A young man who was a “dyed-in-the-wool” yeshiva bachur entered a telephone booth (ask your great grandparents what this means). He noticed that someone had left a small address book on the shelf under the phone. Losing a phone book is a disaster. The only thing I can compare it to is losing your phone…
He decided to take off a slice of his day to make whatever he had to do in order to return it to its owner. He looked through the numbers and noticed that one of them was under the heading Mom. He called the number and was met with a great deal of suspicion. "Who are you? Why do you need to reach my daughter?" He explained what happened (using various rephrasing) until she finally got it. He offered to give her his number, so that her daughter can contact him without his getting her number. He offered to mail her and let her send it on to her daughter. The truth finally came out. She didn't know her daughter's number or address. She was out of contact. It began with her daughter's becoming religious, and her cutting her out of her life in the hopes that her daughter would chose her over the new lifestyle she adapted. It didn't happen. Her daughter wasn't as resilient as she wished. After enough rejections, she stopped reaching out. All her mother knew was that she had moved to another address.
After trying several more numbers, he tracked her down. The conversation was more complex than he had imagined that it would be. The result was that the mother and daughter renewed their relationship. The next step was the mother rethinking her relationship to Torah Judaism. She had bought into every stereotype the media had shot in her direction. The young man opened her eyes to recognize that he didn't do what he did in spite of his allegiance to Torah, but because of it. No, the story doesn't end with a shidduch; after mailing the address book, the young man was basically out of the picture. It ends with both the mother and daughter re-learning the basis of their relationship.
One of the mitzvot in this week's Parshah is returning lost objects. Ohr HaChaim explains that whenever a Jewish person is lost, it is a mitzvah to return him to his Owner. The verses tell you "don't act as though you don't see", and "take it home". This is telling you more than the mitzvah of helping someone else find their way back. It is telling you that no one is fated to stay lost; Hashem doesn’t despair of the possibility of return, only we do.
Rosh Hashanah is coming soon. It is a time for return. It isn't the time for asking forgiveness for sin; that is Yom Kippur. It's a time to stop feeling alienated. Hashem is truly, both Avinu, our Father, and Malkeinu, our King. He knows you intimately from before you knew yourself, and His decrees determine the course of your life minute by minute. He created the world for you, and your choice to acknowledge His presence in your life can be transformational. You won't be lost; even in difficult moments you will know that He is there with you, challenging you to be the person you have yet to discover.
This will be a short letter (for a change!). Tomorrow, G-d willing Bnos Avigail the new seminary that Rabbi Kass and I are involved in will be opening, and simultaneously (although not planned that way) my new book, "Return" which is about self-change, will be coming out. Sooo, this is it for now.
All the best always,