An aged but tough looking man came running up to the Tefillin stand I was manning at the mall in Be’er Sheva this Friday. I don’t know him but my fellow Neve Chabad members Mendy Efune, Chaim Lichy, and I, man this stand every week and I’ve seen him many times before. Around 70 years old, his weathered skin and the deep furrows on his face show that he’s seen quite a bit in his life. He usually comes to the mall with his wife. Every week I politely ask if he’d like to put on Tefillin and he always keeps walking without as much as a flinch.

But now he walked in the door, saw the tefillin stand, and started running toward me leaving his wife to catch up. He stuck out his arm and said, “I want to put on tefillin, but you do it for me.”

“No problem,” I said and immediately began wrapping the Tefillin on his leathery arm and helped him with the blessings. “Baruch ata Hashem…” as he completed the Bracha, his wife caught up and gazed at him with a bewildered look.

“All of the sudden you’re putting on Tefillin?” She asked with a tone somewhere between disturbed and mocking.

“This is Israel! I can put on Tefillin wherever and whenever I want. I dare anyone to try and stop me!” Was his response. He completed the blessings, the Shema Yisrael, dropped a coin in the Pushke, thanked us and continued on his way.

What happened that led this man, whose name I still don’t know to put on Tefillin this time with such zeal? He clearly saw a video that went viral in recent days.

In the video Rabbi Meir Hertzel a Shliach from Givat Ze’ev is putting on Tefillin with a Jew in one of the waiting areas of Ben Gurion Airport. A professor who was sitting nearby begins verbally accosting both men demanding that they take their ritual elsewhere. The Shliach quietly continues his mission and gently cautions not to respond. This video went viral on both conventional and social media in Israel and the Jewish world.

Many people who saw the video were struck with the almost superhuman self restraint of Rabbi Hertzel who calmly and quietly went about his business not responding while the woman attacking him was screaming and making strange noises. Where did he get this power of self restraint? When asked he answered, “The Rebbe guided us to only deal with spreading light and once you spread light, then darkness is dispelled on its own.” What a beautiful message! But in this case something even greater than dispelling the darkness was achieved.

Chassidus teaches that we have the ability to not only dispel the darkness, but to turn the darkness into light.

You see, in the days since this disturbing video went viral, not just the leathery skinned man came over to put on Tefillin. Our little Tefillin stand has actually seen dozens of new faces coming over to put on Tefillin mentioning the video as their motivation. People doing mivtzoim around the country have reported a similar response.

This means that the very act of trying to stop someone from putting on Tefillin in public not only didn’t succeed, but actually caused thousands of people to put on Tefillin who probably would not have had they not seen the video. But this was only possible because Rabbi Hertzel didn’t respond. Had he gotten into a shouting match with the Professor, as many certainly would, very few would have been inspired.

G-d “Forms light and creates darkness, makes peace and creates everything.” Both darkness and light come from G-d. The only difference is that light is revealed G-dliness while darkness is concealed. Turning darkness into light only requires that we not be afraid of the darkness. That we understand that G-d is in the darkness the same as He is in the light. When we internalize that and act accordingly G-d becomes revealed in the darkness and it becomes light.

Why did this Jewish Professor react so violently to the sight of two Jews engaged in a Mitzvah in her proximity? Clearly it’s because her Jewish soul is literally starving for Torah and Mitzvos. When she sees a simple mitzvah being performed in her presence her soul screams out. But her current situation in life doesn’t provide her the vessels to connect so instead she responds in the only way she knows how, which is with hostility. The one thing she can’t possibly do is remain silent! The Divine spark within her is screaming out, but in a way of Darkness.

The Shliach, having learned Chassidus, understands that G-d is present in this situation, and there’s no reason to get worked up. By doing so he reveals G-d in the situation revealing the light. As a result, the cry of this Jewish Professor’s Divine soul is turned from darkness into light and brings about it’s true intention which is to cause more G-dliness to be revealed in the world, and thousands of Jews are inspired to put on Tefillin!

This week is Gimmel Tamuz. Let’s all use this day to be thankful that the Rebbe taught us to see the world in this way. Let’s rededicate ourselves to finding the light in everything we see!

Art: Orit Martin

Here’s a clip of my son Fitche spreading light at the mall in Be’er Sheva by giving out Shabbat candles