moments at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
He wouldn’t put on tefillin.
“I’ve done it before, and it didn’t do anything for me,” he insisted.
“Everyone in your group [Birthright] is putting them on. Why pull yourself apart?” I asked.
“I do not want to do it,” he insisted again.
I tried at least 10 different things that have worked in the past, but he wouldn’t budge. In the end… I did not get him.
Well, that may not be completely true. Even if we don’t “get him” this time, we probably softened him up for the next Jew who cares enough to try.
Some years ago, a middle-aged man told me this story. He said, “Five years ago, I was walking on Fairfax Avenue in L.A. when a yeshiva student asked me to put on tefillin. I blew up. I started screaming at him, saying such things as, ‘You rotten Jew! You just embarrassed me in public. You lost your share in the World to Come! Ah!’”
“I stormed away so angry…. Then, after 50 fifty steps or so, I stopped and asked myself, ‘How low have I come that I got angry at a Jew for asking me to do a mitzvah. You know, I turned at that moment. I went home and I put on my tefillin, and I have been putting them on every day since.”
The young student who asked the middle-aged man to put on tefillin probably still feels bad for having made this man so angry. He may even have questioned whether he should continue to ask Jews to put on tefillin. But even though he doesn’t know it, his concern for a fellow Jew brought this Jew back to the Torah.
Every time we try with a good heart, even if we do not seem to “get” them, you never know what good you may have done.