“We Pass the Packages Around”
Daniel Braha of Deal knew exactly how he wanted to usher in his status as a bar mitzvah: with an act of hesed. Daniel wished to send care packages to 100 IDF soldiers in Israel. This was a difficult feat to accomplish on a budget, and kindhearted community members joined Daniel and his family on their hesed mission. With Mrs. Braha’s help, donations poured in from everywhere. First came the special pouches – 16 square inches, heavy duty white plastic, and a sealable flap attached. There was more: tzitzit, t-shirts, socks, flashlights, hand wipes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, undershirts – what have you. How exciting it was for Daniel and his family to return from school each day with more goodies to add to the packages! Tehillim books, dental floss, deodorant…the list kept growing. The Brahas gathered the donated paraphernalia which was to be packaged by Daniel’s friends on the day of the bar mitzvah celebration.
Daniel’s big day finally arrived. Family and friends joined together to celebrate Daniel’s bar mitzvah. After a beautiful seudah, the boys sprang into action, stuffing those IDF bags. The boys had a grand time packaging the goods. When they were done, they pasted two cards to each care package. One, in Hebrew, read: “Dear Soldier, I extend my support and appreciation to you on the occasion of my Bar Mitzvah.” It was signed, “Daniel Braha, Deal, New Jersey.” The other card, in English, was a short note from Daniel’s peers. At last, the packages were complete, and they looked magnificent.
As the bar mitzvah excitement began to subside, a logistical problem surfaced: how would the Brahas send 100 bulky packages to the Holy Land? Unfazed, Mrs. Braha contacted Mrs. Helen Fuchs of Long Island, the brains behind A Package from Home, an organization which sends solidarity packages to soldiers in Israel.
“We generally send off the packages with travelers to Israel,” Mrs. Fuchs explained, touched by the thoughtfulness of a 13-year-old. “Although you have so many packages, one thing I assure you: those packages will reach their destination by Sukkot! Simply send them over to me, and your bags will take precedence.”
And send them she did! Mrs. Braha sent one of the two package-filled duffel bags with a Sephardic Bikur Holim staff member who lived in North Jersey. That staff member had an acquaintance that commuted to Long Island and was willing to take the duffel bag over to Mrs. Fuchs. All involved parties repeated this arrangement with the other duffel bag, as well. Thus, after an exchange of many hands, the bags reached the organization in Long Island.
This was the last the Brahas knew about the IDF packages. War broke out shortly afterward, and it was difficult to ascertain whether the packages ever reached their destination. Did they arrive in Israel? Had the IDF troops received them? The saga of the care packages ended there. Or so thought the Brahas…
January 2015 (Six months later)
Daniel’s older brother, Harry Braha, who is spending the year learning in yeshiva in Israel, gripped a pole on a crowded bus in Jerusalem. After a while, Harry noticed that a man, who had boarded the bus a few minutes after he did, was staring at him intently.
“You look quite familiar,” the man remarked to Harry. “Do I know you? I’m from New York, by the way.”
“I’m Harry Braha, from Deal, New Jersey,” Harry replied.
“Braha?! Braha from Deal, New Jersey?!” the man exclaimed, his voice brimming with excitement. “Are you by any chance related to Daniel Braha, also from Deal, New Jersey?”
“He… He’s my younger brother. Uh, how do you-”
“You’re Daniel Braha’s brother! Well, my brother is a soldier here in Israel, and this past summer, he received a package from America from a Daniel Braha of Deal, New Jersey. He was so touched. It meant so much to all of us!”
Harry smiled and nodded knowingly. The man hugged him and jumped off the bus by the next stop.
Harry collected himself. His parents and siblings had totally put the packages out of their minds as soon as they reached Long Island many months earlier. And now, over the course of a two-minute conversation, an IDF soldier’s brother had come to inform them that the care packages were received. What’s more, the two met on the same bus at the same time, even though hundreds of buses passed through the neighborhood every day! What an amazing display of hashgahah peratit (Divine Providence)!
To his family’s delight, Harry informed them of the incredible encounter he had on the bus in Jerusalem. They all knew that it was a message from Hashem that their hesed mission was a success.
Mrs. Helen Fuchs of A Package from Home can be contacted at (917) 560-9239.