I’ve lost many jewelry pieces over the years and broken many others. I decided long ago giving away jewelry was the easiest way to keep them from my own harm. However, when my mother gifted me an heirloom necklace, pearls set off with a multi-gem intricate clasp, she did so with a caveat. She wanted it to stay in the family. She also wanted it to stay with me, which is why I was forewarned that I was not to regift it, no matter how much I might want to pass it on. I was scared of wearing that necklace. I was equally worried of leaving it around where it could be stolen. That is why this necklace came to be wrapped in a spare blanket and stuffed in the darkest corner of my linen closet. During a discussion about jewelry at work one day, I made mention of my necklace and of how I stowed it away. “Jewelry is made to be worn,” protested my workmates. Their words lingered in my ears, and one year, on the second day of Sukkos I decided they were right. I pulled the necklace out and wore it regally to services. After synagogue, as soon as I arrived home, I took the necklace off, intending to return it to its dark corner shelf. Many are the intentions that never get executed. I had a guest over for the holiday and she went to nap in the room of the linen closet. Trying to be a considerate hostess, I elected to leave the necklace as is until nighttime, when I knew my guest would depart. Night fell, and I rolled up my disposable tablecloth with the remnants of our last meal. Ahead of myself, I even managed to put it into a shopping bag and sent it hurtling down the chute to the building garbage compactor. The third day of Sukkot, early in the morning I woke up and realized I had forgotten to put away my necklace. It was gone. First, I cried with a broken heart, wondering how I would face my mother. After the crying jag was over, I asked myself, “What does G-d want of me? I didn’t return this jewelry to its box due to G-d’s commandment of welcoming guests. So what could be expected of me at this moment?” I took a deep breath and said, “Next foot forward. Go on with your day, even though your heart is pained.”
Next step forward was a trip to my Sukka where I was to make my daily blessing on my lulav and esrog. As I stepped into the Sukka, I realized that it was the day of Jacob’s Ushpizin. Each day of Sukkos the soul of another of our great forebears is invited into our Sukka and we are to capitalize on that predecessor’s spiritual strength. It hit me then – today I had lost the necklace. Years ago, Jacob had lost some small bottles. He, for something way less in value, retraced his steps and recovered the bottles at great peril to himself. It was clear what I must do about the necklace. I ran down to the super’s apartment and begged him to allow me into the compactor room. He was reluctant, telling me it was smelly…and dangerous too. I begged and entreated, and he finally let me into the room. With the aid of a box of rubber gloves, I began my spiritual journey of trying to find my lost possession. I went through bag after bag of smelly garbage. After 45 minutes I finally saw something familiar – the shopping bag I had used to dispose of my garbage. I took it out carefully. The garbage was still inside, though the bag itself had holes where it had been mangled by the compactor machine. I sifted through the remnants; but the necklace was nowhere to be found. I rebagged my building’s garbage and left the compactor room, heading back home, content though I hadn’t found my heirloom. I had done my part. I had shown G-d I had learned the lesson of father Jacob. If G-d willed it that the necklace be taken from me, so be it, but my part in the puzzle I had done.
I went upstairs and began straightening my apartment. There was an old jewelry box on my dresser, and, absent-mindedly, I picked it up and opened it. There, nestled inside, was the heirloom necklace. Many are the objects we think we’ve lost. Many are the things we seek to find. And most of the time, after searching through mounds of garbage, we discover the treasure lay nestled safely within our own domain throughout.
(And I’ve learned that what Shlomo Hamelech said is so true: Marbeh Nechasim, Marbeh Da’agos – the more possessions you have, the more worries. It is way easier to get rid of your jewelry than to have to worry about its safekeeping. Or to wear costume jewelry. No expensive stuff, no sweat about its loss. )