Tuesday, January 24, 2017

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A Free Book is Not So Dear


by Reb Gutman Locks   


     I put tefillin on Eliyahu. He is pictured above. He was born and has lived his entire life on Curacao, a small island in the Caribbean. I do not recall ever meeting a Jew from Curacao. After he read the Shema I sent him to the Kotel to talk with Hashem.

     In the meanwhile I put tefillin on an America youth who was in Israel with the Birthright program. After the program ended he decided to stay for another few days. I was taking the boy's photo and, as usual, I told him that he had to promise to marry only a Jewish girl.

     "I can't promise."

     "Yes you can. You can make up your mind that you want to have a Jewish family and the only way you can do that is if your wife is Jewish."

     "I can't make that promise."

     "Then promise that you won't marry a non-Jewish girl."

     "I am going to marry the girl I love."

     "You just read the prayer that we have been saying for thousands of years. 'Do not follow your heart and your eyes because they will lead you astray,' and here you are saying that you are going to follow your heart. You have loved lots of things one night and didn't love them the next morning! You can't have your heart control your life. Yes, we want love in our life, but our intellect has to rule over our hearts."

     Just then Eliyahu returned from the Kotel. I pointed at him and told the boy, "This Jew's family has lived on a tiny island in the Caribbean for five hundred years yet then didn't intermarry. There were few Jews there but still they knew enough to marry only a Jew. You live in a country where there are many Jews so it will be easy for you to find a suitable Jewish girl, but you do not care enough to promise that you will only have Jewish children. Why? What is so different about your upbringing and his?"

     The boy walked away without promising.

     Eliyahu's family was persecuted and exiled from Spain hundreds of years ago. The family remembers this even after five hundred years. There is a long history of anti-Semitism on Curacao, too. The Birthright boy's family never experienced anti-Jewish persecution.

     We are told not to give anyone a Torah book for free. He should pay at least something for it so he will value it. If it is free, if it didn't cost him anything, he might just leave it on a park bench.



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