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A little personal story that just happened to me. I prayed at the Kotel Sunday, Rosh Hodesh, the 7th day of Hannukah, at Sunrise Minyan. The Kotel is full on Hanukah, and fuller on Rosh Hodesh. After Amidah of Shaharit, I needed the restroom badly, so I quickly took off my tefillin, and without wrapping them, just placed them in their bag, amongst the many Tefillin bags that were on the mini Bimah/stand. When I came back, the Tefillin were not in the bag, but outside the bag. Strange. I figured that they must have fallen, as there were a lot of tefillin on that stand, and maybe someone pushed them and they must have moved.

Being that it was next to the Tefillin station of Chabad at the Kotel, for those who don’t have with them Tefillin, and the tefillin station was not yet open so early in the morning, someone comes over and asked me, if they can use my Tefillin. For sure! Especially because I wanted to put on my second pair, my pair of Rabbenu Tam.

Wearing my Rabbenu Tam Tefillin, I finish up Hallel and Torah reading, and I then came back to take off and wrap up my second pair of Tefillin. By that time, the person who used my Tefillin, wrapped up my first pair and put them on my bag. I wrapped up my second pair, and put my two pairs and my Tallit in my bag, and continued on my way.

The next day, on the 8th day of Hannuka, by Sunrise Minyan by the Kotel, it was pouring rain. Everyone who could, packed inside the tunnel, by the Kotel. I finished praying, and after all the moving around, I noticed as I wrapped my first pair of Tefillin, that the Tefillin straps of the Tefillin shel Rosh, looked strange! My straps are black on both sides, and this one’s tefillin were black only on one side, but white on the other! It must be that someone switched my Tefillin shel Rosh, of my first pair!

But it can’t be! I did a mitzvah, letting someone wear my Tefillin, and now, … this is what happens? Whose Tefillin is this anyway? Did I even get the Mitzvah wearing this other person’s tefillin? What Kashrut standards on his Tefillin does he have, anyway?

His Tefillin looked old. They looked worn out. But before going to my Soffer to check them out and tell me what I should do, I went immediately to the lost and found of the police of the Kotel to report the story. I went to the lost and found of the Moreshet HaKotel to report the story and left my phone number. I went to all the leaders of the Sunrise Minyanim in that area of the Kotel to take down my number if anyone contacts them, noticing that their straps are not identical. It was raining really hard, and I was soaked and cold!

My Sofer said, not to worry. The Tefillin Shel Rosh, that I see here are old, but they are an even higher-level standard of Kashrut than yours! From the way the Shin is, the person’s Tefillin are Ashkenaz, and yours are Sefardi. From the look of the straps, the Tefillin are of an elderly man. But you don’t have to wear another pair, for today. Wait a couple of days, don’t buy a new pair for 4500 shekel just yet, because I guarantee you, that person is going to be hunting after his Tefillin once he recognizes the straps, that they are not the same! He invested so much in his Tefillin, he will be looking for them, more than you are looking for yours! Unless, one thing. Because this person is an older man, he may not notice that the straps are not the same!

I was broken. These are my Tefillin from my Bar Mitzah, and the Tefillin cases were new, and were from the highest levels of Hidur! My Tefillin’s standard is one of the things I am proud about, and now, I don’t have my Tefillin Shel Rosh, of my Rashi Tefillin! Because of doing a mitzvah!?!

I called my Rabbi, and he said, that in the meantime, it was okay to wear that person’s tefillin every day, as he is probably wearing mine, and is forgiving me to use his, just like I am forgiving him to use mine.

Every day that I could, for the week, I came back to the Kotel for Sunrise. I would call out, in the area of the switch, if anyone heard someone coming to that spot, looking for the person who switched his Tefillin. No one knew. I would look at people praying in the area, seeing if the straps of their Tefillin of the head and the ones of the hand, were not the same. People got annoyed at me for staring at them and their Tefillin, asking what I want from them. I was looking foolish. And I was frustrated. People took down my phone number, and told me they would call me, if someone does come by looking for his. I kept checking my phone every day, but no phone calls.

I turned to Hashem at the Kotel, knowing that he never leaves that place, saying, I know that You know what happened here, as it happened right under “Your Nose”. I know that you saw me do that mitzvah of letting that boy wear my Tefillin. And I know that everything that happens is for the best. I did all that I could to get back my Tefillin. And I feel bad for that person, who I have his. Please Hashem, give him back his Tefillin, and give me back mine!

And then I remembered how, when someone loses something, G-d has something that the person gains more than he lost!  The first day when I came to Israel as a Yeshiva student, I lost my watch in the Minyan Factory in Bayit Vegan, Jerusalem, next door to the Yeshiva I attended. I must have left it on the Bimah, and did not put it on after putting my Tefillin in their bag. I came back and noticed then, 20 years ago, a sign on the wall, that read “We found your watch! Come and claim it with Simanim! If you know the signs, that will show that it is your watch, we will return it to you!”

I came over to that family, and gave them the signs, and they gave me my watch. Over the next year and a half, they invited me for Shabbat meals often, and before I returned to America for Pesach a year and a half later, they asked me if I would date anyone, when back home for Pesah break. When I told them that if something came up I would consider it, they offered my Dolly, my wife, from Bayit Vegan. I dated her, and two weeks later, we were engaged.

I pretty much was ready to give up on my Tefillin, after a week of waiting. And then, Sunday morning, I got a phone call. “Is this Farhi? Did you pray on Sunday morning by the Kotel, by sunrise? Are your Tefillin Shel Rosh switched?… I am the relative of the person who switched Tefillin last week with you, accidentally at the Kotel. My relative lives in Monsey. He was here in Israel, for his father’s yahrzeit, but he had to run back. He noticed when he got back to Monsey, that the straps were not the same. We called the lost and found of the Kotel, and they did not remember anyone saying that they had their Tefillin shel Rosh switched. Sorry!… But before they hung up, they said, “Wait a second! You said Sunday, on Hannuka? Yes! There was someone Farhi… here is his number!”

I got in touch with this person in Monsey, and we exchanged pictures of the Tefillin to make sure, that we switched with each other, and not with a third person. This man had mine, and I had his. He said to me, “Know, that the Tefillin, are not mine. They were my father’s, who was a great man. He moved to Bnei Brak many years ago, and was from the closest people with R’ Chaim Kanievsky. He is buried right next to R’ Chaim, as he was very close to him. He bought the grave when R’ Chaim bought his. I am wearing my father’s Tefillin, as I know that his Tefillin were very important to him, and that my father had the highest level of Hiddur on his Tefillin. I was broken to find, that the day of my father’s yahrzeit, I lost his tefillin! It was almost as if, his tefillin were taken away from me, on his Yahrzeit! And I could not understand it! Being that I was standing next to the Chabad Tefillin stand, someone at the kotel asked me if they could use my Tefillin, and I let them use it, knowing that that was what my father would want me to do with his Tefillin… And now, after doing the mitzvah, my Tefillin were lost! But know this… you have been wearing Tefillin of my father, who was a great man!

I told my Rebbi the story, and who the man was who I was wearing his Tefillin, and my Rabbi said, “Sure! I know who he was! He was first close to R’ Chaim’s father, the Steipler, and when he asked the Steipler where to give his Tzeddaka money, the Steipler said, that he should support his son, R’ Chaim, which he did the whole life of R’ Chaim!”

I had just two more days, to wear that man’s Tefillin. I kissed those Tefillin, and thanked G-d for giving me the merit! Within 48 hours, I had a knock on my door! The man from Monsey already had my Tefillin sent back, and I gave him back his Tefillin to the messenger!

About the author, Yosef

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