Coming Back to Earth

    April 1999            
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Not Pennies From Heaven

By Gutman Locks

Sometimes you really don't know what's going on. Surely, you know that all things come for a good reason, and that God sends even the tiniest detail to guide us. But even though the meaning behind things that happen to you may seem to be very clear, sometimes they just are not what you think.

It was Friday morning a couple of weeks ago, and I was praying in my usual spot by the Kotel. It was very cold, so we were inside. I had just taken off my first pair of tefillin and had put on my second pair, when all of a sudden I felt something wet and warm hit me on my prayer shawl and the side of my neck.

The fellow standing next to me, with a sick look on his face, reluctantly pointed out that a huge pigeon had just dropped a very large and very wet mess on my prayer shawl. I slowly turned my face to look at my prayer shawl. It was disgusting. There was nothing I could do to clean it, so I had to take it off and put it to the side and finish praying without it.

I really felt terrible. I know very well that nothing happens in this entire world without God intentionally sending it, so obviously this made me feel like a crumb, actually much worse than a crumb. A crumb might be insignificant, but this was disgusting. That God told that pigeon to drop its most repulsive load all over me was more than I could handle. I continued praying for a couple of minutes, but my heart really was not in it at all.

Then another guy came up and looked at me as if I was the most disgusting thing he had ever seen in his life. He was staring at the headpiece of my tefillin. I reached up and took off what had to be the most sickening tefillin headpiece anyone has ever seen. It was completely covered with wet, thick, oozing, smelly bird excrement! Yuck. Really yuck.

My heart sank. It wasn't the embarrassment of being dropped on at the Kotel that was really bothering me so much. Nor was it that all of the other guys were looking at me as if I belonged in a toilet. What really got to me was that I knew God was telling me that my prayers were disgusting to Him.

I carefully wiped off the headpiece with my towel and put it back on my head. I tried to finish the morning prayers. It was difficult. I was destroyed. God had rejected me. My prayers were disgusting to the Holy One. God had sent a messinger to excret on my head! I couldn't wait for the prayers to end so I could get out of there. When they finally ended, I pushed my way through the crowd so hard that I even knocked over a very fine scholar. Oh man! Things were going downhill.

I couldn't wait. I ran home and sat down and cried. I tried to figure some way to make my prayers more acceptable to God, but I was so stuck in my way. After all, I have been praying the same way for some 28 years. I just sat there and cried. There was no way to get around it. My prayers were disgusting to the God Whom I had always tried to please.

I thought, how could I change them? What could I do? Maybe slow down? Surely, I was going too fast. I had to go to the store to buy bread for Shabbat. On the way there and back, I couldn't even look up at the sky, the Heavens. I was disgusting and rejected. I thought about my appointment the next day to speak to a group of 60 young American Jews who were coming to Israel for a two-week, one-time-only vacation. I was supposed to teach them about what a Jew is supposed to do in this world and how much God really loves us.

How could I stand in front of them and pretend to be a spokesman for God? Someone God despises couldn't be His messenger. I thought about calling them and cancelling the talk.

Back in my apartment, I took my tefillin out again to make sure that I had cleaned them well. As I was looking at them, the thought came that maybe I should have them checked. I took them to the nearby scribe and asked him if he would do me a favor and check them to see if they were kosher. He said it was impossible, that it was Friday morning and Shabbat was coming.

I told him that it was an emergency and even told him about the bird. He felt my sorrow. He said to leave them and to call back at 12:30; maybe he could make time.

Exactly at 12:30 I called him. He said, "The script on the parchments is extremely beautiful. In fact, it is amongst the best I have ever seen, But," he went on, "one of the four parchments in the headpiece was mistakenly put in upside down!"

"What! Blessed is God! Blessed is God!" I yelled out.

"Blessed is God! Blessed is God!" he responded on the phone. Being upside down meant that the tefillin were not proper; that they should never have been used like that. That meant that for years I had been praying with improper tefillin!

Surely that was terrible; what could be worse than praying with unfit tefillin? But even that wasn't what was so important to me right then. What was so important and clear to me was that God did not send that bird to excrete on me because my prayers were disgusting. Rather, He lovingly sent that bird to poop all over me to tell me to check my tefillin; that my tefillin were improperly placed and that they had to be turned around.

I was so happy that I cried again. I don't know if I was crying from joy or maybe just from relief. God didn't think I was disgusting after all. Then, with a small smile, I looked up and said, "Thank you. Thank you for having that bird poop all over my tefillin, but maybe next time, couldn't You just send a telegram instead?"

Coming Back to Earth is available at your local Jewish bookstore.

NOTE: The Jewish Magazine highly recommends this book to all for great reading and inspiration!

If for some reason it is not there yet, please order it from L'Chaim Publications

See Gil's Website for a mystical learning experience at


from the April 1999 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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