This story occurred in 5727 (1967). It was a few days before
Shavuos and I had arrived from Australia, where I lived, to visit the Rebbe
MH"M. The Rebbe had just recently announced Mivtza T’fillin. It was right
before the Six Day War, when the Rebbe urged us to try and assist Jews worldwide
in the mitzva of donning t’fillin, which has a special segula
in instilling fear in our enemies.
After Israel’s miraculous victory, the Rebbe called upon us
to take advantage of the spiritual awakening in order to promote this mitzva.
Lubavitcher chassidim and others began doing just that. Many chassidim
devoted at least some time at least once a week to fulfill the Rebbe’s request.
They went out to the streets, to hospitals and to old age homes, where they
would look for Jews and help them put on t’fillin. What is a given today
was a radical innovation at the time.
While in New York, I decided to join one of the groups doing
this mivtza. I wanted to take part in something that was new for me, and
I wanted to see how this was done, how people were approached and asked to put
We decided to leave after Shacharis. Before we left, I
went into a nearby grocery store to buy something to eat. We were rushing to
leave, so I bought a variety of cookies off the counter. As we rode along, I
took out the cookies and offered them to my friends. To our surprise, we found a
package of hamantashen among the cookies.
"What? Hamantashen now?! Erev Shavuos?!" They were probably
left over from months before, and when I took the cookies, I inadvertently took
the hamantashen, too. The fresh cookies disappeared quickly, but nobody touched
the hamantashen. We figured they couldn’t be too fresh at that point!
After three quarters of an hour, we arrived at our
destination, a medical center. We divided into a few groups and dispersed
throughout the hospital. We met many Jews and suggested they put on t’fillin.
Most were agreeable, either right away or after some convincing.
Towards the end of our stay, we went into a room where we met
up with another pair from our group. There were two Jews lying there, one of
whom agreed to put on t’fillin immediately, but the other one, an older
man, vehemently refused. The man grumbled, "I am connected to my G-d no less
We tried to appease him, but to no avail, though it was his
strong opposition that made us rise to the challenge of convincing him to don
t’fillin. After all, the man was no youngster, he was lying sick in bed, he
had mentioned G-d, and there was no logical reason for him to refuse. Even the
man in the neighboring bed tried to convince him, but failed.
When we had nearly given up on him, one of our group offered
him a fruit and said, "At least, take this and say a bracha." The man
turned away from us. Suddenly he turned back and said mockingly, "You’re
offering a fruit?! Bring me a hamantash and I’ll put on t’fillin!"
As though on signal, all eyes turned to me. With a big smile
on my face I said, "If you need a hamantash in order to get you to put on
t’fillin, you’ll get a hamantash!"
"Sure," he mumbled, "a hamantash now, after Pesach, a
While my friends stayed with him, I rushed out to the hall,
raced down the stairs, and dashed off to the car in the parking lot. I joyfully
took the package of hamantashen out of the car, you know - the one that had been
rejected by everybody earlier, but had now become a precious commodity, upon
which depended the fulfillment of the mitzva of t’fillin!
Who knows when the last time this Jew put on t’fillin
was, I thought as I headed back upstairs. When I entered the room and handed the
man the hamantashen, he was dumbfounded. He looked at me in amazement and
murmured, "I don’t believe it. Hamantashen. Hamantashen after Pesach." He took
one, and with my help he said the bracha and ate the hamantash with eyes
Then he rolled up his sleeve and did his part of the strange
deal that he himself had proposed. He put on t’fillin and wept.
We finished our work for the day and headed back to Crown
Heights, talking all the way home about the incredible experience we just had.
Before returning to Australia, I had a yechidus with the Rebbe. I told
the Rebbe the story about the Jew in the medical center, and the Rebbe smiled, "Nu,
if that’s what it takes, you have to make sure to have hamantashen every day."
(An anonymous first-person account taken from Sichat HaShavua)