An Unbelievable but True Personal Essay:

This unbelievable act of stealing happened to my daughter during the period of time she was living in the mystical town of Safed and I was studying kabbalah for my doctorate. I wrote it down in story-like style, though every bit is factual, two days after she told me. I gave it the title “Remorse of a Phone Thief,” but I never did anything with it by way of publishing. This is the first time it is seeing the light of day!

           Two days ago, my twenty-one year old daughter Miriam was woken up abruptly at four in the morning by a shocking sensation– something or someone alien had entered her duplex apartment. She jolted up in bed and held her breath. Beyond her bedroom door she heard the unmistakable treading of unknown feet in her living room. Stilling the pounding of her heart, she cried out, “Who is it?”  The movement in the living room became frenzied as whoever it was, frightened by her shout knocked into furniture in a race for the swiftest way of escape.

           Miriam ran into her apartment mate’s room and shook her out of sleep. The two girls slowly crept down the stairs into the living room. A quick sweep of the scene showed them that the intruder had run away. Then Miriam went to the refrigerator. On top of it she kept her prized possession—her digital camera. She was relieved when she touched its canvas case. A few minutes later her smile faded. Her wine colored mobile phone which she had left on the table to recharge was no longer there.

           Miriam borrowed her friend’s mobile and angrily punched out an SMS message to the thief:

         “If you keep my phone, your life will be cursed from this day on.” Then she pressed “Send” and watched the icon of an envelope flashing as her message was sent through the air.

          This morning when she called me she was very upset. The impression of a malevolent someone having trespassed into her sacred domain bothered her intensely. My daughter was feeling wounded, molested, set off balance. Everything seemed to break apart for her; all the hard won order she had made in her life crumbled into chaos—moving to a new town; getting a new apartment and a new apartment mate. The phone numbers of all her old friends were lost to her. Moreover, she had just begun her first day of a horse-back riding instructor’s training course. To get there she had to travel a long distance and she was going to do this without any communication. To even call me she had to borrow someone’ else’s phone.

 But something else was troubling her deeply too. Though the mobile phone company had cut off all outgoing calls from her phone once she had placed the complaint, they gave her a piece of precious information. At four thirty in the morning, one half hour after the burglary, the thief had used her phone to go surfing on the internet. It wasn’t the money gone down the drain that was troubling her, though she would have to pay for each precious minute of the surf.

What really troubled her was this question: What kind of thief had she cursed for the rest of his life? One who breaks into her apartment, runs away with her mobile phone, and devours the internet?  And after she had blocked all outgoing calls, the instrument in his hand, the prize of his thievery, was useless to him. Did this person, whose life must be so deprived, not only of material possessions but spiritual possessions as well, deserve to be cursed for the rest of his life? Yet, there was no way she could take back the SMS message she had sent to the thief. SMS messages are annoyingly persistent. They keep ringing until they are acknowledged and read. The thief had definitely read her words, “If you keep my phone, your life will be cursed from this day on.”

             The next day, in between dealing with police officers at the precinct who were supposedly “handling the case,” and running off to the mobile phone sales outlet to buy another phone, she spent time in prayer. “Dear God,” she said over and over again. “Please change the heart of this thief. Please bring him back to you so the thought of stealing will never enter his mind again. Never mind the phone. I just bought myself another one.”

               This morning Miriam called me once again overwrought and excited. “Mom, you won’t believe what happened. I can’t digest it. When I woke up I noticed the thief got in again! But now my stolen mobile phone and charger are back in the living room. And next to them is a note. ‘Here is your phone. I will never steal anything ever again. I am sorry for the trouble I caused you. Please take this money.’  

                    “Mom, next to the note, the thief left me fifteen dollars! What does this all mean?”  She asked me “I’m frightened!”

                 I didn’t know how to answer at first. My daughter’s piety has never ceased to amaze me. Then I said, “I guess it means your prayers are extremely strong. What a lucky thief! He stole from someone who has the gift of prayer! Your prayer that he should never steal again, that his heart should become good woke him up!”

              “You don’t think it was my curse, Mom?”

              “No, I don’t think so.”

              “Maybe you’re right,” my daughter answered. “But what am I going to do with two phones now?”