by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
Watch what you say.… You may be talking to yourself.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that we judge others only by what we have within ourselves. This means that you yourself must have the particular characteristic that you are seeing in others, or you would not be able to see it in them.
This idea can be taken one step further. Often, what we think others should do is really what we ourselves ought to be doing.
A few days ago, a friend of mine brought a couple of older Americans to the neitz minyan (sunrise prayers). They have come to Torah observance slowly over the years. They now keep Shabbat and put on tefillin every day. This is a tremendous thing for Americans who have lived all their years without any real concern for their spiritual lives.
I saw that the boxes that house their tefillin were very thin. Almost always, thin boxes hold scrolls that are not written so well. I assume that they were kosher, but still, when the boxes are so very inexpensive as these were, there is always a suspicion that something might need fixing.
I helped them with some special prayers, but I had to run out right after davening, so I did not get to talk with them. Instead, I wrote to them. In the gentlest way, I let them know, “You know, when you first began putting on tefillin many years ago, the tefillin you bought were quite appropriate. But now that you have grown and are so much further along in observance, you should really have your tefillin checked and perhaps buy new ones. You deserve tefillin that reflect your present level of observance.”
I know how they feel about their tefillin. After all, they are the first ones they ever bought. I share those very feelings whenever I look at my tefillin. These are the same pair that I bought when I first came to Jerusalem more than 32 years ago. I replaced the scrolls some time ago, but the boxes are the same ones that I bought way back then. Okay, so they were not the most expensive, but when I look at them they remind me of where this long journey has taken me.
The next morning, when I took off my tefillin after davening, I noticed that, somehow, a small piece of leather had fallen out of the head piece! Yikes! This could mean that they were not kosher! Yikes! Thank G-d, one of the regulars in the minyan is a highly respected batim macher. (He makes the leather boxes that house the tefillin scrolls.)
He looked at the head piece, pushed his glasses up onto his forehead, and gave me a look that you would expect your doctor to give you before he got the final results from your lab tests.
He took my tefillin to his shop. He called a couple of hours later. “I can probably fix them, but it could take as long as a week.”
“No way! There’s no way that I am going to borrow someone else’s tefillin for a week.” I made up with him to either fix them that same day, or, if he couldn’t, then he was to bring me new batim (boxes) in the morning. I also told him to have the scrolls checked by a proper scribe to make sure that everything is alright. If needed, he was to replace them, too.
This morning, I put on my new batim. They are really nice. Oh so much nicer than my old ones. The scrolls needed a couple of tiny improvements that did not make them any more kosher, only more beautiful.
The quality of the new batim are many times better than my faithful, old ones. I thought, “Okay, the new ones were very expensive, but I guess they more properly reflect where I am holding.” (my level of Torah observance).
“Hey! Isn’t this exactly what I wrote to those two guys the other morning?!” You know, I should have listened to my own words. It turned out that when I was talking to them, I was really talking to myself.
BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא