As I pulled the seat belt across my shoulder and inserted the buckle, I felt my delicate gold chain falling off my neck. It was a dreadful feeling. If that chain had come loose, so had my small gold pendant. Perhaps it had already fallen off in the mall where I had just spent the last hour and a half. I undid the seatbelt, searching for my pendant in and under the seat and the floor. Nothing.
I had been Chanukah shopping, trooping up and down escalators, striding along the walkways from Nordstrom to Macy’s and back again, peeking in boutiques on different floors. The mall was nearly 870,000 square feet, and I gauged my chances of finding my special pendant—less than one inch around—about as good as my winning the Pulitzer Prize.
This wasn’t the first time I had lost the same piece of jewelry. I had bought it on impulse years before, smitten by the shimmering shades of green, red and burgundy cloisonné in a heart-within-a-heart motif. The tiniest of diamonds set in the middle added to the reflective quality. It wasn’t outrageously expensive, but it was surely a self-indulgence to buy it.
I rationalized my decision. Lots of women spent this much and much more on designer handbags every year or two, a habit I do not understand and could not afford. I shooed away that phrase in the Shema about not allowing yourself to be seduced by what your heart and eyes desire. I often fight my materialistic impulses; that day I lost.
Toting home my new bauble, I felt guilty. My husband is a generous man. I should have told him about it and asked him to keep it in mind for a special occasion. But it was a limited edition, the artist’s name etched in gold on the back, and I knew it wouldn’t last. So I took material matters into my own hands and signed the credit card slip.
I loved wearing my colorful pendant. My husband also liked it and didn’t question where it came from or what it cost. But after a few years, it disappeared. I searched everywhere for it, but finally gave it up for lost. I was sad, but part of me felt it was payback. You shouldn’t have been so extravagant in the first place, I thought.
Fast forward three years. I had dumped out the contents of a dresser drawer to organize it. To my amazement, there was my pendant, winking at me amidst an island of ordinary athletic socks. I thanked HaShem for returning my pendant to me. I figured He was saying (in a manner of speaking), “Knock it off already with the guilt trip. Just enjoy it and be careful.”
Given this history, you can imagine the awful déjà vu I experienced when I felt the chain slip off a few days ago. This can’t be happening again! I thought. This time, my beautiful pendant would not magically appear in a sock drawer—or any drawer—back at home.
I felt momentarily heartsick. It’s just a thing, I lectured myself. Count your blessings. If it’s gone, it’s gone. Go home and make dinner.
And yet. . . even though it was a lost and tiny item in a huge mall, why not at least report it missing? The woman in the management office was sympathetic, took my information, but agreed it was long odds of getting it back. It was absurd, I knew, to actually try to find my pendant, and I wondered what lesson there was in my having lost it not once, but twice. But Chanukah is a time of miracles. In the Chanukah story, something very small and valuable really did show up in a totally unexpected way. I also thought of Yaakov when he crossed the river to retrieve a few small jars of insignificant monetary value. All his possessions had a purpose, even those small jars. Why not at least look?
Like a detective, I retraced my steps as closely as possible. I went down the escalator to the last place I had been, a Hallmark shop. I kept my eye to the ground. Before heading to the aisle where I had picked the only item I purchased—a Chanukah card—I stopped to survey the area near the cash register where I had waited in line.
Tucked under a display of holiday mugs, my pendant, face up, glinted at me.
I was rooted to the spot, thunderstruck. I swooped down and grabbed it. Holding it in a vise-like grip, I ran back upstairs, and in happy disbelief, showed it to the lady in the management office. I think she was as stunned as I was.
When I shared this story with our guests at our Shabbat table, I said, “This really felt like my own little Chanukah miracle. But I still wonder if it means anything else…”
My niece Ali said, “I would not have gone back into the mall like you did. I would have been sure the pendant was gone for good. But you looked for it and you found it. I think that’s the lesson. Never give up, even when the odds seem so much against you.”
“There’s also another lesson,” my husband said. “For Chanukah, I’m going to buy you a better chain.”
*Originally published on Aish.com