• Tefillin on the Basketball Court

    All the players turned towards me with a wondrous look on their face. It must have been the first time they saw a black hatted, bearded man with tzitzit hanging out from his side on the court. They looked shocked • Full Story

    By: Yosef Geller


    The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that the world is ready for the Geula countless times and that one way we can see the Geula in the world today is in the attitude of non-Jews towards Jews. For thousands of years the goyim prevented Jews from learning Torah and doing mitzvahs and in these days, when Moshiach is about to be revealed, the goyim are helping Jews learn Torah and do mitzvos. And here’s one example:

    Our yeshiva, Tiferes Menachem in Seagate, went on mivtzoim on Purim several years ago, like most other Chabad yeshivas in order to bring the light of Torah and mitzvahs to others. We joined together the night before in wrapping tasty little hamantaschen and sweet tangerines together in colorful wrapping. These treats were the mishloach manot that we would hand out on Purim day.

    Night turned into day and in the morning we prayed shacharit, listened to the Megillah, making noise at the mention of the evil Haman. After the Megillah reading we ate breakfast, packed our mishloach manot in bags and set out to share the Purim joy with others.

    I went with Shmuely. My usual mivtzoim partner left early for Crown Heights to prepare for the Purim Seudah that afternoon. We visited the usual people on our route, stopping people on the street here and there and asking them if they were Jewish. If they responded in the affirmative we gave them tasty mishloach manot.

    At 1 pm Shmuely also had to go to Crown Heights for the Purim seudah. So I trucked alone down the streets of Seagate in search of Jews to share the Purim festivities with. I went on my usual route, walking along a road with houses that overlook the beach. As I got around the bend I saw kids playing basketball on a basketball court.

    I had been doing mivtzoim for over a year in Seagate and had passed by that court countless times but I never thought to bother any of the kids on the basketball court to do a mitzvah. But that Purim day I decided to see if anyone was “game.”

    I walked onto the court. One dark-skinned teen with long hair was dribbling the ball. The rest were running along with him down the court. I shouted, “Excuse me guys.” The long-haired guy stopped in mid-dribble. Everyone else stopped in response. All the players turned towards me with a wondrous look on their face. It must have been the first time they saw a black hatted, bearded man with tzitzit hanging out from his side on the court. They looked shocked.

    I don’t know where I got the gall but I continued with my questions, “Excuse me, is anyone Jewish here?”

    All the players pointed at one skinny, lanky teen.

    I then turned to face the crowd of teens. “Should we have him put on tefillin today?”

    “What’s that?” the long-haired, dark-skinned teen asked.

    “It’s a Jewish prayer ritual,” I explained. “Come on guys. Let’s have Ted put on tefillin.”

    “Yeah,” they all shouted.

    Still Ted was hesitant. So the long-haired, dark-skinned teen turned to his Jewish friend and said, “Ted, if I make this shot you’re putting on tefillin.”

    He stepped up to the free-throw line, about 15 feet away from the basket. He shot the ball and the ball bounced off the backboard and into the net.

    I went up to Ted and laid the tefillin on Ted’s arm and head. As we were wrapping tefillin the other kids filmed it. One kid said “Let’s put it on Youtube.”

    It was a very special occasion; it was Ted’s bar-mitzvah. And his non-Jewish friends were the ones who pushed him to do it.

    It was truly a kiddush Hashem and shows that we are living in special times when the non-Jews are helping Jews learn Torah and do mitzvahs, a time when Moshiach is about to be revealed.


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