Monday, January 26, 2009


Is There Really Room For Everyone?

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

This question has to do with an old argument that should have been settled a long time ago. Simply stated, should we protect the sanctity of our Holy Torah and its treasured mitzvahs by reserving them for Jews we consider pure and ready, or should we go out and literally gather up every Jew we can find and try to bring them to the Torah?

Because of this controversy, Yours Truly was called a rasha (evil man) by the leader of the rabbis who champion the side that says, “Guard the holiness and purity of the mitzvahs.”

It was 1986. The Rav of that school of thought, referring to me, said, “Like that evil man who stands at the Kotel and puts tefillin on men who are wearing short pants and have dirty thoughts.”

Well, for the most part he was right. I was standing there putting tefillin on men who were wearing short pants. But in all honesty, I could not see their dirty thoughts. And it is amazing to me that even though he was far away in Benei Brak, he could see what they were thinking!

So how do we settle this longstanding argument? First, what is my defense? Basically, to sum it up, I believe that we are not allowed to keep the sick people out of the hospital. If we have to wait for them to go home and put on long pants, and then check to see that they wash their hands properly, or preferably, go to the mikvah, say the preparatory prayers, have a pure mind and proper intentions, it could take a very long time for any of them to come home. In fact, most likely all but a handful would die along the way. So I believe that we have to scrape them off the Wall, or anywhere else we can find them.

What do they say? They want to ensure that the mitzvah is being done in its most proper way as is fitting. They say, “Before doing such a mitzvah as tefillin there is the question of “cleanliness of body, and even cleanliness of soul.” They ask, “Have they learned the laws of tefillin well enough to merit and understand this mitzvah? Are they ready for this important step in their lives?”

However, the approach I follow, which is the Chassidic path, asks only one question; “Is your mother Jewish?” If they say, “yes” we bring them in and love them and set them on the path of uncovering their true identity. We try to show them how to strip away the peelings that bind them to the drudgery of an entirely physical world and lead them to the reality of their spiritual nature. Full throttle, fast forward, as much as they can handle at that time!

Who is right? Well, it seems to me that the many hundreds of thousands of Jews who now love Shabbos, putting on tefillin, and observing the delightful ways of purity at home are the proof that the Chassidic teachings are correct. Most of these Jews were brought home by other Jews who could not wait for them to wake up on their own.

Perhaps, way back then, when the world was so far from redemption, one might imagine that they could take their time coming home. But now, when the redemption is so very close, we cannot wait. We have to do whatever we can to find any living Jew and bring him or her to the joy and beauty of Torah.

Once the Moshiach comes and the revelation of Hashem’s Presence is evident to all, our spiritual capacities will have been set by our previous accomplishments.

When the Temple stood, and Hashem’s Presence was revealed not everyone experienced the same degree of revelation. Each person received according to his or her level of attainment.

The more we grow, the higher our station. This means that we will experience more of the revelation both in this world now and when the Redemption finally comes, too. But we better hurry, because we do not have a lot of time left!


  1. Just because a person is "dressed" like a frum Jew, it doesn't mean they don't have "dirty" thoughts. And conversely, just because a person is wearing shorts, doesn't mean that he does!
    You're right, continue as you are doing and hatzlacha.

  2. when moshiach comes, isn't it true that we can still improve. our spiritual level is not necessarily 'set' where it was when moshiach arrives.

  3. Is it for nothing that people risk there lives to go put on tefillin on soldiers at the front lines?!

    I'm reminded of a story I was told at a farbrengen. This Rabbi told me that he was standing on a street putting Tefillin on someone, when someone came over to him and told him that he shouldn't do so , because they didn't wash their hands! The Rabbi replied: "So you stand next to me with a kvort and a bucket and wash their hands!!"

  4. I am not bothered about whether someone jewish has thoughts that you can not see, and are wrong. If they don't say anything negative, sure, let them wear tefillin. If may have a good effect on them.

    But I do think that someone in shorts should not be invited to wear tefillin. It is a holy apparel and should be worn in sanctity. People should be respectfully told that they are not properly dressed to wear this holy apparel. If they want they can come again later, dressed properly. To put tefillin on ignorant jews, improperly dressed gives a bad impression of the Torah. The Torah and Hashem's commandments should not be shown to be 'light' and operate in a disrespectful environment. Even many non-jews understand this principle.

  5. That's nonsense, pure nonsense. Both the written Torah, as well as the Oral Torah do not provide ANY stipulations to wearing Tefillin, in regards to the level of religiousness of a person. Am Israel is one and we do not place labels on anyone! It's a mitzvah, a religious law that G-d has decreed upon EVERY JEW and EVERY DAY, no matter what! All those who believe otherwise also tend to lack a firm belief and practice in the Unity of Israel.

  6. One who believes that someone dressed in shorts should not wear tefillin is, I believe, simply mistaken. Obviously one should not put tefillin on someone who has excrement smeared on their collar. That's halacha, plain and simple.

    But wearing shorts is much more ambiguous. Let's say that I usually daven in a coat and pants. One day it just happens I'm wearing shorts and a T-shirt and the sun it setting. I shouldn't daven mincha?

    The Mishnah says that one who toivels in a murky pool of water and notices that the sun is about to rise says Kriat Shema right then and there. That is, he's naked, just the murky, opaque water under his neck provides cover and tsniut. That's enough.

  7. I'm not clear on the Halacha - maybe we all need to look this up. I do believe however that Teffilin is fairly unique in requiring 'kavannah' (awareness of the mitzvah of Tefilin) at the time they are being worn. This is fairly unique, I think, to Tefilin in that they contain Holy Scrolls. So, there may be an issue of whether a person has appropriate kavannah AT THE TIME they are wearing the Tefilin. I'm not sure anyone (halachically) cares what the persons state of mind is (ie whether they have dirty thoughts or not) during the rest of the day.

    So, it may be that the Bnei Brak rabbi was not being "so" radical in his view on the practice under discussion, and it may not be correct to imply he was against the practice of putting Tefilin on Jews who go through the day generally with unclean thoughts. Just a thought.

    I think you are right by the way, to do what you do. I agree this is a very positive and productive way of bringing back souls, despite the Sfekim on matters such as the one you raised.

    You could (if you dont already) ask the Jews who you place Tefilin on to concentrate on the Holiness of the Mitzvah whilst they have the Tefilin on, and then you may be satisfying all opinions (except maybe the one about wearing more Tzniut clothing, but I'm not sure about the Halachah on that), in which case perhaps we then have no machloket at all.

  8. What if putting on the tefillin makes them feel stupid about wearing shorts? The contrast is hard to miss.

    For what it is worth I think you are doing something correct and admirable. I think people who are not BTs can find it quite difficult to understand what makes a person decide to become religious. Perhaps this is part of what is going on.

  9. Shelo Lishma..Ba Lishma..

    Showing how quick and easy it is to earn an eternity is a good thing. Even if done incorrectly now, it will allow them to put it on again many more times correctly. It also show them that they are still part of klal yisroel and not CH"V rejects...And by the way..who says wearing shorts is not tzniut? And if not tzniut..should we disallow them to visit the Kotel? Cmon - we have Halacha to guide us. Does it say anywhere that shorts are forbidden for a man?

  10. I just had an encounter with someone that has just changed my opinion somewhat...I still think that the opportunity to put Tefillin on total strangers who might not have had the chance to put on is a good thing...

    I was talking to a coworker and he asked me a Torah question...who I suddenly realized probably did not say the Beracha for learning. So I asked him. He said he didn't. So I asked him to say the Beracha and then we can continue the discussion. He TOTALLY refused! Started accusing me of lacking Ahavas Yisroel and similar things..then I realized that his stubbornness not to say a simple Beracha demonstrated a lack of respect and an insincerity to the religion. Was he really asking a question because he wanted to know how to act? Or just plain curiosity? will he pick and choose what he wants to keep? Should I condone such behavior, or show him that he must respect the Holy Torah!?
    So I think how sincere the subject is should be a determining factor when deciding whether to practice "Ess Laasos LaHashem Hefairu Toratecha..." and "shut ones eyes" to certain character flaws.

  11. wow reb gutman, yasher koach. didn't realize what you have had to endure to do this great mitzvah!

    chazak ubaruch reb gutman!!!!!


Welcome to Mystical Paths comments. Have your say here, but please keep the tone reasonably civil and avoid lashon hara.

Your comments are governed by our Terms of Use, Privacy, and Comments policies. We reserve the right to delete or edit your comments for any reason, or use them in a future article. That said, YOU are responsible for YOUR comments - not us.

Related Posts with Thumbnails