at the Western Wall with Reb Guman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Shmuli (leading guy of the Kotel tefillin stand) called me over. He was talking to a young tourist from America, and he was not sure if he was Jewish.
“Is your mother Jewish?” I asked him.
“Yeah, my mother and my father are both Jewish,” he answered.
I wondered why Shmuli had a problem. Almost always, if a guy says that his mother is Jewish, we trust him. But since there was a doubt, I asked him, “How do you know that they are Jewish.”
“They follow the Jewish religion,” he answered,
(Well, that’s good, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are Jewish. There are a lot of “homemade” converts out there who say that they are Jewish. But, I had the feeling to go ahead anyway.)
I slipped the tefillin strap on his arm, and Shmuli whispered to me in Hebrew, so the tourist wouldn’t understand, “What about his grandmother?”
“What about your mother’s mother, is she Jewish?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he answered. “I never knew her very well.”
“Uh Oh…” I thought, as I slipped the tefillin off his arm.
“How long are you going to be in Israel?” I asked him, thinking to have him call home to find out if he is Jewish or not. Then, if it turned out that he is Jewish, he could come back and put on tefillin.
“Until 8 o’clock. I’m on a boat tour in Israel for 48 hours.”
“Do you have a phone?” I asked. “You can call your mother and ask her.”
“No, I don’t have a phone,” he apologized. He was really a nice young guy, and I didn’t want to lose him.
Just then, one of the Chassidic boys who had just started coming to the tefillin stand to help out a little, said, “I have a phone!” And he quickly pulled out his cell phone.
“Wow!” I thought. “How nice of the boy to let someone he doesn’t even know use his cell phone to call America. Surely, he is on a tight budget like all of the students here, but he didn’t hesitate to speak up. Ahavas Israel (the mitzvah to love your fellow Jew) without even knowing if the guy was a Jew!
“What’s the number?” he asked him. He gave him the number, and he called his mother. He handed him the phone, and we all stood around waiting for the answer, not knowing what to expect.
The conversation went something like this, “Hi Mom. Yeah, things are great…. I’m in Israel, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Yeah, everything is fine. Mom, was your mom Jewish. What? Yeah, okay, yeah. Thanks for everything. I love you.” And he looked at us and said, “She said ‘yes, her mother’s Jewish.’”
“Hurray!” We all cheered. What a relief. I put tefillin on him, and of course he had no idea what we were doing. I explained it to him, had him read the Shema in English and pray for all the good things that he wanted. We took some pictures, and I had him promise to marry only a Jewish girl.
“Yeah, my girlfriend’s Jewish,” he said.
“Alright! Marry her and make a big Jewish family,” I told him.
He smiled. He looked very happy, but he had to run to keep up with his tour.
As he was leaving, one of the religious guys standing there asked, “What about all the other mitzvahs, like going to shul (synagogue) on Holidays, and everything else?”
I told him, “As long as he marries a Jewish girl, all that can come. The main thing is that there will be a Jewish family, and then he can come home whenever he wants. Don’t worry; we will all be looking out for him.