I was strolling along my favorite trail a few hours before Shabbat, enjoying the beautiful weather, when my phone started buzzing with strange text messages asking me to authorize bank charges. At first I thought it was simply spam, but then the phone rang and the person on the other end was from my bank, asking if I’d lost my credit card because someone other than me was trying to charge it at Walmart.

I ran frantically towards my car, anxiety fueling my speed. Immediately, I saw shattered glass all over my vehicle. My car window had been smashed, and my entire purse stolen. Feeling completely violated, a sudden realization added to my overwhelm: the tiny bottle of wine I’d received from the Rebbe in June of 1990 was in that purse. I never left home without it, and now the inevitable reality was sinking in: my treasure was gone.

I managed to dial my husband's number, crying indecipherably into the phone. “Bottle … Lubavitcher Rebbe … gone … stolen … park trail … car window … broken." My husband knew my deep connection to the Rebbe’s bottle of wine and immediately understood what had happened. I assumed he called 911 because within minutes a police officer arrived at the crime scene. Trying to regain control, I started to explain to the officer who the Rebbe was, and the indescribable loss I was feeling by having the bottle stolen.

Needless to say, the bewildered policeman was more interested in details about the theft and recommended that I urgently cancel all my credit cards. He suggested I call my husband and ask him to help with this urgent task. When I dialed and began to speak Russian, the officer switched to Russian as well, and we discovered that we had both immigrated from the former Soviet Union.

This surreal “coincidence” helped me gain my composure, for I saw it as a sign that my ordeal was part of the Divine Plan. In my native tongue and in a more coherent way, I explained that while it is very unpleasant to face fraudulent charges and have a purse stolen, I was not crying about lost things, but about an irreplaceable sentimental item that was given to me by a very righteous person.

The policeman nodded in understanding but made it clear that it was unlikely my purse would ever be recovered. He explained that thieves take valuables and throw away the rest of the contents. The reality was that my bottle was gone forever.

I don't remember how I managed to get home and prepare myself for Shabbat. When I lit the candles and recited the blessings, I instinctively sensed that this loss held a special lesson that I was meant to internalize. I spent the entire Shabbat in deep contemplation about my journey. If the bottle was taken from me, I asked myself, then perhaps there’s a reason it’s no longer needed in my life?

My entire adult life, I held on to that bottle as a token of who I was meant to become after my encounter with the Rebbe. It was a symbol of transformation, a symbol of hope for a little Soviet girl to connect to G‑d and her nation. The Rebbe himself taught that “One moment of Torah and mitzvot is eternal, for through them you are bound to the Eternal G‑d and entirely transcend the boundaries of time.”

Years went by and I embraced a life of Torah and mitzvot. That little girl found her place amongst the Jewish people, and the Rebbe’s bottle of wine was no longer the only symbol of my Jewish identity.

Along my journey, I discovered that there are 613 mitzvot that bind us to our Creator. With each passing year, I made small steps and connected more deeply to my Jewish heritage and traditions. By the end of Shabbat, I had come to a profound realization: Although I was sad about the loss of this incredibly important keepsake, I wasn't lost without it. I knew that it had served its purpose, and I no longer needed the “training wheels” to be able to find balance in my life.

In the following weeks I restored most of the lost documents and made peace with what had happened. Then, unexpectedly, when my brother Ilya visited me he casually mentioned that he had an identical bottle to the one that was stolen. I was speechless. Apparently, our grandmother Zelda gave her own tiny bottle to my brother who wasn't with the family that day when we drove to see the Rebbe.

Ilya had it all these years and decided to give it to me. I couldn't believe it. I later learned that my 7 year old nephew and 11 year old niece who attend Chabad Hebrew school in Newtown, Pa under the leadership of Rabbi Yudy Shemtov and Rabbi Aryeh Weinstein asked that their dad to give me his bottle. They felt that I built a special relationship with Hashem because I chose to live a "Jewish life," and thus deserved to have the Rebbe's bottle.

The next day, filled with overwhelming gratitude, I picked up an exact copy of the bottle that was stolen on that fateful afternoon. With tears running down my cheeks, I held it in my hands for a long time, and then placed it into a special display case in my dining room, near the picture of my 13-year-old self on that visit to the Rebbe.

This is its new place—near the Shabbat candles, overlooking our beautifully set Shabbat table. I will continue to carry it with me, not in my purse but in my heart.