We visited Max (Moshe Dovid) in his New Jersey home. After a pleasant conversation, we asked him if he ever put on tefillin. He responded, "I used to wear them every day in my youth, but now it has been sixty years that I have not done this mitzvah. Let me tell you why:

"During the Holocaust, I was a prisoner in the Buchenwald concentration camp. One day, a man in my barrack showed us that he had gotten hold of a pair of tefillin. He had gotten them from a German worker in the camp who had told him that they had belonged to a Jewish person whom he had hidden in his home until he went to buy groceries and was never seen again.

"This Jew shared the tefillin with all of us in the barrack. We used to wait in line to put them on, whisper a few prayers and pass them on to the next man in line.

"One day, while owner of the tefillin was wearing them, a Nazi guard entered the barrack. When he saw the Jew praying, he became furious, pulled the tefillin off the Jew's head and tossed them into the fireplace. As soon as the guard walked out, the Jew stuck his hand into the fire and rescued his beloved tefillin. After he had brushed them off and put them back on his head, the guard re-entered. He threw them back into the fire, and hit the hapless Jew with the butt of his riffle until he passed out and died.

"After witnessing such a story," concluded Max, "I could not bring myself to put on tefillin again."

We told him that it seemed to us that the greatest victory Max could ever have over the Nazi guards would be to demonstrate that in spite of what he had been through, he is still able to put on tefillin.

And he did.