Wood which does not burn is to be crushed until the fire is able to take hold. A body which is not burning with the flames of the soul is to be crushed until it is aflame with the fire of the soul. (Zohar III 168a)

Sounds kind of harsh.

Well, we saw it in action in the nicest way (no, we did not beat anyone up).

During our stay in Cusco, the ancient Inca capital, we strolled around the Plaza de Armas, meeting fellow Jews. At one point, we chanced upon a fellow Jewish traveler from Michigan. We had a nice chat about this and that. Before parting, we offered to lay Tefillin with him, and he declined.

Forty-eight hours later, eighty kilometers northwest, and 2925 feet lower, we met again in a very different setting.

At the site of the ancient Inca ruins known as Machu Picchu there is a mountain path which leads to the Intihuatana Stone, which lines up with the sun at the equinoxes, casting no shadow during those times of the year.

Now, there are no signs telling you how long the hike up is. If we would have known that it takes forty-five hot, sweaty, uphill minutes, we definitely would not have began this grueling hike carrying our backpacks laden with Tefillin, water, lunch and Jewish materials.

After much sweating and panting, when we stopped to rest on one of the outlying rocks, I asked someone returning, "How much longer?" I almost fell off the mountain when he told me that we had not even done half of it!

At last, we reached the top. There we met our friend from Michigan. We didn't recognize him, but he remembered me. After all, tall bearded Chassidim are a scarce commodity in this corner of Peru.

He was resting on a stone, his shirt drenched by the noon sun and long trek. He was trying to catch his breath. He was tired, thirsty, and "crushed," and so were we. This time our offer for Tefillin was gladly accepted. As you can see in the accompanying picture, he put on Tefillin. He thanked us for the opportunity and said that he hoped to do it again!