From the COLlive inbox:
I’m a 15-year-old yeshiva bochur from Los Angeles, who learns in Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati during the year, and came home to L.A. for the summer. I’d like to share something that happened to me today.
I was walking down the street after davening shachris, in the Jewish neighborhood, (Pico-Robertson, for those of you who know L.A.) when I ran into a frum Yid who is down-on-his-luck. I have put tefillin on him many times before. Whenever I see him, I always ask him if he wants to put on tefillin and he always agrees. I’ve always enjoyed talking to him about yiddishkeit and his life in general.
This time, when I walked up to him, he said, “I’ll pass on tefillin today”. Surprised, I asked him, “Why?”
He answered, “Life isn’t going well for me. And every time I put on tefillin and daven and learn, I just don’t feel like Hashem is giving me back what I need. What does tefillin do for me? Where is Hashem when I need Him? Look at me. I sleep in the ‘gutters’, every night, without enough food or money. Why do I need yiddishkeit? It’s all worthless. I’m not depressed, it’s just reality.”
When I heard all he had to say, it made me feel very sad and shocked to hear him sound so down. Whenever I had seen him before, he had always been very happy, even through difficult times.
I started to encourage him to always be b’simcha. I explained to him the incredible connection one has with Hashem when putting on tefillin.
I told him, that since he is a Jew, he has an obligation to do so. I also told him what the Rebbe said we should think of when we feel down: to think about all the things Hashem does for us, that He lets us live every second of the day — all for a reason. “Your reason right now,” I told him, “is to put on tefillin”.
He angrily replied, “What does the Rebbe know?! He had a bed to sleep on, and had money, he had everything he needed”.
I told him the Rebbe’s life was also not so easy — he was thinking about every single neshama all day and performing miracles for them, each day with care, and many other great responsibilities. I told this disheartened Yid, not to worry, “yerida letzsorech aliyah” — the purpose of the descent is the ascent.
All this going back and forth lasted about a half hour, until he got up, smiled and said to me, “Alright! Let’s put on tefillin!”
I answered in complete shock, “Really?! Tefillin? Now?”
He said, “Yes. Whatever, I said before, forget it. I wanted to see how long you would last in pushing me to put on tefillin. I thought when I said, ‘no’, that you would just leave. But you didn’t even move a muscle. And you showed me how important tefillin is, and to never leave a Jew behind.”
I felt amazed. As I was about to put tefillin on him, he saw a non-frum Jew walking and he asked him to also put on tefillin. I couldn’t believe it! Not only did this Jew put on tefillin, he also handed me money for tzeddakah, which I was happy to give to the other Jew who needed it.
In the end, I realized that this was not a test of emunah for the discouraged Yid, but a test of emunah for me. I saw how Hashem put this person, who was angry, sad and had lost hope, in front of me. It would have been easy to just ask the standard question, “Do you want to put on tefillin?” and walk away when the answer was “no”.
We can never just “walk away” from being soldiers of Hashem in the Rebbe’s army. We can’t just hold on to our emunah, our mission is to spread emunah to others, and to never, ever give up on another Yid.