Few stories leave such an indelible impression on me as this one has, and therefore I’ll tell it to you in greater detail than I usually do. I’m grateful to Rabbi R. for allowing me to use some of the names.
It all started when Rabbi R, who lived in Montreal at the time, began making preparations to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of his third son during the summer of ’92. He, of course, made sure to buy him a top-notch pair of Tefillin, written by a very reputable and well-known sofer in Eretz Yisroel. They cost him nearly $1,000. As is his custom, his son began to wear them approximately on Lag B’omer, which was sixty days before his Bar Mitzvah. Strangely enough, as his son put them on for the very first time, he began to cry. While this type of behavior seemed quite strange and peculiar, his parents made little of it. Perhaps he was just being a little over-emotional. But as time passed, they began to notice a sudden change in his behavior. He started acting very moody and wasn’t the same wonderful child he always had been. He began showing signs of slight depression and withdrawal and would many times cry when putting on his Tefillin. His parents began to worry and decided to take him to Dr. Waters, a top doctor in Montreal. He told them not to worry, since it was probably caused by some type of stress associated with his Bar Mitzvah.
As weeks passed, the situation began to deteriorate even further, and his parents became more and more worried. They simply couldn’t understand why he was acting so strangely. He had once been an excellent student, but now he was not concentrating on his studies and was doing very poorly. He had always been a very giving and sharing child, but he now seemed to keep everything to himself and didn’t share anything with others.
In desperation, they tried everything! They took him to the very best doctors, who prescribed all sorts of medication, yet it was all to no avail. His condition continued to deteriorate. They finally took the advice of one of their family pediatrician Dr. Friedman , who recommended a change of scenery. Rabbi R, who is also the rabbi at the Young Israel in Tampa, Florida, decided to take the family there. He also had all his Mezuzos checked but found nothing wrong with any of them. His son’s condition worsened to the point where he became rebellious and even refused to go to school and didn’t want to put on Tefillin. When his father began to put on Tefillin with him, he simply refused to say the brocho with Hashem’sname, but rather just read the word as Hashem. Many times he would still cry when putting them on.
His father took him to Dr. A. Silver, the head of the Psychology Department at the University of South Florida, but nothing seemed to help. His parents were at their wits’ end and simply didn’t know what to do anymore. There just didn’t seem to be a rational reason for their son’s strange behavior, and this, of course, caused them great grief and pain. How could such a wonderful boy suddenly change so completely? What was bothering him? What had triggered the terrible change? Nobody seemed able to find the solution.
Rabbi R. finally decided to move back to Montreal. He had wanted to have his son’s Tefillin checked beforehand, but the opportunity just never came. Now he finally decided to give the Tefillin to a local sofer at the yeshiva, to make sure that they were okay. He had paid a fortune of money for them, and they had been written by a very respected sofer, who is indeed a real yorai shomayim, and he had therefore dismissed the thought of actually having to check them. He was shocked by the results. He just couldn’t believe it until he saw it with his own eyes. An entire word – the word losays (to give) – was missing in the parsha of his shel yad. It was just too much to believe!
Rabbi R. immediately sent the Tefillin back to the sofer, who was utterly amazed at what had been found. In the morning, Rabbi R. gave his son his father’s own Tefillin to wear until new parshiyos would be written for his son.
Two days after his son began to wear a kosher pair, he suddenly became his normal self again, and once again began learning with great hasmodoh and displaying that great personality he had possessed before.
This story continues to remain in my mind more than any other. One wonders what high neshoma this young boy has that he was able to subconsciously feel that something was not in order!