Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ezriel - Reaching Out to Other Jews

Another story by the chassid that "works" the Kotel's tefillin stand.
My Hero!
by Gutman Locks

Ezriel is here in Jerusalem learning for the year. He comes from a large family in New York. He is the youngest of 13 children. His father is a rabbi in a shul (synagogue) and learns all day. His mother, besides raising the family, supports the family by running a kindergarten that has 70 children.

When he first told me that he is the youngest of 13, I said, “You must be really spoiled, having 12 older brothers and sisters.” He answered, “I used to have 12 extra people telling me what to do. Now that they are all married, I have 24.”

He comes from a Chassidic tradition, but not one that teaches reaching out to bring Jews to Torah. For some reason, when he would come late afternoon to daven (pray), he would stand by the tefillin stand and watch me bring Jews over to put on tefillin. I would speak to him, trying to get him to become involved:

I said, “If you saw a Jew whose donkey fell down, surely you would help him to pick it up. If you would help him to pick up his physical donkey, how much more so should you help him to pick up his spiritual donkey?”

Slowly, he began to help. At first, he would only hand me the tefillin for me to put on the people I brought in. Little by little he did more and more, until he learned to go ask Jews if they had put on tefillin, and bring them over and put tefillin on them.

Right before the holiday he told me he was upset. His father had asked him to go home for the holidays, and Ezriel wanted to stay in Jerusalem. I told him G-d was sending him to New York to help a particular Jew, and he had to keep his eye out for that Jew so he would not miss him. I said that he was the only one who would help that Jew.

He emailed me a couple of times, telling me he had not been able to find the Jew he was supposed to help. I told him to go out onto the street with his luluv (the four species for Succos) and walk around looking for him. He couldn’t find him.

When he went to the airport to return, he looked around -- last chance -- but no luck. He got on the plane, happy to be returning to Jerusalem, but a little sad he did not find that Jew he was supposed to help. He did not look forward to telling me he failed.

The plane had a three-hour stopover in Germany (of all places). He was in the airport lounge and saw a couple of Chabad boys looking for people to help, but they couldn’t find anyone. Then a passenger told him his tefillin were with his baggage and he could not get to them. He asked Ezriel if he could borrow his tefillin. Obviously, he was glad to lend them to him, but he thought, “Could this be the guy I went all the way to America to help?” It didn’t seem to be enough.

The man finished with the tefillin and returned them. Before Ezriel put them away, he saw another Jew sitting there, and asked him if he wanted to put them on. He said no; he was not interested.

Ezriel said, “Look, you have 3 hours to wait here in the airport. What else do you have to do?” The guy agreed and Ezriel helped him to put them on. Boy, was he happy. Then, when this one was finished, he looked around and found 3 more Jews who agreed to put on tefillin. Now he was flying!

He came up to me at the tefillin stand knowing that the last I heard from him was he was going to the airport to return to Jerusalem, without having found the Jew he was sent to help. Then, he told me what happened. I burst into laughter. Boy, was I happy. He made my day, and a few more days, too.

There is no better way to help the world than to bring someone to the love of G-d through a mitzvah.

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