Wednesday, November 02, 2011


Grandpa Said, “NO!”

true stories from the Western Wall by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths


     Everything seemed to be going wrong. A tour guide came into the Kotel area with a man from England and a young boy. I tried to get the Englishman to put on tefillin. “NO!” Wow, was he insistent.

     I tried to gently pull his arm, but he pulled away strongly. “I haven’t put them on since my bar mitzvah and I am not going to do it again!” he insisted, even louder than before.

    I told the boy to tell his father to put on tefillin. The boy tried to tell him, but he wouldn’t listen. He laughed as he pulled away, saying that he was the boy’s grandfather.

    I yelled out that it would be good education for the boy. “No, it’s not any education,” he said, and they walked away. The tour guide complained to Shmuli (one of the regulars at the tefillin stand) that I was too rough with the visitor. It is important to keep the tour guides happy, or they will keep their tourists away from us.

     Five minutes later, when they were walking out, I tried again. “Okay, don’t put on tefillin, just give your grandson a blessing.” I put his right hand on the boy’s head and had him repeat the blessing. He repeated it, and he even remembered some of it without me telling him.

     He told the boy that what he just said was “the blessing that the priests gave.” I had him say out loud what he wanted G-d to give the boy, and he said, “A good life.” I told him to tell the boy to marry only a Jewish girl. He said, “He doesn’t have to... He can marry anyone he wants and make her Jewish after they are married.”

    “No!” I insisted, “That won’t work,” I told the boy to marry only a Jewish girl and that his grandfather was a nice man, but he was confused. The boy smiled. I tried again to get the Englishman to put on tefillin. He asked the boy, “Do you want me to do it?”

     The boy smiled and said, “Yes.”

     I brought him over and put tefillin on him, and had him pray for his family. As you see from the picture he ended up having a very good time. We took a bunch of nice pictures. The tour guide was very happy to see that his tourist was happy. (I assume that happy customers give bigger tips.)

     When they were leaving, Shmuli walked after them and spoke with him. It turned out that the man once was Shmuli’s mother’s employer in England!

     By then, they were standing by the boy’s mother, who was the man’s daughter. I walked over and told her that her father put on tefillin only because of the boy. The boy beamed.

     The mother said, “When I saw it, I cried.”

     I smiled at the beaming boy and his happy family. Grandpa said, “You have a beautiful smile.”

      Looking at them, I said, “When I look at beautiful things, it gives a beautiful smile.”

     It is very important to give your mitzvah “customers” a good time. Rarely is doing a mitzvah alone, without some type of noticeable “opening,” enough to bring them to want to do it again. Remember, our job is not just to get them to do a mitzvah, (although that in and of itself is a wonderful thing). Our job is to bring them to a Torah life, to strengthen the Jewish people.

     So, never try to force them to do something that they do not want to do. It will turn them off, and they will become even more negative toward mitzvahs. But… you can be clever. This means that you should never push them to do a mitzvah, but if you do it right, you can pull


  1. Grandpa said: ...He can marry anyone he wants and make her Jewish after they are married.”

    Reb Gutman said: “No!” I insisted, “That won’t work,”

    Please tell me M. Gutman, why wouldn't it work ?

  2. If someone converts to Judaism so they can marry someone, it will not be a proper conversion. They have to want to become a Jew.

  3. Wonderful! You should be making presentations at conferences of Chabad shluchim around the world! Hopefully that will happen one day, with G-d's help!

    On a related note: Chabad outreach methods are based on the instructions of the Rebbe. I have not studied these myself, but I am sure most of them are available in writing somewhere. If the Rebbe's writings, statements and advice about out outreach should be done can be compiled together, someone could go through it and see if it is possible to argue that your methods of outreach are compatible with the Rebbe's instructions, perhaps even more so than the methods most shluchim use today! If anyone has tips on finding these sources, please post here to let me know.

  4. I should send my brother-in-law to you!


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