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Weekly Chizuk

Parshas Yisro

Shabbos - The Epitome of Bitachon

Excerpts from my seforim Chizuk! and Trust Me!

זכור את יום השבת לקדשו "Remember the day of Shabbos to keep it holy."

R. Ovadia Siforno, one of our greatest Torah commentators, writes as follows: Always remember the day of Shabbos 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 is telling us that we should arrange our affairs during the week so that we should be able to take our mind off them on Shabbos. We see from the Siforno 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 of such a nature that with the entry of Shabbos we should be able to feel "as if all our work were completed."

The Siforno continues: "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 yours. This means that the things of this world don't belong to you; they can never become an intrinsic part of you. Only spiritual achievements become a part of yourself, and only these really belong to you.

"And do all your work": Only what is absolutely essential to someone satisfied with the minimum. (Shemos 20:8-9)

According to the Siforno Shabbos is instructing us that we must reduce our material endeavor to its smallest dimensions, both qualitatively and quantitatively. If one has not done this, it shows that he is not living in the spirit of Shabbos.

* * *

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 him 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."

* * *

Rabbi, This Is War!

From All For the Boss by Rebbetzin Ruchoma Shain, pp. 335-338.

It was on August 16, 1939, that Papa and Mama began their voyage to Eretz Yisrael. They were scheduled to dock at Haifa port on Wednesday, August 30. Arrangements were made for Papa and Mama to stay in Haifa for a few days at the home of Rabbi and Mrs. Alfa, where Avremal was boarding.

In mid-route, the captain received orders to sail in a circuitous route in case the waters of the Mediterranean Sea had been mined because of the impending war. And so, instead of arriving on Wednesday as scheduled, the boat docked on Friday, September 1, one hour before sunset. A few hours before that, World War II had erupted with the German invasion of Poland.

From the loudspeakers came the announcement that passengers were to disembark immediately. All the baggage from the hold of the ship would be unloaded onto the pier, and the passengers would be responsible for having it removed as quickly as possible.

Pandemonium reigned.

Papa and Mama were terribly upset. It would soon be Shabbos! How could they take care of their baggage when they would have to leave the port immediately in order to get to Rabbi Alfa's house in time for Shabbos?

Papa grabbed the suitcase that contained his sefer Torah and his tallis and tefillin, and Mama took only her pocketbook. They edged their way through the pier and asked to be shown to the head customs officer.

A tall English officer listened as Papa explained to him, "I cannot deal with our baggage now. I have never desecrated the Sabbath in my life. To arrive in the Holy Land and desecrate it here is impossible!" Tears rolled down Papa's cheeks.

The officer answered curtly, "Rabbi, this is war! You must make allowances."

"Just stamp our passports and let us through. We'll pick up our baggage after the Sabbath," Papa pleaded.

"That will not be possible. We are removing all the baggage from the ship and leaving it on the pier."

"I don't care about our baggage! Please, just stamp our passports so we can leave."

The officer looked at Papa quizzically. "How much baggage do you have?"

"Sixteen crates in the hold and nine suitcases in our cabin."

"What?! Do you realize that once you leave here, your baggage will be on the pier with no one responsible for it? By tomorrow night, I assure you, you will not find a shred of your belongings. The Arabs will have stolen them all," the officer said emphatically.

"I have no alternative. It's almost time for the Sabbath, and we cannot travel on the Sabbath. Please, please, just clear our passports and let us go," Papa's voice rose in desperation.

The officer, incredulous, called to another English officer, "Stamp their passports and let them through. This rabbi is willing to lose all his belongings in order to get to where he's going in time for their Sabbath." The second officer stared at Papa in amazement, as he stamped their passports and cleared their papers.

Papa, clutching the suitcase with his sefer Torah, and Mama, holding on to her pocketbook, grabbed a taxi and arrived at Rabbi Alfa's house just in time for Mama to light the Shabbos candles.

That entire Shabbos, Papa was spiritually elated. Over and over again he repeated to Mama, "The Boss does everything for me. What could I ever do for Him? Now at last I have the zechus to give all for the Boss for His mitzvah of Shabbos and to be mekadesh Hashem."

For Mama it was difficult to share his elation fully. She was physically exhausted and bereft emotionally. The loneliness for her children weighed heavily on her mind and heart. The additional loss of all her worldly possessions was not an easy pill to swallow. But Mama did not complain, and being with Avremal comforted her.

Saturday night, after Papa had waited seventy-two minutes after sunset to say his evening prayers and then make Havdalah, Rabbi Alfa suggested to him, "Let's go to the port. Maybe some of your crates are still there." Papa and Mama did not share his optimism, but they went along with him.

It was pitch dark at the port. However, they spied a little light at the far end of the pier. As they neared the lighted area, a clipped English voice rang out, "Who goes there?"

Papa called out, "Some passengers from the boat that docked late yesterday afternoon."

The English guard approached them. "What is your name?" he asked tersely.

"Jacob J. Herman," Papa answered.

"Well, well, Rabbi, it's about time you put in your appearance. I was assured that you would be here the minute the sun set. You are a little late. I have been responsible for your baggage for more than twenty-four hours. My commanding officer said he would have my head if any of your baggage was missing. Kindly check to see that all is in order and sign these papers. Please remove it all as quickly as possible. I am exhausted!"

Wishing Everyone A 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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