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Shelach"For he scorned the word of Hashem and broke His commandment; that person will surely be cut off, his sin is upon him…The Children of Israel were in the Wilderness and they found a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day" (Bemidbar 15:31-32).
Rashi quotes the explanation of Rabbi Moshe HaDarshon who explained the juxtaposition of these two paragraphs next to each other - the first about serving foreign gods and the second about observing the Shabbos - because both are considered as important as all of the other mitzvahs of the Torah combined.
The following amazing story, recorded by Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein in Aleynu Lishabeach, also indicates the power of Shabbos to overcome foreign observance.
Everyone who is involved with Kiruv (Outreach Work), especially in the United States, knows that the most powerful tool to attract a non-observant person to Torah-true Orthodoxy is Shabbos. The true, sweet taste of that holy day totally permeates the soul and fills it with a semblance of the World-to-Come which no one wants to part with.
A Torah Scholar in Bnei Brak told Rabbi Zilberstein that he invited a boy who was in an early stage of return to be his guest for Shabbos. The boy enjoyed the visit thoroughly: the special, warm atmosphere; the "delicious" words of Torah which were "served" at every meal; and the lovely, moving songs sung between portions of tasty food. But what he loved the most was when someone sang the beautiful "Lecha Dodi" we traditionally sing at the Friday night service in the synagogue. For some unknown reason, that song made a very strong impression upon him and he asked that they sing it again and again. Strangely, every time he heard it, his eyes welled up with tears.
When Shabbos was finally over, and the boy was about to leave, his host asked him his name. Imagine his shock when the boy replied, "Giaber Abu Chusein." His host asked him to put down his suitcases and sit down and tell him his life's story. The boy was happy to do so and explained that until just recently he had lived with his parents in an Arab village in the Galilee, and that since he was a child he was thoroughly fluent in the Koran of Islam.
Once, at a mass gathering in the village, the local Mufti spoke about the great "mitzvah," as defined by the Koran, to kill Jews. "The entire crowd was mesmerized by these words," the young man related excitedly, "but I jumped up and shouted that the Mufti is lying; that no such thing is mentioned anywhere in the Koran. Immediately, the youngsters in the crowd began beating me up, and my father joined them in giving me such mighty blows that I was lucky to escape with my life.
"After that, I had to run away from the village and I traveled up North to Kiryat Shemonah. Since I am an electrician by trade, I joined a group of other electricians who were working for a Jew who had a factory for electronic items. The owner was very impressed with my capabilities and my dedication and, soon after, he appointed me to be the general manager of the factory. On Shabbos, when the plant was closed, I stayed at the homes of the Jewish factory workers.
"One Friday, the workers told me that I could not stay with them this Shabbos since it was also Yom Kippur and they would be spending the whole Holy day in shul. Having no other choice, I spent the entire day at the factory alone, but towards the end of the day I decided to go to the synagogue and see how Jews pray. When I got there, they were praying the Ne'ilah prayer (the closing Yom Kippur service) and I was extremely moved by the seriousness of the worshippers. I stood there transfixed the whole time until the shofar blasted the signal that the awesome day had ended and I had to return to the factory and my mundane daily affairs.
"In the meantime, my father got into trouble with the police and was incarcerated in an Israeli prison. This was a good opportunity for me to sneak into the village and visit my mother. I caught her up on my life and I stressed how impressed I was with the prayers of the Jews in their synagogue.
"As soon as I mentioned the word 'Jew,' my mother looked right and left, even at the window to be sure no one was standing there, and, when she was convinced that we were alone, she broke down and cried hysterically. I was totally surprised at her behavior and couldn't understand what was going on until she fell on my shoulder and said, 'My dearest son, you are a Jew too! Yes, you actually are a Jew.'
"I was thunderstruck as my mother continued to reveal to me that her name is Ilanah and that she is a descendant of a very special and noble family whose roots are in Tzefas. She explained that only after she married my father did she discover that he was an Arab Druze but the leaders of his village threatened her that if she ever left him they would kill her. All of my brothers and sisters, she said, are all Halachically Jewish. She added that the reason my father hates me so is because he says that I look too much like my mother's Jewish family in Tzefas.
"From that moment on, my life totally changed. That very day, I bought myself a pair of tefillin and I began to observe mitzvahs. I came to your home this Shabbos to get more strength and conviction and to see what a real Jew looks like."
The host was flabbergasted and asked the boy if his mother has proper documents attesting to the fact that she is Jewish. The boy said that she does and even showed his host a picture of his mother's family praying by the grave site of one of the ancestors of the family who is buried in Tzefas.
The picture wasn't clear enough to identify the grave, but the host took it with him the very next morning when he traveled to the cemetery in Tzefas to try and discover who was the head of the boy's mother's family. The picture did help him find the location of the grave, and, once there, it was easy to identify the illustrious tombstone upon the holy resting place of Rabbi Shlomo Elkabetz - the author of Lecha Dodi!
Shema Yisrael Torah Network