Manning the tefillin booth at the Western Wall in Jerusalem I find that most are willing to put on the black ritual leather boxes containing handwritten scrolls, worn daily except for the Sabbath and major Jewish holidays. Nevertheless, over my many years of standing in the beating sun, at the booth established by Chabad-Lubavitch Hassidim, I have been turned down from time to time.

When that happens, I remind myself of a story that a middle-aged man told me after I asked him to put on the tefillin.

“Five years ago, I was walking along Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles, California, when a Chabad rabbinical student asked me to put on tefillin.

“I blew up. I yelled at him, ‘You rotten Jew! You just embarrassed me in public. You’ve lost your share in the World to Come!’ And I stormed away angrily.

“But then, after 50 fifty steps or so, I stopped and asked myself, ‘How low have I come that I was able to lose my temper at a fellow Jew simply because he asked me to do a good deed.’ You know, I turned at that moment. I went home and I put on my own tefillin, and I have been putting them on every day since.”