One Tuesday morning in March, I was standing in Trader Joe’s with my groceries: raw nuts for Pesach, kombucha, Bamba. When it came time to pay, I unzipped my fanny pack only to discover my wallet wasn’t inside.
“Can you hold my cart?” I asked the cashier. “I can’t find my wallet, so I’m going to check the car.”
My wallet was not in the car, and when I returned to the store after my search, I had to ask the cashier to return my almost-purchases to the shelves.
By the time I walked back to my car, my heart was racing. Rummaging through my memories, I recalled that the last time I had seen my wallet was when the kids and I checked out books at the Beverly Hills Library. I looked up the library’s number and dialed. It was an hour till opening time and no one picked up.
I left a message and phoned my husband. “I’ve lost my wallet, Daniel.” Tears began to flow.
He made appropriately sympathetic sounds, and then I drove home.
By the time I parked in front of our apartment building, I had a plan: Phone the only other place I’d visited in the previous two days (the hotel we’d stayed at for an anniversary overnight), look all over my bedroom, and check the car one more time.
One by one, I checked each possible location for my wallet. And one by one, I came up with gornisht.
I posted on Facebook. I needed pity.
Lost my wallet. Already cried twice. Waiting to hear from the last two places I could have dropped it outside my home. If nothing happens ... guess who will be spending time at the DMV this week (if I can get an appointment).
Venting completed, I tried to put things into perspective. Very little cash had been in my wallet. Thus far, there had been no activity on either of my checking accounts.
I told myself, Things could be worse.
I had just received my new ATM card on our joint account the previous week and had neglected to activate it, so that was easy to handle. Activate the new card, and the old one couldn’t be used. As I dealt with that, Daniel reminded me that I had delayed replacing my driver’s license with a Real ID for months.
“You might as well schedule the appointment.” Lots of paperwork had to be scanned and sent to the DMV to set the appointment, he told me.
I frowned until he added, “Don’t worry, Hon. I’ve got time to help.”
At that point, I checked Facebook, only to discover that at least a half dozen friends had all posted with the same suggestion: Donate charity on behalf of Rabbi Meir.
How could I have forgotten?
Jewish people have many segulos, actions we perform to invite blessings from God. One of the oldest is intended to help someone find a lost object. Sourced very loosely on a story from the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 18a-b), a person who has lost an item is directed to donate charity in the merit of the tanna Rabbi Meir. Jews often call him Rabbi Meir “Baal HaNess”—the Master of Miracles—in reference to his ability to achieve miracles during his lifetime and even after.
Before you donate charity in his name, you recite the following:
Rabbi Binyamin said: All are presumed blind until the Holy One, blessed be He, enlightens their eyes. We know this from the verse: “God opened her eyes and she went and filled up the water skin.”
The verse mentioned here refers to Hagar, who needed water for herself and her son in the desert, but who couldn’t see the well right in front of her till God opened her eyes.
Next, you say the following line three times:
God of Meir, answer me!
And finally, directed toward God (not Rabbi Meir), you make your request:
In the merit of the charity which I am donating for the sake of the soul of Rabbi Meir, the Master of Miracles, may I find the object which I have lost.
It sounds … hokey? Superstitious? But in the past, I’ve found this little procedure effective. Usually, between 30 seconds and 15 minutes after performing it, a missing object will show up. I’ve found a favorite shirt, a ring that had sentimental value, and my halachic prenup ... items small and large.
That doesn’t mean I’ve always found the object I was looking for at that particular moment. Occasionally, something else has turned up that had already been missing for a while. And there are times where it doesn’t work at all.
I pulled out a handful of change and donated in the merit of Rabbi Meir. I had nothing to lose—the wallet was already gone!
Five minutes later, I felt impatient. Where’s my wallet?
I went for a run. I thought, Why me? Maybe it was a kaparah, a bit of suffering to atone for an overlooked misdeed. I make a lot of mistakes, so it was easy to believe that I needed a kaparah. By the time I returned home, I still hadn’t heard from the library, so I phoned again. The security guard checked lost and found, the front desk, and even the safe. There was no sign of my wallet.
At 11 a.m., I had an appointment. That distracted me for a while. Nevertheless, by the time the afternoon rolled around, I was despairing.
I checked Facebook yet again, kvetching about how my donation in the merit of Rabbi Meir had yet to pan out. (“Be patient,” my friends said.) I ate three pieces of chocolate and mentally went over the remaining items I had to deal with from my wallet.
The most pressing issue was my individual credit union account. For a year, I had intended to close the account and move its contents to a bank. Daniel had been studying the Jewish laws around banking and discovered that credit unions are problematic because of the way they are constructed in the U.S. Account holders can inadvertently break laws prohibiting interest on loans between Jews.
Why hadn’t I transfered the funds yet? I was lazy.
I guess this is God’s way of getting me to finally do this, I thought as I dialed the credit union’s number. The woman at the credit union was friendly and polite; our business was completed in about 10 minutes.
By this point, I felt calmer. I asked myself: Is this really a kaparah? Maybe I wasn’t atoning for something I did wrong. Perhaps God was manipulating events to get me to do things right.
What else was left to take care of? Several membership cards, bonus point clubs for grocery stores, and library cards. I could handle those details tomorrow.
The next morning, I woke up at peace with my wallet’s disappearance. While I had lost my wallet, the experience thus far was a net gain.
At 7:37 a.m., I needed a pair of socks. Poking around a laundry basket full of clean laundry, I found my wallet. Looking back, I think I had tossed it to my 12-year-old on Monday so she could make a purchase online, but when she’d clicked her size, the item was out of stock. She’d never needed my card after all and had forgotten to return my wallet to me.
I posted an update on Facebook:
WALLET FOUND. Rebbe Meir had me squirming, but he must’ve put in a good word for me with God after all.
Rebecca Klempner is a wife, mother, and writer in Los Angeles.