Why Chabad People Always Ask You If You Put On Tefillin:
A lesson from the Parsha
In the late 60’s, the Rebbe came out with his Tefillin campaign. Dozens of Chabad Yeshiva students roamed Manhattan and offered Jewish passerby’s the opportunity to put on Tefillin. You may remember being asked if you put on Tefillin a few times… Many in the orthodox Jewish world were appalled by the idea of stopping someone in the street and having him put on Tefillin. The right way to don Tefillin is to wash your hands and recite the morning blessings in preparation.
Putting on Tefillin while jogging down the street – unheard of!
How does this make sense?
As you read the Torah you find that surprisingly there are often times that events are not recorded in chronological order.
For example, at the end of one Parsha we read, “Terach (Abraham’s father) died in Haran.” However, the very first event in the Parsha following that says “And G-d told Abraham, ‘Leave your land, birthplace, father’s home and travel where I tell you,’” to paraphrase the text. Truthfully, Abraham left home sixty years before Terach died.
It is on that verse that we learn, “These events are purposely not written in the order that they transpired so that no one might say, ‘Abraham didn’t honor his father, abandoning him in his old age.’” Although it is true that Abraham left his father, don’t forget that it was a special exemption commanded by G-d. The Torah still doesn’t broadcast it, lest some misguided folks misinterpret the story and use it as an excuse to forget about their parents in their old age.
The same chronological confusion happens in this week’s portion. The Parsha describes how G-d instructs Moses in the construction of the Tabernacle, the Mishkan. After this discussion, comes the story of the Golden Calf.
It is clear that the instructions to build a temple were issued only after the sin of the golden calf as an atonement.
Why then does the Torah record them prior to the sin?
As a Rabbi, people have often approached me with suggestions about whom I should invite to services or other Mitzvot. “This guy really needs to do a mitzvah,” they say. “He has done so many wrongs he could use a little dose of righteousness.”
It seems to be the attitude that only one who’s committed evil in his life has the need for prayer and good deeds, to effect redemption. The average people, it would seem, don’t have to try so hard when comes to doing Mitzvot as they have nothing to atone for.
Though the gold used in the Mishkan did, in fact, atone for the golden calf, if the Torah had recorded the events as they happened, with G-d commanding the Jewish people to build the tabernacle after the sin of the golden calf, it would seem that the Mishkan’s sole function was atonement for a sinful people.
Instead, Torah records the instructions before the sin to teach us that the Jew’s obligation to build a dwelling place for G-d is not only for those who have sinned against Him, but for all Jews alike.
The construction of the Mishkan teaches us that it is our mission to take the physical world and use every part that we encounter in the service of G-d. This is essentially every Jew’s purpose. We all have to gather Mitzvos. Even the greatest righteous man who has never committed a sin in his life must create a Tabernacle for G-d.
This is why you can ask a Jew to put on Tefillin when he has done nothing in preparation because Torah is not locked into sequences. “Torah is not in chronological order.”
Each Mitzvah is a unique light unto the world and a Jew must grab every opportunity to do Mitzvah that comes his way regardless of whether he’s following the traditional sequence or not.