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Question: Where I live I see Chabad Shluchim offering Jewish passerby the opportunity to put on Tefillin; is this of any value if they are otherwise non-observant? Additionally is doing so in a street – a public thoroughfare proper – kavod for the tefillin?

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Synopsis: We previously cited the Mechaber who explains the mitzvah of Tefillin as to be worn the entire day, but due to the constraints of the human condition whereby one might not be able to always be in the state of cleanliness of one’s person – guf naki – in our time we only wear them as we pray [the Shacharit Prayer]. We enumerated the blessings and reward as relates to this mitzvah as Poshe’a b’gufo – one who sins with his body. We also noted the importance to the performance of the mitzvah to purchase Tefillin from a G-d-fearing scribe who writes beautiful Tefillin that are to last for many years.

We then noted Esav’s marriage to the daughter of his uncle Yishmael as a single momentary opportunity to repent his many sins, including his marriage to the evil Canaanite wives. Unfortunately he and his new wife, Mochalas, did not take advantage of that opportunity and continued in their evil ways. Nevertheless, our Sages derive from this that a chatan and kallah fast on the day of their wedding, as they are forgiven all their prior sins. We also noted that such is repentance in the eyes of Hashem that if even for but a solitary moment, as the prophet Yonah is commanded [and he acts reluctantly] to save the gentile city of Nineveh from destruction. Surprisingly they heed his call and repent their evil ways. We further cited the incident of R’ Idi who would spend six months in travel – three months each way – just to spend one day in the academy. We also cited as regards the matter of punishment that one day in a year is considered as an entire year.

We followed that with the story of Keti’ah b. Shalom who was able to secure his eternal reward with one single action to which Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi proclaimed: “One may acquire eternity in one moment, while another may acquire it only after many years. Citing Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, we noted as well the special recognition Hashem accords Caleb, for his momentarily silencing the fears caused by the evil report of his fellow spies as to what they saw in the Land of Canaan. Even though his doing so assuaged their fears for but a moment such was the view on High with great admiration. That followed the halacha that we save a person on the Sabbath [and the festivals] even if such effort only renders a momentary measure of life – chayyei sha’ah. We then cited an address of the Gaon Rabbi Eleazar Menachem Man Shach, zt”l, at a Yarchei Kallah at the Ponevezh Yeshiva (Sefer Meireish Amanah, 18 Menachem Av 4738 – 1978). Rav Shach referred to two individual tales of young people who faced their deaths with one last act of Kiddush Hashem – sanctifying Hashem’s name. Rav Shach noted that not only did they die al Kiddush Hashem but they “lived”[that last moment] al Kiddush Hashem. We then cited that were the Jewish people to observe just two [most probably consecutive] Sabbaths that Hashem would immediately redeem them, we find even furthering the Jerusalem Talmud that even for the single solitary observance of one Sabbath they will be redeemed.

Next, we mentioned that both Tefillin and the Sabbath and Festivals are referred to as Ot, a sign [that proclaims our recognition and allegiance to Hashem as the Creator of the world and His having delivered us from the bondage of Egypt]. As such, on the Sabbath and the festivals we do not don the Tefillin.

We then told of the wonderful campaign for the observance of Shabbat, the Shmirat Shabbat Marches along Kings Highway in Brooklyn in which my Rosh Yeshiva, Hagaon Rabbi Shmuel Berenbaum, not only endorsed but actively participated and brought abut more Shabbat observance as a result.

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Answer: The following was sent to me in reaction to our discussion. Being that it is written from the perspective of a Chabad Rabbi and Chasid, it gives some insight into the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s intention when he sent the Shluchim – literally his representatives, out on the various mivtza’im – mitzvah campaigns and more specifically as relates to our discussion of the ongoing Tefillin campaign.

“Rabbi Klass:

“My name is Chaim Kosofsky. I am a Chabad shaliach in Springfield, MA.

I read the first part of your answer in The Jewish Press to the question about putting tefillin on random people in the street, when the mitzvah is an isolated event, and the person does not add in their Jewish lifestyle.

“I would like to clarify some concepts that are very basic in Chasidus.

In brief, Chasidus focuses a lot on the Process of Creation – Seder Hishtalshelus. This is a four-stage process to create a physical world, which we live in. The raw material at the beginning of the process is Divine Light – Ohr ein sof [lit. light without end].

“Before the Process of Creation, all that existed was such Divine Light without end. Kabbalah and Chasidus discuss different levels within the Divine Light, but they are subtle differences compared to the process of creation.

“The difference between the Divine Light before the process of creation and after is not comparable. It is like comparing a tree to a joke, or a dvar Torah. So much so, that in the words of Iyov (Job 28:12) V’ha’Chochma Me’ayin timatzei – Wisdom from where can it be found [but it can also be read Chachma, the beginning of the process of creation, appears as if it comes from ‘ayin – nothingness, from nowhere. The end product is nothing like the raw material from which it was produced.

“In order to change from the Divine Light before the Process of Creation and the Divine Light of and during the Process of Creation, it goes through a drastic transformation called Tzimtzum – narrowing down.

“The Light before Tzimtzum is called soveiv kol almin light that surrounds all the worlds [the universe] , and the Light after Tzimtzum is called memale kol almin – the light that fills all the universe. From the perspective of Sovev – surrounding, everything is the same. The beginning and end of the process of creation are alike, the Light is no stronger at the beginning than at the end.

“From the perspective of Memaleh – its [light] filling [all the universe], only Divine Light exists at the beginning of Seder Hishtalshelus. Divine Light is totally hidden at the end (in the world we know).

“The world is created and is maintained by the Divine Light of Memaleh – that fills. Each mitzvah we do, on the other hand, floods the world with Sovev.

“Therefore, it’s not a question of will anything in the person’s life change because he put on tefillin in the street. Every mitzvah, whether performed by someone as great as a Rosh Yeshiva or by someone who is not even [yet] shomer Shabbos, floods the world with Divine Light, but to reach the level of surrounding the entire universe for that the. Divine Light of Sovev is hidden at this time. It will be revealed at such time as Mashiach arrives.”

“Again, this is a very brief explanation. Thank you, hatzlacha in your holy work.

Thus, Rabbi Kosofsky articulates the Kabbalistic understanding of the result of a mitzvah performance and enlightens us that from the perspective of the Rebbe any mitzvah performance adds to that Divine Light but the mitzvah of Tefillin is unique as we shall further see.


To be continued…


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.