by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
There have been a lot of Africans visiting the Kotel lately. We are used to seeing many different types of visitors come, but the Africans stand out much more than the rest. They come in large groups and can be rather, well … enthusiastic, to put it mildly.
It is not so uncommon to be davening Mincha (afternoon prayers) and to be in the middle of the silent prayers when it is so important to concentrate on those important concepts, when all of a sudden you hear some very unusual singing. Well, it is not really singing. It is more like chanting. No, it is not really chanting either. It is something like African Grunge, beboping, rapping with deep gospel “booms” and “huums” and “oooodidoesuhhhs”. You look up (remember now, this is in the middle of your silent prayers) and you see some 30 black Africans mumbling, swaying, jumping a little from foot to foot, and smiling wide while intensely hugging the Kotel.
The ones from Kenya are the most vibrant. Besides their “music,” most of them are dressed in matching, oversize, brightly-colored pajamas. They look like camouflage sleepwear designed by Peter Max in the 1960’s while he was tripping on mushrooms. They are friendly people and seem to be good hearted, but one or two of them might be wearing a picture painted on his white dress of what he thinks yashke looked like, hanging there sad, suffering, and begging for your mercy. Yuck! Right in the middle of davening, too! A few are wearing scarves around their necks that say “god bless you,” and one is wearing a long white gown with a dozen crosses painted on it!
After Mincha two men from Nigeria, who were not so colorfully dressed, came over to the tefillin stand. They wanted to know what the “black boxes” are.
I told them that tefillin come from a Biblical commandment given to the Jewish men. “G-d told us to bind His words upon our arm and to place them upon our head. These words are written in the boxes. Binding his words to our arms means that we should do what G-d told us to do … on our heads, means to think about what G-d told us to think about.”
One of them asked, “Can a non-Jew do this?”
I told him that that only Jewish men can actually put them on, but that he could share in the mitzvah by encouraging Jews to put them on.
“I will do that,” he said.
I asked if there were any Jewish men in Nigeria.
He said that there were not.
“That can’t be,” I said. “There are Jews everywhere. You look around and you will find one. And if you tell him to put on tefillin he will listen to you. It will be such a surprise that an African in the middle of Africa tells him to do it that he will take your words to heart.”
Again he said, “I will do that.”
The other man, whose name is Elisha, immediately turned to the Jew standing on his right. Now this Jew was a bearded man with a long black coat. Elisha looked at him and told him, “You should put on tefillin.”
The man told him that he had already put them on today. Elisha immediately turned to the man standing on his other side. He too had a beard and was dressed in black. Elisha told him, “You should put on tefillin.”
Elisha is a smart man. A non-Jew can get wonderful “credit” in Heaven by encouraging Jews to do mitzvahs, and he will be bringing a tremendous blessing to himself in this world, too.
BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא