Our first meeting in Kingman, Arizona, was with Jack, an elderly man who greeted us with sparkling eyes and a warm handshake. He invited us inside, and told us that he had moved to Kingman just two years prior. Unfortunately, his wife was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's, and currently in a local nursing facility. He had been an active member of his temple in Florida, and was quite disappointed that the small synagogue in Kingman had dissolved before his arrival.

“I beg of you,” he said, “please think about moving here after your ordination. I’m 89 years old, I don’t know how much longer I have, but there has to be something for all the Jews in this town who have no connection to Judaism. I must do what I can now to help this community.”

We told him we would consider his offer, and sat with him for the next two hours, hearing his life story, including his war experiences as a World War II veteran. When we asked him ifI must do what I can now to help this community he would like to put on tefillin, he quickly agreed, but added that he would need our help since he had never done it before.

We took out our tefillin, explained the process, and helped Jack put them on. He repeated the prayers after us, word for word.

“Boys, I had a grand party at my bar mitzvah in New York many years ago. But I never put on tefillin like I remember my Zaide doing every morning,” Jack said, wiping his eyes.

What a special moment, 76 years in the making! We commemorated it by taking pictures, singing, and dancing until it was time to drive to our next appointment.

Burt had been visited by our colleagues for many years already, but despite their many entreaties, had never agreed to put on tefillin. We had tried calling him numerous times, without reaching him. So our plan was to knock on his door, and hope for the best.

To our relief, he came to the door almost as soon as we knocked.

“How are you today, Burt?”

“Actually, today is the best day of my life!”

“Why is that?” we asked curiously.

He responded that he had been convinced that he had been forgotten about, since during past summers, he had always received a visit or two from the rabbis. And here we were, just showing up on his doorstep!

After sitting us down on the couch, he got straight to the point. "What can our meeting today do to enhance your life?”

We smiled, and he knew what was coming. "Aside for me putting on tefillin, that is."

We told him that just the fact that we are able to visit another Jew in a place like Kingman was an amazing experience for us. But if he would put on tefillin, that would make it even more special.

"I serve G‑d my way. I don't need or believe in any rituals. I don't serve Judaism, I serve G‑d. I don't need to walk into a synagogue; I have G‑d in my heart at all times." Burt had his response down pat.

We explained to Burt that he is correct, and we all have to make a resting place for G‑d in our hearts, but the way toWe could tell that he was quite impressed with our persistence do that is primarily through fulfilling G‑d’s commandments. And part of that is to use a special tool that G‑d has given us to signify our bond with Him—tefillin.

After that, Burt changed the subject several times, but we could tell that he was quite impressed with our persistence. He tried arguing further that at 89 years old, he is content with his way of serving G‑d, and we are just brainwashed into thinking that there is one specific way.

He then offered us a deal which was sure to push us off.

“Get me a hot kosher corned beef on rye, with coleslaw on top, and I’ll put on tefillin.”

“Burt, that’s impossible. Listen, Burt, you say you believe in G‑d. Then you must believe in his commandments as well.”

“Tefillin isn't one of the ten commandments,” he countered.

We told him it’s in the Torah.

“I’m a professional speaker and author. I've read everything I have been given to read. Being that I’ve never read the Torah, I cannot verify your argument.”

Burt was sure he would win this round. “If you return here with an English Torah, I will put on tefillin,” he said with finality.

My friend and I could hardly believe our ears. We exchanged glances, my friend ran out of the house, and returned, placing a beautiful translated chumash on the table.

Burt gasped and said, "I'm a man of my word. Let's do this."

It was high time for Burt's bar mitzvah. We carefully explained the procedure, helped him wrap the tefillin, and translated the prayers line by line.

Burt choked up during the final words. "You know, you boys are really lucky. My father never gave me the opportunity to study in yeshiva, and in truth, I would have really liked to."

On that note, we danced together with Burt, chassidic style, sang a boisterous “Siman tov mazal tov," and took lots of pictures.

Driving back to our motel, we reflected on how truly fortunate we were, to be able to facilitate two bar mitzvahs in as many hours, with both men at the advanced age of 89 years old. It is all a credit to the incredible vision of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, who cared so deeply for every Jew—young, old, and everybody in between.