Coney Island called Tiferet Stam. I asked the sales person what kind of Tefilin do they have. I was thinking of spending about hundred dollars on it, but I had no idea how much would a tefilin cost. He told me that there are a huge variety of them ranging from few hundreds to thousand dollars. The really nice ones are made from cow's hide which are at least range in five hundreds and above. They also can make custom made which would be over thousand but those require more time.

I paused for a moment to see what they had on shelves. I thought that thousand would be too much but three hundred, which was the cheapest tefilin, would be too little. I asked the salesperson advice of what does he believe I should choose. He replied that I should estimate on my budget and take somewhere in the middle. But then I thought deeper. I am not buying tefilin for myself. I am doing this for G-d, I am not gaining anything, indeed I have no idea why do I need to put on tefilin, but it is something that G-d himself ordered us to do. It is a commandment to put it on, so if I would not buy it for me, I will buy it for G-d.

I shared my mind with the salesperson. He told me that anything that is done for a mitzvah and all the money that are spent for righteous causes will come back to me. He said not to worry that all the money that I will spend will come back to me. But in my mind I understand that wht he is telling me is just all expressions. I am a realist and while it is nice to believe, there is also a reality. However the sages say that righteous money will come back in many forms that a person may not even notice. So I held my breath for a moment, gathered all my strength and proudly said that I would like to buy the most expensive tefilin for a thousand dollars. Besides, those objects people buy once in a lifetime. Its worth spending your money to get a real high quality pair. I also bought a siddur there for twenty eight dollars, it was a good price.

Now I had two pairs of tefilin and I really did not need the old one. I went to my synagogue and asked the Rabbi what to do with the old one. Obviously one cannot dispose tefilin but he must bury it. The Rabbi said that it requires some work and tht I have to get back to him. I spoke to other Rabbis and the same reply followed that it was such a big headache. The old tefilin was not an artifact to keep based on its worn conditions since it was used by many people before me. I prefer to keep only things that I use. Obviously the new tefilin that I acquired myself, I would keep for life.

I was supposed to spend Shabbat with that girl and her parents, so I packed up my suitcases with enough for few days. I decided to pack my old tefilin since I would be flying there and going through check points and such. I also bought two bottles of wine that were exclusively made in Hebron (to support our brothers and sisters who live in such rough conditions there) to give to parents as a token of gratitude. In addition I packed my Shabbat clothes and toiletries and was ready to fly. I chose Delta Airliner since it was cheaper than the others. Though there were many complaints against, the price was three times as cheap, besides I did not need luxury, it was only an hour's worth of flying. So, on Friday morning I went to JFK and checked in my one suitcase that I had. Thus I went empty handed into the cabin.

The plane took off bit earlier than the expected time. Therefore we arrived early as well. However, to my surprise all passengers' luggage was missing. Indeed the pilot had tried to beat the clock and he took off before the luggage was placed onboard. I felt so uncomfortable; all my stuff was in that luggage. The family picked me up at the airport and the girl's brother handed me his Shabbat clothes. I felt extremely uncomfortable. I brought such fine clothes to impress the family members and special wine from Hebron but had nothing in my hands.

The airport told me that the luggage would arrive later that day, on Friday night. I would have to give them a phone call and they would deliver it to a place I was staying. I tried to explain to them that on Friday night we are not allowed to use phones but they could not understand that. So I simply told them that a place where I am staying does not have a phone service. They promised to deliver it on Saturday morning instead. The Shabbat went fine. The family greeted me with a very warm welcome. They are mountain Jews who emigrated from Caucasian Mountains and have a very rich family history. They keep track of their family members up to five hundred years of lineage.

On Saturday morning, the delivery person woke me up about six o'clock in the morning with a delivery. At first I was very happy to see my luggage. That happiness did not last long once I opened the bag. It was horrible what has happened to it. It seems that a tractor drove through my bag. The glass bottles were shattered in many pieces. Wine spilled everywhere on all my clothes. I even had a notice in my bag from inspectors claiming that my bag was inspected for suspected smell and liquid coming out. All my clothes and objects were mixed. My deodorants were smashed. Something was gone. My old tefilin was not there. I looked through everything but found one small side piece of it. Was it broken? Did they threw it out? Maybe they thought it was an old box that needed to be disregarded and they did a job for me? I was frustrated with anger.

After coming back to New York I contacted representatives and wrote a complaint letter as they advised me to do so. Though I know that Delta had many similar incidents in the past, (similar things happened to my parents and the girl's family that I dated) but nothing ever was resolved in their cases. The airport claimed that they have all the rights to inspect luggage if they suspect anything. Luckily I was able to wash my clothes and all the stains disappeared. Oh well. At least I got rid of my old tefilin that no one wanted to take. I guess since no Rabbi wanted to take it, G-d took it himself.

It was September, getting close to high holidays. I took out hundred dollars to give to my synagogue as a charity and was ready to leave the house. I went to get my mail and saw a letter from Delta. They wrote an apology letter stating that they are very sorry for what has happened. And since they mistakenly misplaced objects that were dear to me based on religious claim, they decided to compensate me based on their weird estimate of $1,128.00. They asked me to accept it and not take them to any court. I gladly did. Then I quickly remembered something. The new tefilin that I bought was $1000 plus the $100 I gave to charity and on that day I bought a siddur for $28 which totally equals to the sum that the company compensated me. Not only I got rid of the old tefilin but I got a new one completely for free.

That is what I call a miracle and literally what goes around comes around. Now I believe the words of the sages who say that all money spent for righteous cause will come back to you one day. Well, in my case they literally came back to me, dollar for dollar, four month later. That is a true miracle.

The Author is the chairman of "Bnai Elim" A Jewish Activist Organization


from the Febuary 2012 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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