My phone rang one morning last week. It was the wife of a friend whose weekly shiur I attend.
“Could you spare some time to help a patient in the hospital to put on tefillin?” she asked. “The person who usually does it can’t make it today.”
Naturally, I agreed. I certainly had the time, having recently retired from my job, and the time would be well spent. In a little while, I was making my way to the hospital’s cardiac unit.
I located the patient and entered to find the gentleman, a man in his 60s, seated by the window. He was connected to many machines and tubes. I learned that he had just undergone a second heart transplant. He had the first transplant 10 years ago.
The man told me where to find his tallis and tefillin, which I brought over to him. He washed his fingers with the cup of water at his bedside and proceeded to don the tefillin with my assistance. The tallis would have to wait until he was strong enough to put it on himself.
He was obviously experiencing a great deal of pain, and putting on his tefillin required considerable effort, but he finally put hem on and made the appropriate blessing, reached for his siddur and began to recite the morning prayers. He prayed with great concentration, slowly and carefully pronouncing each word.
As I sat watching him pray, I couldn’t help but feel great admiration for this Jew and for the deep commitment that he had to his Creator, to Whom he looked for a return to good health and well -being. In his present state, he could have been excused from this mitzvah, yet he preferred to observe it, despite his discomfort. And not only that, but he performed the mitzvah with such fervor, devotion and self-sacrifice.
We who put on tefillin with ease, as a matter of routine, cannot compare in this observance of the mitzvah to those who perform it, despite considerable hardship. I felt so privileged to have witnessed such a deep love of mitzvos and faith in Hashem from a heart transplant patient, whom I had the privilege to help and learn from.