By Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman
The sun would soon be setting so I found myself searching for the closest shul in Tel Aviv. I had been visiting my recently widowed relative who was not feeling well. She is my only first cousin, daughter of my uncle, who, along with my father, a’h, survived the Holocaust which murdered all other family members. She attended Bais Yaakov in Cracow but the war and other circumstances led her in a different direction.
Jerusalem is Israel’s spiritual capital, and Tel Aviv is regarded as its secular, non-religious capital. Surprisingly, I was told that there are more than 300 shuls in the city and there was one only two blocks away. A hurried walk got me there as people were assembling. The rabbi walked in and his attention was called to the back corner of the room. There he consulted with a man, approximately 30 years of age, who was in a wheelchair. The rabbi nodded his head in the affirmative and proceeded to his seat in the front of the shul. The wheelchair-bound man proceeded to snap on a prosthetic device to his left leg . . . and then his right leg. The double amputee then began to put on his tefillin.
Apparently, the questioner wanted to know if he could don tefillin for Minchah. He was pushed by a friend to a shtender in front of the shul and was carefully lifted from his wheelchair, bracing himself on the arms of the wheelchair to be able to stand before Hashem in prayer. This courageous man, who lost his limbs defending Klal Yisrael, stood as a proud Jew, able to carry on the tradition of our people.
To my mind, this was no ordinary man. His Minchah spoke volumes about his commitment to davening and recognition of Hashem despite what most would consider a tragedy. Did he consider the fact that his limbs were blown off to be a tragedy? I didn’t ask; however, the distinct impression I had was that this hero considers it his responsibility and honor to risk his life to protect those who come to daven.