By Chaplain X, USAF
I had an airman a few years ago who was dealing with some emotional issues, which among other things, presented as uncontrollable anger. He had moved away from my area and returned to where he was from. He would commute to us for drill weekend, but between his anger issues as well as his general emotional state, he had pretty much burned all his bridges with his chain of command.
One day he came into my office on Sunday morning of drill to talk to me. Because I need to be in my office early on Sunday morning of drill, I bring my tallis and tefillin with me to daven (pray) in my office. We talked for about a half hour and his agitation kept increasing with each passing minute. At one point, I turned to him and asked, “Let me ask you a question. Would you like to put on tefillin?” Mind you, I am not Chabad, and not only is a question like that for me highly unusual, I don’t think I have ever asked that question once in my entire life to anyone!
When I asked the question, a look of utter shock and surprise crossed his face. His mouth seemed to hang open for what felt like minutes. Finally, very calmly and quietly, he said, “Chaplain, you’re not going to believe this. This morning, when I woke up and knew how badly I felt, I called my rabbi at home for some guidance. My rabbi said to me, ‘I’m not sure how I can help you right now, with you stationed across the country. But I do know this—if someone offers you the opportunity to put on tefillin today, grab it! I know it will make you feel better.’ And here you are, Chaplain, offering me your tefillin!”
As I said, this never happened before. And most importantly, the airman felt much better afterward!
Originally published in the 5782 Three Weeks Jewish-American Warrior