by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
Sometimes we can become very frustrated when trying to do a mitzvah. There could be any number of things causing the problem. It might be lack of funds, transportation, or maybe the person we are trying to help is not cooperating. It just does not seem to be working.
One of my rough times comes when I am trying to help a bunch of young kids to put on tefillin. Obviously, this should be a time of great joy, but still, they hold their arms like loose strands of limp spaghetti. This makes helping them so much more difficult. I ask them to stiffen their arms and they try to help, but they just do not know which muscle to try to stiffen. It is so easy to become frustrated, even hot at a time like this. It’s like trying to bind loose leather straps on floppy, rubbery arms. It’s easy to say something that could (G-d forbid) ruin the kids’ experience.
At times like this, when you begin to feel frustrated, before you blow up, think of someone you love, someone who is a good example of patience, some loving friend or rabbi. The chances are you will smile and go on with the patience you need to do the job right. This is one of the great values in having met those special people in your life.
On a recent trip, I was asked to speak to a class of seven-year-old boys. I love it. Not only is it a privilege, it is fun. I am fortunate to have a lot of good stories that kids love to hear. One of my regulars is a story of how a group of very young boys at the Kotel got an army captain to put on tefillin when I couldn’t. The kids eat up the stories about kids being heroes.
Some six months after my talk, I got a call from a rabbi friend of mine whose son Berel was in that class. It was during Chol haMoed Succot (the intermediate days of the holiday of Succot). He told me that his wife had just returned from taking three of their children out to look for Jews to shake the lulav and esrog. They have a regular “route,” visiting stores and offices where they know at least one Jew works. On their way, they always go by a certain store where there is an extremely negative Jewish man. He won’t even answer them when they wish him a good Shabbos. They offered him the lulav but, as they suspected, he didn’t answer. He just growled under his breath.
After they walked away, seven-year-old Berel stopped his mother and said, “Mommy, let me try.” At first his mother did not understand what he wanted. “Mommy, give me the lulav. Let me go back and try to get him to wave it.”
“But the man is being very negative, Berel. I don’t think he will listen to you.”
“Mommy, remember what Gutman said? That sometimes little kids can do things that even big people can’t do? Let me try.”
“Okay, but be careful, he is very grouchy!” The boy took the luvav and esrog and ran back to the man.
“Sir, he said, as he looked way up at the tall man’s face. “Would you like to shake the lulav?” The man looked down at the little boy and grouched.
“Please,” he begged. “Please, please, please,” he said whining with the urgency that only little kids can whine. He shook both his legs as he pleaded with the man. The man mumbled something under his breath, and then slowly reached down and took the lulav from the boy. Berel told him the blessing which he repeated word for word, and then he waved the lulav.
How happy was this little boy! How proud he was that he brought a Jewish man to do a mitzvah when no one else could do it. Hooray, for little Berel.
Who gained that day? Well, surely the grouchy old man gained (who might even have smiled before it was over). And surely little Berel gained. What a blessing he got that day. Also, Berel’s parents were blessed in that they have such a son as Berel. And don’t forget Gutman who was blessed to be able to tell Berel that little kids can do big things. And on and on, the blessing goes around and around. We see that whenever we bring someone to do a good deed, it’s a win-win situation, everyone wins.
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