South Lake Tahoe, California, a popular year-round tourist destination, boasts a myriad of attractions, especially for the nature-lover. There’s biking, boating, skiing, and hiking, all set against the stunning backdrop of the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains, crystal clear Lake Tahoe, and stately forests. The adventure seekers who flock here can find a new thrill every day, but for us the three weeks we spent here were highlighted by a different kind of thrill—the opportunity to connect with and inspire our Jewish brothers and sisters.For us, it was a different kind of thrill
It was a beautiful Wednesday afternoon when we met David. We’d spent the morning visiting several Jews at their offices, and we were taking a 10-minute lunch break in a nearby parking lot. We noticed an older gentleman approaching his car, right near ours, so we approached him.
“Hi sir, are you by chance Jewish?” we asked.
“As a matter of fact I am,” he answered. If he was surprised, he managed to conceal it well. “My name’s David,” he offered, “what brings you rabbis to the area?”
We had a lively conversation and then we pulled out our tefillin.
“Have you ever put these on, David?”
“No, I’ve was raised Reform but for some reason I was never bar mitzvahed.”
“How about we help you put them on right now?” we asked.
He seemed doubtful. “I think it’s too late for me; I’m over 70! Save it for the younger folks.”
“David,” we reassured him, “Judaism teaches us that it’s never too late to do a good deed, and it’s never a bother to help another Jew. It would be our greatest pleasure.”
David smiled. “When you put it like that, I guess I have no choice but to oblige you!”
Tears flowed down hisI think it’s too late for me; I’m over 70! cheeks as we helped him wrap the tefillin around his arm and head, and said the Shema prayer together. When we finished, David grasped our hands. “Boys,” he said, “you ignited within me something I haven’t felt in many years. That was so special; I’m so grateful for this opportunity. Thank you.”
We exchanged contact information and wished each other well before heading off on our respective ways. We scanned our agenda for the rest of the day. Our lunch break had more than rejuvenated us—it had brought home, yet again, the incredible power of the Jewish soul, of that spark that is waiting to be rekindled. “Let’s go,” we said to each other. “We’ve got work to do.”