It is very difficult to change a young man's mind, especially when it has to do with something that he has always felt was right. But sometimes things are ripe and they listen.
The boy is here on a Birthright trip. He has two pretty earrings in his pierced ears. Whenever I see a Jewish boy with earrings I try to explain why he should take them off and move on. They almost always fight to keep them.
When I take their picture I ask, "When you get married, who's going to wear the pants in the family?"
They always answer, "I am." Then I ask, "Then, who's going to wear the earrings?" They usually laugh loudly, but this boy was very attached to the way they look. He wasn't happy with my "attack." I tried to explain that the Torah says that they are the sign of a Jew who chose to be a slave forever! That his master puts a hole in his ear. This didn't bother the boy at all.
I tried a number of things and then he said, "I like the way they look."
I said, "You can't even see them."
"Yes I can. Whenever I look in the mirror I see them"
"You put holes in your ears so you would enjoy seeing them when you looked in the mirror? How much time do you spend looking in the mirror? No, you put them there because you want others to think about the way you look. You have a lot more to offer the world than that. Let them admire your good deeds, your kindness, not a fashion stunt." None of that seemed to get to him but when I said, "You are looking at yourself through the eyes of others."
That last line got him. He stopped and said, "You're right."
"Let your attractiveness be based on how you help people, not on jewelry. Let them say, 'There goes the guy who helps so many people,' not 'there goes the guy with pretty earrings.'"
I never thought that he would listen. A lot of times I have to say something, but at best I think that they will take the information with them and have it inside their heads. Then some day, when they are ready, it will come back to them. But I think that this boy is going to take them out, maybe the next time he looks in the mirror. I hope so. For his sake and for the sake of the people he is going to try to help.