18 Iyar 5779 / Thursday, May 23, 2019 | Torah Reading: Bechukotai
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The Other Guy's Mishap    

The Other Guy's Mishap

Hashem in His miraculous mercy was calling me to rectify something that needed correction fast, so that I don't go into Rosh Hashana with this excess baggage of blemishes…


After praying recently one morning, as I was wrapping up my tefillin, I see a man's arm tefillin go flying from his hands and smack the floor right near me. The owner of the tefillin was unperturbed and simply yanked hard on the strap to lift it from the ground. This caused it to smack against the seat bench where he was sitting before he finally gripped it and put it away properly in its case. He then proceeded with the rest of his business after davening, of putting away his tallit, etc.


I was left with two conundrums. Number one, this man obviously had no idea about the sanctity of his tefillin. I was fortunate enough to have learnt that if one drops his tefillin out of their case, he is required by some to fast for the day or to give a certain amount of tzedaka (charity). At first I wasn't even sure I should say something, but my instinct told me that the man was unaware of the halacha. So then I was wondering how to go about telling him. I certainly didn't want to come at him with criticism about how he just committed a terrible mistake, even accidentally. Nor did I want to come across as a know-it-all about halacha. With Hashem's help, this is approximately what I said:


“Hey, I saw how your tefillin fell down on the floor earlier, that really stinks, right? You know, I'm not sure about what the halacha is here. I'm pretty sure there is more than one opinion as to what one should do after that happens. Probably best if you go ask the Rabbi, I'm sure he can tell you the prevailing opinion for your shul.”


So the man said, “Thanks I'll go do that,” and went off to ask the Rabbi. I heard the Rabbi telling him that originally people used to fast but now they just give tzedaka. When the man came back, he thanked me again for informing him and explained that the Rabbi said he should give the dollar amount of two meals to tzedaka and he's good. Mission accomplished: Man informed, slip corrected, everyone's ego in check, Thank You, Hashem!


On to conundrum number two: what was my part in all this? Rabbi Arush teaches in the Garden series that everything we see going “wrong” in the world is exactly a reflection of what's wrong in us. If I saw this man's tefillin drop, it meant I was guilty of the same kind of spiritual offense in some way. Hashem arranged for me to see the tefillin drop so I could correct my own transgression and make Teshuva. This is what the Mirror principle is all about. I thanked Hashem for showing me my own reflection in this man's accident. I wasn't sure what exactly tefillin dropping meant for sure, so I went and asked the same Rabbi from earlier.


He explained to me that the tefillin dropping is an expression of bizayon (disgrace or disrespect) for Torah. Ah! Now I had my spiritually reflected transgression. I started wondering where I had disrespected the Torah. Immediately, the thought popped into my head about earlier this summer. It was hot here in Teaneck and I often get sweaty and uncomfortable wearing long pants to shul during the weekday. Besides, being a fitness trainer, I'm already in shorts so changing into pants just for shul is an extra step. I had been practically the only adult wearing shorts to shul. What made it worse was that on Mondays and Thursdays, the Torah is taken out for reading. I had been improperly dressed for the occasion.


To be honest, it had bothered me a little at the time but I rationalized it was better to be comfortable and able to concentrate on my davening then to wear pants and be sweaty and struggle to concentrate.


In the end, I had resolved that I'd ask the assistant Rabbi of my shul the halacha (religious law) about wearing shorts to shul but I hadn't gotten around to it yet. In all likelihood, I might have let it go altogether. But Hashem in His mercy, had other plans. Thru seeing the tefillin dropping and Emuna, I had come to see it was Hashem's will that I dress more appropriately when coming to shul, despite how the heat may make me feel. With that information newly learnt, I was ready to make a S.C.A.R.treatment.  


Stop wearing shorts to shul.

Confess to Hashem about my lack of appropriate dress in front of his Torah.

Ask Him for forgiveness

Resolve to always wear pants in the future and not to forget or get swayed by my sweaty uncomfortability.  


As the man who dropped his tefillin was leaving, I had the opportunity to thank him for teaching me something I had been unaware about. Thank You Hashem for sending me messages throughout the day on how I can continue to correct and improve myself each day. May we all learn from Hashem's perfectly reflecting world how to improve ourselves until we reach the point that Moshiach coming would be for our very best, speedily in our days, Amen!

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