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Soul Meetings




"A Jew should wait six weeks for you to buy him a pair of Tefillen?!"

~ Part two ~

By Rabbi Bentzion Rader

In August 1975 I went to Detroit for some business meetings.

I arrived on Tuesday morning, had meetings all day and in the evening went to stay with a family who were on the periphery of Lubavitch, the husband was involved in the business meetings. In the evening my hosts had invited a few couples to their home. Although not at my instigation, the conversation turned to religion and one of the men there kept asking seemingly facetious questions about Tefillin: Why couldn't they be round? Who said that they had to be black, etc. etc. The "evening" finished about 2am on the Wednesday morning and as we were saying goodbye, I said to the man who had been asking the questions: " I suppose that you have a special interest in Tefillin and that was why you were asking the questions? He replied: "I haven't put on Tefillin for ever 20 years!" So I told him: "But you should!" He then said: "Everyone here is now going home to sleep but I am going to work. I own a bakery and we work all through the night. If you want me to put on Tefillin, you can come to my Bakery at about 6.30am. At that time we are between breaks and I'll put on Tefillin."

I must admit that this was not my style but I could not refuse, so at 6.30 that morning (Wednesday) I arrived at his bakery with Tefillin, prayer book, and skull cap, etc. and amongst the sacks of flour he put on Tefillin. What surprised me was that he needed no help - he knew exactly what to do and what to say. After he finished, I asked him: "You obviously know how to put on Tefillin, the berochos and the other davenning, why don't you do it regularly? He told me that he didn't possess a pair of Tefillin and it was not one of his priorities to buy a pair, but if someone gave him a pair of Tefillin he would put them on regularly. I answered that I was returning to England via New York but I expected to be back in Detroit in about six weeks and that I would bring him Tefillin.

Late that evening (Wedneday) I flew to New York and stayed overnight in Crown Heights. The next morning (Thursday) I davenned with the Rebbe and sent in a note to the Rebbe. I wrote to the Rebbe about the business discussions and about the episode with the man in Detroit and the Tefillin and finished the note by telling the Rebbe that I was returning to London that evening and that I was especially looking forward to Shabbos as there would be staying with us my daughter, her husband and three children from London, my daughter, her husband and baby from New York and my son, who was learning in the land of Israel, was also home prior to returning to New York. This was the first time that the whole family including grandchildren were to be together for a Shabbos.

After davenning I went into Manhattan intending to pray the afternoon prayers with the Rebbe and then go to the airport for my journey home.

A little while before the afternoon prayersI I returned to 770 and the secretary told me he had been trying to reach me as he had a reply to my note to the Rebbe.

In his reply the Rebbe gave a blessing for the business discussions but then wrote: "Do you think it is right that a Jew who put on Tefillin yesterday for the first time in over twenty years should wait another six weeks for you to buy him a pair of Tefillin so that he can perform the Mitzvah again. You should buy the Tefillin today and if you can arrange to get them to him in Detroit in time for him to put them on today, all right. If not you personally should return to Detroit today with the Tefillin in order that he can put them on in good time. You should do this even if it means not being with your family for Shabbos." The Rebbe then wrote: "And when this Jew sees how important it is for you that he does not miss even a day putting on Tefillin, this Mitzvah will have an especial importance to him."

There were a number of problems. It was the time of exchange control in England - one could only take a small amount of currency out of the country and I had used up all my allowance, so I had only a little money on me. I certainly didn't have enough money to also buy a new airline ticket. The second problem was buying a pair of Tefillin in Crown Heights. First I tried Lubavitch Youth's office, however, they had none, then the judaica store "Drimmers", who were out of stock. Finally I was able to buy a pair at a store on Kingston - the last pair he had - against my check. Then I phoned American Airlines who would carry them and the person with whom I had stayed on Tuesday night who said he would collect them and deliver them in time to the person for whom they were intended. One of the Talmudi students, gave me a lift to La Guardia and the Tefillin were sent from there to Detroit.

When I heard that they had been collected and delivered in Detroit I left for London after advising the Rebbe what had been arranged.

A few months later I met the person again in Detroit and asked him how he was doing with the Tefillin. He told me that he had not missed a day - even walking home one day when his car broke down in the snow so that he put on the Tefillin before Shekia (sun down). He said: "From the trouble you went to in order that I got the Tefillin the very next day, they are especially important to me."

Almost the exact words that the Rebbe wrote to me.



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