There’s no panic quite like discovering that your suitcase has disappeared from beneath the bus you had just traveled on, right before a two-day Yom Tov to another city. It wreaks havoc on one’s psyche and causes extreme panic. That’s what happened to Shlomo and Meira Weber just a few hours before the onset of Rosh HaShanah in Ramat Beit Shemesh.
After calling everyone they could think of in the community for help, they decided to walk through Beit Shemesh and check the bus stops, in the hope that their suitcase had fallen out and had been left behind. There were two hours left before Yom Tov, and no one was around. Stores were closed, buses had stopped running, and everyone was already holed up in their homes doing last-minute prep. There were no stray suitcases anywhere, and time was ticking closer and closer to the holiday.
After about 40 minutes, they had to cut their losses. Suitcase or no suitcase, at the very least they needed beds to sleep on at night. Resigned to the situation, they turned back and began trekking up the long hill to Ramat Beit Shemesh.
Just then, a car pulled up beside them. An Israeli man leaned out the window and called out, “Where do you need to go?”
They were so grateful for the tremp (hitch) and they packed themselves immediately into the backseat. It turned out that the two Israeli men in the front seats lived right down the street from their hosts for Yom Tov. Very quickly, the whole story came tumbling out, and the men were shocked. “All of your things are lost?! What are you going to do for Rosh HaShanah?”
“We’ll manage,” Shlomo responded. “No, you can’t just manage,” said the driver. “We’re going to help you!”
He jerked the car around and began driving in the opposite direction, as his friend whipped out his phone and checked their bus route on Moovit. They made a quick check at the bus stop but alas, no suitcase. “Doesn’t matter,” said the driver. “We’re going to take care of you both.” He threw a grin back at the couple and began to record a voice note to his wife as they sped back to Ramat Beit Shemesh. “Mami, we have a couple here, they lost their bag, and they don’t have anything for the chag. We need pants, a dress shirt, some skirts and dresses – what size dress are you? – shoes for both of them, toothbrushes, toothpaste, towels, socks, pajamas. Send a message out to the WhatsApp group; we’ll get everyone to give things.”
Shlomo and Meira stammered their thanks as they pulled into the driveway of an apartment building. The man in the passenger seat told Shlomo to come with him for clothing, while Meira followed the driver upstairs to his apartment. The man’s wife met her at the door with the biggest, warmest Israeli welcome, beckoning her in with a huge smile. Dazed, Meira followed her in, as her daughters threw open their closets and pressed clothing into her arms – dresses, skirts, and headscarves – almost too much to carry! They packed everything she could need into a bag, and even offered perfume and makeup! The kindness was overwhelming, and it was such a dramatic shift from the panic of an hour ago, that Meira almost cried. People she had never met were rummaging through their closets for her. She couldn’t even imagine how she deserved such a thing!
Meanwhile, the neighbor had taken Shlomo to the suit store that he owned, and he gave him – not lent him – two beautifully crisp, brand-new white shirts and a sleek, slim-fit navy blue suit. A new pair of tzitzis, a pair of dress shoes, and a leather belt were added for good measure. “These should fit you, they’ll be perfect.” They did fit, and they were perfect!
The Webers were absolutely blown away, literally weak in the knees from the chesed and care they were shown.
When they finally arrived at their hosts’ house, their lives had been forever changed. These people were mal’achim, literal angels that had saved them. Yes, they could have lived without it. But those families made it so that they didn’t have to!
Epilogue: Shlomo and Meira did get their suitcase back in the end! Two days after Rosh HaShanah, Shlomo got a call from an unknown number. A lady in Bnei Brak had accidentally taken their suitcase off the bus, and when she tried to find identification inside in order to return it, all she found was the name “Weber” scrawled inside a book cover and a small box of medication with their names on it. She called their kupah (health clinic) and explained the situation, and they gave her their number! By that evening, the suitcase was back in their apartment. P.S.: They bought a luggage ID tag the very next day!