It had been some time since Yaakov had seen the old man. Yeshiva, learning, marriage, and life itself got in the way. In fact, Yaakov had traveled 6,000 miles away, to Eretz Yisrael, in pursuit of his dreams.
There, in the rush of his busy life, Yaakov had little time to think about the past and often no time to spend with his wife and son. He was working on his future, and nothing could stop him.
Over the phone, his mother told him, “Mr. Bressler died last night. The funeral is Monday.” Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days.
“Yaakov, did you hear me?”
“Oh, sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you. It’s been so long since I thought of him. I’m sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago,” Yaakov said.
“Well, he didn’t forget you. Every time I saw him, he’d ask how you were doing. He’d reminisce about the many days you spent over ‘his side of the fence’ as he put it,” his mother told him.
“I loved that old house he lived in,” Yaakov said.
”You know, Yaakov, after your father, a’h, died, Mr. Bressler stepped in to make sure you had a man’s influence in your life,” she said.
“He often took me to shul and was the one who taught me carpentry,” Yaakov responded. “I wouldn’t be in this business today if it weren’t for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important.”
“Mom, I want to be there for the funeral,” Yaakov said. As busy as he was, he kept his word. Yaakov caught the next flight out of Ben-Gurion to his hometown back in the States. He just made it. Mr. Bressler’s funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.
The night before he had to return to his family in Yerushalayim, Yaakov and his mother stopped by to see the old house next door one more time. Standing in the doorway, Yaakov paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time. The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture. Then Yaakov stopped suddenly.
“What’s wrong, Yankele?” his mother asked.
“The box is gone,” he said.
“What box?” His mother asked.
“There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a hundred times what was inside. All he’d ever tell me was, ‘The thing I value most,’” Yaakov said.
It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Yankel remembered it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Bressler family had taken it. “Now I’ll never know what was so valuable to him,” Yaakov said. “I’d better get some sleep. I have an early flight home tomorrow.”
– – –
It had been about two weeks since Mr. Bressler died. Returning home from work one day, Yaakov discovered a note in his mailbox. “Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days,” the note read. Early the next day, Yaakov went on the Egged bus to the main post office and retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed 25 years before. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention. “Mr. Chaim Bressler,” it read. He then took the box out and ripped open the package. There inside was the gold box and an envelope.
Yaakov’s hands shook as he read the note inside.
”Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Yaakov Spira. It’s the one thing I valued most in my life.” A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, tears filling his eyes, Yaakov carefully unlocked the box. Inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch.
Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these words engraved:
“Yaakov, thanks for your time! Chaim Bressler.”
“The thing he valued most was . . . my time.” Yaakov held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days. “Why?” his partner asked.
“I need some time to spend with my wife and son,” he said. “Oh, by the way, thanks for your time!”
– – –
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.
My dear great-uncle, Reb Yeshaya Dovid Waxman, shlita, from Monsey, had the z’chus to learn bechavrusa with Reb Yaakov Kaminetzky, zt’l, for many years. I fondly remember as a young boy learning in Mesivta Beis Shraga in Monsey visiting Reb Yaakov with my great-uncle. This story reminded me of how Reb Yaakov would often give bar mitzvah boys a watch as a gift. At the time, I didn’t quite understand the point or significance of that gift. Only years later, as we get older and wiser, and see our families grow into adults themselves, can we appreciate the gift of time.
We are all given a certain amount of time on this world, and we don’t know when that day will come when we are returned to Hashem, our Maker. In his short yet productive life, Moishe Reisman, a’h, taught us all how one can be the best he can be with what Hashem gives us. Always a smile and CD at hand, he touched everyone he came in contact with. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think about the little joy and smiles I was zoche to bring when we had those memorable kumsitzen in the Reisman home. What we do know is that every single one of us can make the best of our time and truly make the world we live in a better place to be.
So whether one started the new cycle of daf yomi after an incredible evening at the Siyum haShas, or has made shalom with a parent, sibling, or neighbor, or is simply being more careful about lashon ha’ra, understand that often it’s the small gestures in life that have the most impact. A smile from you can bring happiness to anyone, even if they don’t like you.
You are special and unique, and every one of us excels in different middos.
Even when we make the biggest mistake ever, something good can still come from it. Even a broken clock tells the correct time twice a day!
Send this article to all the people you care about; if you do so, you will certainly brighten someone’s day and might change their perspective on life . . . for the better.
To everyone who reads this, “Thanks for your time.”
Wishing everyone a k’sivah v’chasimah tovah and a year of Gefen–gezunt, parnassah, and nachas from your families.
If you have any comments or would like to share a special story, feel free to eâ€‘mail the author at Shloime@shloimedachs.com.