from the Kotel with Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
A small group of men from an “old-folks’ home” in Connecticut came to the Kotel last Thursday. A couple of them were in wheelchairs, and one had a push-stroller. Two of the men from the tefillin stand tried to help them with tefillin, but they all refused. Not a single one of them would put on tefillin!
When they turned to leave, I tried. I went up to one nice looking old man and said, “Come, let me help you to put on tefillin. It’s a free service.”
One of the guides quickly jumped in and said, “No!”
I did not do a good job of hiding my feelings for what he said. “How can you take a Jew away from doing a mitzvah!”
“He said that he didn’t want to!” the guide said.
“He did not!” I said, and I turned to the old man and asked, “What’s your name?”
He said, “Bill,” but then he quickly changed it, “Velvel.”
“Velvel, have you ever put on tefillin?” I asked.
He said that he had not. I told him how important it was, and that I would help him do it.
“Can we take a picture?” he asked.
“Sure, we can take a bunch of them, and you can show them to your grandchildren so they will know to do it, too.”
I helped him slide his arm out of his jacket, and asked, “How old are you?”
He answered, “Next month, the 31 of December, I will be 98.”
“You are going to live to be 120 years old,” I told him.
“Do you guarantee it?” he quickly asked.
“Absolutely! (We do believe that our prayers will be answered, right?) And after 120, when you go to Heaven, there’s going to be a Bas Kol, a voice from above, and one of the things that this voice is going to say is, ‘I put you in the world as a Jewish man. Did you put on My tefillin while you were there?’ And now you are going to be able to say, ‘Yes, I did.’” He smiled. He had a very warm face.
I helped him say the Shema, and then told him to thank G-d for all the good that He has given him. He asked if he could go to the Wall to do it. I went with him and heard him say a few names, and then he said, “Thank you for all the good that you have given me, and please make me a better person.”
Moshe Rabeinu (our teacher) was the humblest person who ever lived. I think that Velvel might come in second.