Echoes // Years later, my words saved a life

By: Goldy Guttman

close up soft focus on telephone devices at office desk with light effect,communication technology concept

The phone’s ringing jarred me awake. I checked the clock on my night table: 7:15 a.m. I was usually already up at this hour, but I had pulled an almost all-nighter the night before, cooking and cleaning for Shabbos, and I was happy to sleep in a bit. But the phone continued its jingle and I grabbed the receiver. I didn’t recognize the number. Who could be calling me at this hour? I didn’t have time to speculate and pressed the talk button.

“Good morning,” I heard a woman say. “Do you recognize my voice?”
“Morah, it’s Chaya Finkelman. Do you remember me?”

I didn’t. In fact, I had no idea to whom I was speaking.
“That’s okay. I know it was a long time ago,” the caller continued. “You taught me in the sixth grade.”
Something stirred in the back of my brain. I’d had that sixth grade job at the beginning of my teaching career, some 15 years earlier. Chaya must have been one of my first students. But I hadn’t heard from her in years. Why was she calling me now at this hour?

“Yes, yes,” I said. “I remember you now. How are you?” I tried to keep the frog out of my throat so she wouldn’t feel bad that she had just woken me out of a deep sleep.
“I get a mazel tov,” she blurted out. “I became a kallah last night!”
“Mazel tov!” I replied, mentally calculating that Chaya had to be somewhere around 27 years old. It was a big simchah.
“You’re probably wondering why I’m calling you so early in the morning,” she said. Then, not waiting for an answer, she continued. “It happened late last night, around two a.m. I can’t wait to call all my friends and let them know, but I promised myself that you would be the first phone call I made to share my news. I’ve been up all night and just couldn’t wait anymore.”
That’s funny. Why would she want to tell me first?
She must have picked up on my thoughts, because she said, “You probably want to know why. Do you remember those lessons you taught us on the topic of bas mitzvah?”
I did. I’d put a lot of effort into the curriculum, and it was the highlight of the year for those girls.
“There was one thing you said that made a real impact on me. You told us that Rav Shmuel Wosner used to encourage girls to daven for their zivug and future children from the time they turned 12. Ever since that day, I’ve been saying a tefillah for a special husband and good children after Shemoneh Esrei.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy, given my background, but I put my whole heart and all my hopes into my tefillos.”
I was vaguely familiar with Chaya’s family situation. She had grown up in a complicated home, and the family had earned a reputation for being a little dysfunctional.



To read more, subscribe to Ami