They are visiting from America. When I asked them to put on tefillin they hurried by…not wanting to stop. I asked again. The father looked at the tefillin rejecting them.
I said, “If you run away from the mitzvahs your son is going to run away even further.”
That stopped him a little. “Are you Jewish?”
“Of course I’m Jewish. I had a Bar Mitzvah. We go to the Conservative synagogue.”
“A bar mitzvah doesn’t make you Jewish. Is your mother Jewish”
“Of course, both my parents are Jewish.”
“Come put on tefillin.”
“I’ve never done this before.”
“You go to a Conservative synagogue and you have never put on tefillin? They put on tefillin.”
I started putting tefillin on him and one of the volunteers helped the boy. I told the father, “The Conservative movement now allows inter-dating! That means intermarriage … no more Jews in those boys’ families! Better you should go to the Orthodox shul and not follow all the rules, than to go to the Conservatives and think that there are no rules.”
After reading the Shema, I showed them how to pray privately for their loved ones. They went to the Kotel for quite a while. The boy did an especially good job of praying with his eyes closed … talking to Hashem. They took a lot of pictures. I told the boy (several times) that he had to marry only a Jewish girl.
Seeing how insistent I was, and wanting to confront that insistency, he said, “I have a question…. Is Judaism tolerant?”
“Yes, we are tolerant, but not with someone who is trying to kill us!”
“I understand completely,” was his reply.
What happened: instead of them having an intellectual visit to an interesting, ancient, historical, Jewish site as they planned, they fulfilled a Biblical commandment… a mitzvah… and they spent time speaking privately to Hashem opening their hearts. I think the boy took to heart my advice of marrying only a Jewish girl and making a Jewish family. Surely this was the most important thing he learned that day.
Why do I take the time to write these stories and send them out to you? Entertainment? …a little more than that. First of all, to encourage you to help the Jews you meet to bring them to do a mitzvah with joy, and most important, for you to see that doing the physical mitzvah is not enough. We have to help them open their hearts so the mitzvah will have a life changing effect on them. Then they will want to do it again