He was visiting Israel from London with his wife, two daughters and his son. He is forty-three years old and had never put on tefillin. He was very nice, and the boy was as sweet a seven-year old as I have ever met. I told the boy that when he grows up to remember what the "old man at the Kotel" told him. He has to marry a Jewish girl.
The father happily followed the instructions. He prayed for his loved ones, took a lot of pictures, had a great time.
When I was taking the tefillin off I saw his tattoos again which I had pretty much ignored before, but now I looked at his young son and seeing how much he loved his father… I bent over and said,
"Your father is a wonderful person, and you should listen to whatever he tells you to do. You should try to be as good a person as he is. But he made a mistake and you should not follow your father in this one thing."
I rubbed my finger over one of the tattoos and told the boy, "Don't put any tattoos on your body. It is not good. So, you be like your father in everything except for this."
The boy seemed to understand, and the father smiled. They walked away having had quite an experience at the Kotel.
So here is the question, what should I have done? Obviously, the easiest thing would have been to ignore the tattoos and just give them the best tefillin experience I could. But then, what about that lovely Jewish boy? Should I have ignored the obvious risk of him following his loving father's mistake?
If ever there is a doubt in such cases, I think "If I was that little boy, what would I want?" and I try my best to get the message across without offending the father. Seems like I got away with it this time.