Dozens of secular Jews from around Israel gathered in Bnei Brak to receive a blessing from an elderly sage and to put on their own tefillin for the first time, Arutz Sheva reported this week.
“Many of the sets of tefillin [phylacteries] were donated by a generous Jew in the United States,” Rabbi Shlomo Raanan of Rehovot told Arutz Sheva, “and I was privileged to distribute over 40 of them on this occasion.”
Rabbi Raanan heads Ayelet HaShachar, a Jewish outreach organization that focuses on original, hands-on activity. Most of those who took part in the tefillin-fest on Tuesday were previously involved in Ayelet HaShachar’s “phone chavruta” program, which brings some 7,320 pairs of study partners a week together via phone to discuss and study Torah topics.
A number of other participants laying tefillin for the first time were introduced to Judaism through the work of the religious families dispatched by Rabbi Raanan to live in secular kibbutzim. Many of them – including a 70-year-old who just made aliyah to Israel less than a month ago – have been putting on tefillin every day for weeks and those who felt ready to take on a long-term commitment took part in Tuesday’s ceremony. Some paid for the tefillin themselves.