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Weekly Chizuk

Parshas Yisro


Excerpt from my sefer Chizuk!

One of our greatest Torah commentators, R. Ovadia Siforno, writes as follows:

"Remember the Sabbath day": Always remember the Sabbath day during the weekdays while you are occupied with your work.... "To keep it holy": that you will be able to keep it holy. [The Torah] indicates [by this] that we should so arrange our affairs during the week that we should be able to take our mind off them on the Sabbath. [This means that we should train ourselves during the week to keep the level of our economic activity as low as possible, and to see that it occupies as little of our mind as possible. The arrangements we make for earning a livelihood should be with this in mind - that with the entry of Shabbos we should be able to feel "as if all our work were completed."]

"Six days you shall labor": in the affairs of this world, which undoubtedly resemble the labor of a slave; most of them are nothing but worry about a world that is not his. [This means that the things of this world never belong to a person; they can never become an intrinsic part of you. Only spiritual achievements become a part of yourself, and only these belong to you in reality.] "And do all your work": All that is absolutely essential to the person who is satisfied with little. (Shemos 20:8-9)

We see that it is our duty to reduce the test of material endeavor to its smallest dimensions, both qualitatively and quantitatively. If one has not done this, it shows that he has not passed the test at all.

* * *

The Chofetz Chaim would often say, not only is nothing lost by observing Shabbos but rather, Shabbos is the true source of all bracha (blessing). The story is told that the Chofetz Chaim visited the city of Chernikov. A wealthy Jew living there kept his factory open on Shabbos employing a number of other Jews. In response to the Chofetz Chaim's request that he close his factory on Shabbos, the man haughtily replied, "I earn 4,000 rubles a day! Do you really think that I'd give up such a sum of money every week for Shabbos?!" The Chofetz Chaim explained to the man that he was greatly mistaken. Observing Shabbos would not cause a loss at all. On the contrary, he warned, continuing to desecrate the Shabbos could cause him to lose far more than 4,000 rubles. Why, the Chofetz Chaim asked, does the Torah bother to mention working six days when it wants to command us to observe the seventh? He explained that the Torah is informing us that if you want to be successful during the week's work days, be sure to observe the seventh as Shabbos. If the seventh is not observed then you will find yourself without anything to do during the six. To this, the man scornfully replied, "Does the Rabbi think that a possuk from the Torah is going to close down my factory for twenty-four hours each week?!".

A short time after this conversation the Bolsheviks took over Russia and the factory was "liberated." The owner managed to escape with his life but with nothing else. He penned a letter to the Chofetz Chaim stating: "I now see that your words were correct. A single possuk of the Torah certainly has the strength to close an entire factory."

* * *

Challos for Shabbos

From Olam Chesed Yibaneh, p. 312, cited in Beloved Companions, p. 359.

At the time of the Holocaust in Europe, the Germans surrounded the town of Guvorona and had all the Jews rounded up in a big shul. On erev Shabbos (Friday afternoon) they set the town ablaze in different places and announced that they would soon also burn down the shul with all the men, women and children inside. The cries of the children and their mothers were deafening, as everyone in the whole town was packed into the small shul. They were all gripped by terror. The children were hungry and tired, and there was nothing to feed them. It had happened so quickly that no one had thought of taking any food with them.

The Germans completely encircled the shul and kept watch to make sure that no one ran away. In order to increase the terror, the Germans shot into the air and announced that anyone who tried to escape would be killed instantly.

Reb Yoel, the baker, sat crouched in a corner, saying Tehillim in a low voice. When it became dark, he suddenly got up and ran outside, disappearing into the night. Upon seeing this, the people in the shul became very fearful. Everyone knew that you do not play games with the Germans and that his escape would cost him his life.

After a few minutes, however, Reb Yoel re-entered quickly with a sack on his shoulders that contained all the challos that he had baked for Shabbos. He divided the contents among all the hungry, frightened people and announced, "Jews, take! Tonight is Shabbos!"

What happened afterwards seemed like a miracle. The German lieutenant entered the shul, and ordered that all the Jews leave immediately before his men burn down the shul. No one had any explanation for this sudden change of heart. But everyone believed that the miracle of their salvation was a direct result of Reb Yoel's courageous act, since he was willing to sacrifice his very life in order to help his fellow Jews, however slightly.

Gut Shabbos!

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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