The phone rang a few times, but there was no answer. “Here, you try,” my co-rover, Yehuda, said. I took out my phone and began dialing. The rabbi in Phoenix had given us this number, telling us that it was to a Jewish firefighter in Casa Grande, Arizona. Now that we were here, we decided to call and see if perhaps we’d be able to meet with him.

My luck was no better, and I couldn’t get through either. But we weren’t ready to give up yet, and we proceeded to the nearest fire station. After we had explained who we were, the kind captain brought us in and went to his computer to see if he could help us out. “Yup, he’s on duty today, and he’s stationed at firehouse #1.” We thanked him for his help, and off we went, following the directions that he had given us.

We arrived at firehouse #1, rang the doorbell and asked for Eric. “You see that guy backing the fire truck into the garage? That’s Eric,” we were told.

As soon as Eric saw us, a smile broke out across his face and he motioned to us to wait a minute. After he finished parking the engine, he climbed down and came over to greet us. “Wow, two rabbis! I can’t wait to see the expression on the faces of the guys inside when they see this!”

After we introduced ourselves, Eric insisted on giving us a tour of the entire station: the kitchen, dining area, sleeping quarters (if you think a yeshivah dorm room is small, think again!), and of course the various trucks (no, he did not turn on the lights and sirens for us; I think you need to be under twelve for that).

Well now that we had finished our tour of the station, it was time for us to give Eric a “tour” of what we had brought. “When was the last time you put on tefillin?” I asked. Eric replied that it had been quite some time since he had last had the chance. Yehuda proceeded to pull out his tefillin, while I placed a yarmulke (skullcap) on Eric’s head. As the tefillin were being wound around his arm, the firefighter, who doesn’t back away from entering a burning home, got emotional and began to choke up. We said the Shema, and then went on to the next paragraph of the prayer. As we were nearing the end of the section, the quiet was suddenly pierced by the loud sound of the alarm; a call had come in! We quickly unwrapped, and in less than a minute Eric and his crew were gone.

We were left standing alone in the now empty fire station. I looked down at my watch. “Perfect timing,” I remarked, “we have ten minutes to be at our next appointment. Let’s go!”