Tuesday, July 19, 2011

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Ahavat Israel (Love Your Fellow Jew)

True stories from the Western Wall by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     We are taught that we should love our fellow Jew as we love ourselves.[i] But here is a Jew who, in some ways, loves his fellow Jew even more than he loves himself.

     He was trying to leave the Kotel area, when a volunteer at the tefillin stand blocked his way and tried to get him to put on tefillin. He flatly refused. He was quiet, but tough. Not the kind of guy who liked to smile. The volunteer did not want to give up and was not being too tactful about it, either.

     One of the “regulars” at the tefillin booth called to me and motioned that I should jump in. I motioned for him to get the volunteer out of there or it wouldn’t work. He did, and I stepped in.

    The conversation went something like this:

    “Hi, where are you from?” Not that I was particularly interested in where he was from, but this line gave me a friendly introduction into the conversation.

     He said, “New York.”

     I imitated his heavy New York accent, and asked him what he did. He said that he was a lawyer. He acted like a lawyer, too. He was not about to be pushed around. I saw how strong he was in his refusal to put on tefillin, so I asked him if he had ever put them on before. He said that he had not, and that he had no reason to put them on then, either.

    “I’ll give you an excellent reason to put them on,” I said.

     He looked at me and tilted the top of his head toward me as if he were preparing to block whatever I would say.

     I said, “Here you are, a Jewish man in your fifties, and you have never put on tefillin in your life. If you put on tefillin here at the Kotel, G-d is going to listen to whatever you say. You have a wonderful opportunity to help the Jews who are in danger. You can be a guardian to our soldiers and to all of the Jews who are danger.”

     He looked at me, thought for half a second, and then nodded, “Okay.”

     I put tefillin on him, and after he read the “Shema,” I asked him to pray for us. He stood there for a long time, praying for the Jewish people, people whom he had never even seen before. That is what is happening in the picture above.

     When he finished, I told him, “You just did an amazing thing. The only reason you put on tefillin was for us! You would never have done it if it were just for yourself. You should know the way it works around here: When you give a blessing to someone else, G-d gives you an even greater blessing.”

     He smiled for the first time since I had walked up to him. As you can see from the picture below, he was one happy lawyer.

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[i] Leviticus 19:18

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