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All Present and Accounted For

“Hashem, how will I ever perform the mitzvah of tefillin? Please help me!”


Eddy Fieldstone (name changed), a widower with no children, moved into the neighborhood less than a year ago. He quickly became a regular shul-goer and was present at many of my shiurim. Eddy very soon became Ephraim, and every day like clockwork, he would daven at the 7 a.m. Shacharis.

One day after davening, Ephraim came up to me and showed me his tefillin. I’m not a sofer, but even I could see that his tefillin were questionable at best.

We went to the local sofer, who also davens at the 7 a.m. Shacharis minyan.

As soon as the sofer took one look at the tefillin, he shot me a look indicating that Ephraim’s tefillin were never kosher.

The sofer spoke to Ephraim in the softest terms possible as he informed him that his tefillin were completely nonkosher and he needed to purchase a new pair.

Ephraim was stunned by the news. “Do you mean to tell me that I’ve never properly fulfilled the mitzvah? How much do new tefillin cost?”

The sofer said, “I can get you a new pair for about $1,200.”

Ephraim laughed. “Very funny. Seriously now, how much do they really cost?”

The sofer took a deep breath. “I wasn’t kidding. New kosher tefillin are made by hand, by an expert. The work is extremely exacting and requires years of training and practice. That price is actually on the low end for kosher tefillin.”

Ephraim’s face went from white to red. Tears began to run down his cheeks. “I moved from my apartment in Jersey City to live in Passaic. I’m paying $500 more in rent per month. I live off my Social Security benefits. There’s no way I can afford $1,200!”

Ephraim was now sobbing, and he turned away. He looked toward the aron kodesh and said, “Hashem, how will I ever perform the mitzvah of tefillin? Please help me!”

Ephraim ran to the lobby to calm down and collect himself.

The sofer and I were looking at each other, neither of us knowing what to do or say. But Moshe T., who was wrapping up his tefillin, had witnessed the entire exchange.

Quietly and without fanfare, Moshe T. said, “I heard what just happened. I want to pay the $1,200 for Ephraim’s tefillin. I’m also adding another $150 for him to get a matching velvet bag for his tallis and tefillin.”

The sofer and I were stunned.

I asked Moshe, “Do you even know this man?”

Moshe said, “I never saw him before. I never daven at this minyan, but today I had to pick up my daughter from the airport, so I davened early.”

“If you don’t know him, why are you paying for his tefillin?”

“I’ll tell you why. Hashem blessed me with five wonderful daughters. Right before the Three Weeks, I married off my youngest daughter.

“When I married 35 years ago, I put away $1,500 for my future son’s tefillin. As the years went by and I continued having only daughters, the $1,500 remained untouched. Last week, I realized that the money would never be used for my son’s tefillin.

“I was disappointed. However, I knew in Hashem’s master plan there was a reason for everything, and nothing is random.

“Today, when I heard Ephraim’s plight, Hashem’s master plan became crystal clear. The money I set aside 35 years ago was indeed being set aside for a relative. And today I realized that it had been earmarked all along for my long-lost brother Ephraim.”


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 873)

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