true stories from the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
This nice looking grey-haired man stood by the side watching me interact with the men who walked by the tefillin stand. He seemed to have enjoyed the conversations, especially when I convinced someone to put on tefillin.
I could see him shaking his head in agreement whenever I told a young tourist that he had to marry a Jewish girl. After a while, the two young men in the picture came over and asked me if I could help the older man to put on tefillin. They told me that he was their father, and that he had never once in his life put on tefillin.
I walked over and started speaking with him. He was warm, friendly and insistent on not putting on tefillin. He was an Israeli who, besides Hebrew, spoke fluent Yiddish, and English. He seemed to have spent time on an anti-religious kibbutz.
He acted like he had to resist me, but still, I was able to have him, albeit reluctantly, bless his sons. Then, when it seemed like my logic was beginning to win, he pulled out his “heaviest” card. “Respect for your elders!”
“How old are you?” he asked.
“Older than you are!” I shot back.
“No, you’re not!” he insisted.
“Yes, I am,” I argued. “How old are you?” I asked.
“67!” he bragged, expecting to win the argument hands down.
“Well, young man, you better have some respect for your elders,” I told him.
“Why? How old are you?” he asked.
“Seven years older than you are,” I said.
“No, you’re not! Let me see your I.D. card,” he demanded.
I showed him the card and, with my index finger waving at him repeated, “You have to respect your elders. Come, put on tefillin.”
“Oh, alright,” he said smiling, as I gently pulled his arm and slid the tefillin on. His sons were shocked…. So was I. But you never know what is going to move them.
He had a wonderful time. He was not too keen on reading the entire Shema, but he smiled a lot, and wanted to have some pictures for the family to see. He walked away with a big smile, and two very happy sons.
We see this a lot… the soul of the Jew really wants to do the mitzvah, but the animal in him is just not used to it, or it has been taught to refuse such things. Usually, he doesn’t understand what a mitzvah is. Or, he is afraid that doing a mitzvah means that he is agreeing to become completely religious…and he is not about to do that! Most often, those who refuse just need a loving little nudge in the right direction to bring them in.
Like any other trade, the more you do it, the more you learn, and the better at it you become. Remember, when you teach someone to do a mitzvah the right way, you will bring at least three smiles into the world, his, yours, and the One you are working for.