The need for patience and perseverance is something all roving rabbis are cognizant of, whether they are stationed in fast-paced Shanghai, China, or sleepy Warwick, Rhode Island. We are dealing with the most precious commodity—our eternal heritage—and we simply cannot afford to lose any potential "customers".

Around 1:30pm the other day, we were driving through downtown Santa Monica, California. We'd spent the morning visiting various businesses and a medical center, offering tefillin, Jewish reading material, and a listening ear, and we were deliberating over our next steps. With lunch break over, and no prior arrangements, it wasn’t practical to approach people at their workplaces. We decided we would park the car, stand at a street corner, and invite the passersby to put on tefillin, something which, after years of practice, was second nature to us.

“Excuse me, are you Jewish?” was our refrain for the next thirty minutes.

Plenty of people passed by, but no one was interested in the tefillin.

Another thirty minutes passed. Clearly, it was time to move on to greener pastures.

It sounds cliche, but at that very moment, a gentleman with a flowing white beard approached. “Excuse me sir, are you Jewish?” we asked.

“Yes, of course,” he replied. “My name is Eliyahu, and I am so happy to see you!”

We soon discovered that Eliyahu was born in El Salvador to Jewish parents, who bequeathed him with a Jewish name, but little else on the religious front. Consequently, he spent years searching for meaning and spirituality, without success. He knew he was Jewish, but had never met a rabbi, or had the opportunity to practice Judaism. When he moved to California recently, his search continued, but as a stranger in a strange land, he hadn’t found anyone to guide him on his journey. He was thrilled to have met us standing in the street, and we promised to put him in touch with the local Jewish community.

Oh, and good things come to those who wait. In Chabad parlance, there’s something special about helping first-timers don tefillin, (especially when the person in question is several decades away from his bar mitzvah) as was certainly the case with Eliyahu from El Salvador.