by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
A young tourist from Denmark came to the Kotel Yesterday. I could not get him to put on tefillin. No matter what I tried, he was insistent that he was not going to put them on. He had put them on for a year when he was much younger, but “it didn’t do anything” for him. He has not put them on since.
I tried to explain that he was not doing it right or it would have been “doing something” for him. He pushed all of my answers away. He had just graduated from medical school and had an attitude that if it doesn’t work, you don’t do it. I tried talking to him for some ten minutes. I used all of my examples that have worked in the past, but he would not budge. I was surprised that he didn’t just walk away. In truth, he was so negative that I was about to walk away.
Just then three young Japanese tourists walked by. I looked over to them and said something to them in Japanese. I enjoy seeing how shocked they are when they see someone who looks like I do speaking Japanese. I remember maybe a dozen or two sentences from when I was in Japan over fifty years ago. My accent and vocabulary really surprise them.
It turned out that the Jew was even more shocked than they were. He asked them in English, “Is he really speaking Japanese to you? Can you understand him?” They said yes. He smiled broadly and announced, “That you can speak Japanese … That’s amazing! Okay, I’ll put on tefillin.”
Now I was the one who was amazed. I have no idea why my speaking Japanese changed his mind.
I quickly helped him to put on tefillin. After he said the prayers, I had him pray for his loved ones and his own needs. I saw that he was finally opening up a little and in fact was enjoying his experience. So many long years of negativity fell away in those few minutes. His long-held opinions changed; from being totally negative to somewhat open.
What a blessing this was for him. He is at the age where he is looking to get married. With a completely negative attitude about Judaism, he could easily intermarry. These few minutes wearing tefillin and opening his heart at the Kotel may very well have saved him from that.
Am I recommending that everyone learn to speak Japanese in case some day it will convince someone to do a mitzvah? No, I am not. But I am recommending not giving up. When helping someone to come to a mitzvah, try whatever you can. You never know what might work.
BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא