by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Last week I put tefillin on a Jew from Holland. He was probably in his mid to late fifties, married with grown children, a successful business man. He was in Israel on a business trip. It was the first time in many, many years since he had put on tefillin.
I was surprised that he came over so easily. Actually, when I first asked, his Israeli, yarmulke wearing host suggested that he do it, so he agreed.
I asked him if his mother was Jewish. He said that he was a Kohen (from the Jewish priestly tribe). I said, “But is your mother Jewish.” He assured me that she was, and he again pointed out that not only was his mother Jewish, but his father was a Kohen. He seemed quite proud that he was a Kohen.
He began reading the prayers in English, but then we found a copy of the Shema in Dutch. After he read the prayers, I asked him if he was married. He smiled, and said that he was. Then I asked the big question, “Is your wife Jewish?”
He made a small apologetic smile, and shook his head, “No.”
“That’s a problem.” I said.
He had heard this before.
Okay, I had his attention. What was I to do? I could have scolded him harshly, and told him what a horrible thing he had done by marrying a non-Jewish woman, and bringing non-Jewish children into the world. This is a major sin for a Jew. And surely for a Kohen, it is even worse!
But what good would it do to push him even further down? How would this help him? He was not about to divorce his wife of so many years and discard his non-Jewish children.
I spoke softly, “To be a Kohen is a great honor.”
“I know” he said.
“But you have discarded this honor. You have not fulfilled your inheritance. A kohen is given the privilege to bring blessings into the world. You have to do something about this.” I could see that he was listening sincerely.
“Do this,” I said, “Put a charity box in your house, and every day put some money in it. Then, when it’s full, give the money to some poor Jewish person, or to a Jewish charity. It must be for Jews because you neglected to help the Jews you were created to help. This is important for you. Use the time that you have left to try to correct your having ignored the great blessing that you were given.”
He seemed to have understood. He said that he would do what I told him.
What’s the point? It would have been so easy to push him even further down, but what good would that have been? Instead, I tried in some small way to help him to pick himself up… at least this much.
When he goes into the next world and is asked, “Why didn’t you fulfill your role, and be a blessing to the Jewish people?” He will be able to point to his Jewish charity and say, “Well… at least I did do this much.”