by Reb Gutman Locks
I hate to say it, but the guy was acting nasty. He had that attitude that can be all too common in this part of the world.
He was sitting close to where I put the tefillin cart. In a friendly way, I asked him to put on tefillin.
The conversation went something like this.
“Come, put on tefillin. It’s a mitzvah.”
“I put them on in my heart.”
“But you have to put them on your arm, too. You are here praying for something. You would not be happy if Hashem only gave you the money you need in your heart would you? You need it in your hand.”
He really sneered at me and said, “Don’t bother me with that. I have my own way of doing things.”
“But you are at the Kotel. Surely you know that you have to do things G-d’s way, and not just your own way. Do you have a mezuzah in your house?”
“Of course I do. What’s it to you?”
“In the mezuzah it says to put on tefillin. What’s the sense of putting up the mezuzah if you don’t listen to what it says?”
He was getting noticeably upset with me, but I wouldn’t quit. Yussi, from the tefillin stand, was listening to the conversation and was biting his lip. He doesn’t like it at all if any of the “customers” are not happy.
I went on anyway, “Come, it’s a good thing. It doesn’t cost money, and it doesn’t hurt?”
He got up and walked away, mostly to get away from me. As he walked by I held up the tefillin, and with a big smile I called out, “You forgot something!”
He turned around and looked back at the chair where he was sitting. He saw that he had forgotten his sweater. I had no idea about his sweater, but was talking about tefillin. He walked over, picked up his sweater, and walked out again.
I called out, “I did something for you, now you should do something for me.”
He was upset with me, and he sneered at me. He took four or five steps and turned back toward me. I thought that he was going to yell something nasty at me, but instead he walked over and held out his arm.
I said, “You are doing a tremendous mitzvah right now, turning like that.”
I called over Yussi to look and see that he put on the tefillin.
He said, “What are you going to do now, brag what a wonderful thing you did by getting me to put them on?”
I said, “It’s you who did the wonderful thing, not me. This is your mitzvah. You’re the one doing it.”
When he finished he said something nice about me doing what I did, and walked away. I’m glad he forgot his sweater.