After a recent chance meeting thanks to Hashgacha Protis, a former student writes to his Chabad teacher who taught him in a Chabad school in the early 80’s:
[Editor’s note: lightly edited for clarity and brevity]
Hello Rabbi Eisenberg,
It was such a pleasure reconnecting and spending some time on the phone with you yesterday. It is hard to believe that it has been 31 years since I was your student. What you did for me changed my life and to a great degree, the life of my sons.
Nearly 31 years ago I was set to graduate elementary school and a few months later turn Bar Mitzvah. While at school I used what I would call a Tefillin starter-kit” to Daaven. Occasionally you would ask me if I was going to get my own set of Tefillin when I become Bar Mitzvah. I answered you with a smile, a shoulder shrug and moved on to a different conversation. Then one day after Daavening you called me over, I knew I wasn’t in trouble because I was not that type of student. You asked me again if I was going to have my own set of Tefillin. I answered very honestly that my family was not in a position to purchase me my own Tefillin.
Then you did the unthinkable, you took out a brand new pair of Tefillin, handed it to me and said it was mine.
I told you right there and then that we couldn’t afford to purchase them. You said that if I promised to put on the Tefillin from now on there would be no cost to me.
Rabbi, I want you to know that I kept that promise and have been putting on that pair of Tefillin for 31 years! I don’t know what you saw in me, you certainly could have given the Tefillin to anyone of my other classmates. Even though I am from a family who are observant, and grandparents who are Holocaust survivors, I was never compelled to Daaven. But because of what you did, I felt inspired to continue my religious obligations, and by default, continue my family’s tradition.
Now, 31 years later, my step-son and my younger son put on Teffilin every day. L’Ddor V’Dor – from generation to generation. In fact, my stepson who plays college football and is one of the few, if not only, Jewish boys on his team puts on Tefillin. I didn’t force him to do so, I can only say it is because of the impact that you had on me that he now wants to continue that himself.
Rabbi, I can only say THANK YOU. Again, I don’t know why you chose to give me the Tefillin, but I thank you for doing so. My life, and my life as a Jewish man, is better because of this. May G-d give you the strength to continue and inspire, impact and connect Jewish souls to our beautiful religion, culture and community.