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A Very Important Mitzvah

Rabbi Ben Tzion Raider, a Chabad Chassid and a businessman from England, once flew to Detroit, Michigan for several business appointments. After a long tiring day he took a taxi to the home of a friend of his who always hosted him when he came to Detroit. But he was in for a surprise.

His friend, in addition to preparing a nice warm meal and comfortable room for him, also invited some of his acquaintances, most of whom were non-observant Jews, for a pleasant evening with his friend, the Rabbi. The evening was pleasant, although the discussion verged on religious debate.

One fellow in particular seemed like he was looking for an argument. He asked question after question about Tefillin (phylacteries); why we put them on, why must they be square, why black, why only in the day, why the left arm. Listening to all the questions, Rabbi Raider had an inspiration. He took the man aside and simply asked him if he was interested in putting on Tefillin. The answer surprised him.

"You see all these people that were here tonight?" The fellow answered rhetorically, "They are all going home to sleep. Right? But not me! I'm going to work! I own a bakery and I have to start baking in a half hour. So if you want to put Tefillin on me come there in four hours, at six thirty a.m. That's when we take a half-hour break in the baking and I can put them on."

The next morning, Rabbi Raider showed up at the bakery, and to his surprise the baker put the Tefillin on with the greatest of ease and expertise. He even recited the prayer by memory, with feeling! When he removed them from his arm and head he explained:

"I used to put them on every day. But the last time I put them on was twenty years ago. I guess I was just too lazy. Still am! But you know what?! If you get me a pair I'll start putting them on again! What do you say to that?"

He explained that he really had no desire to buy a new pair and didn't even know where to go if he wanted to. Rabbi Raider said that he would try to get him a pair, but it would have to wait. He wouldn't have time to buy them until he returned to England. Then, in six weeks, he was planning to return to Detroit and would try to bring them then.

"Really, Rabbi, if I waited for twenty years I can certainly wait a few weeks," the baker replied. He shook the Rabbi's hand and said good bye.

A few hours later, Rabbi Raider was on his flight to England with a brief stopover in New York. His plan was to pray the Morning Prayer with the Rebbe in his headquarters in 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, then go to Manhattan to buy a few things for his family. He would then return to 770 and pray the afternoon prayer before resuming his flight home.

He arrived in Brooklyn, prayed, wrote a note to the Rebbe about his plans and briefly mentioned the fellow he met in Detroit. Then he handed the letter to the Rebbe's secretary and proceeded to Manhattan.

When he returned in the early afternoon he was in for a surprise. There was a reply from the Rebbe! He opened the letter with trembling hands and it read:

"Do you think it is proper that a Jew who put on Tefillin yesterday for the first time in twenty years should wait another six weeks until you buy him another pair?

“Buy the Tefillin today; if you can arrange it that they reach him in Detroit today so he can put them on today, it is good. But if not, then you should return yourself to Detroit to give him the Tefillin in order that he can put them on in time, even if it means that you won't make it to England for Shabbat.

“When this Jew will see how important it was to you that he shouldn't miss even one day of Tefillin, it will become a very important Mitzvah for him."

Rabbi Raider was startled. He was looking forward to a family reunion in England; for the first time, his entire family would be meeting and spending the entire Shabbat together. He had been anticipating it for a long time. But he would not disobey the Rebbe’s wishes.

He had to figure out a way to send the Tefilin to Detroit. But it wasn't so easy. First, all the Judaica stores he called said that Tefillin had to be ordered. Then, when he did find a store that had one pair on hand it was only with the greatest difficulty that he convinced them to take an English check, because he had almost no cash on him. Then he had to find an airline to take them and convince his host in Detroit to pick them up from the airport and deliver them to the baker.

Miraculously he accomplished all that, and even made his flight to England!

Six weeks later, when he returned to Detroit, he met the baker, who thanked him profusely. With great pride and joy, the baker informed him that since he received the Tefillin he didn't miss a day of putting them on.

"You know why I value this commandment so much?" he explained. "Because when I saw how important it was to you that I shouldn't miss even one day of Tefillin… it became a very important commandment for me."



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