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Va'eschanan"For you are a holy people to Hashem, your G-d; Hashem, your G-d, has chosen you to be for Him a treasured people above all the peoples that are on the face of the earth" (Devarim 7:6).
Jews are a special people; different from all of the other nations of the world. Sometimes, there are individuals among us who try to shirk this special status; choosing to be like the Gentiles, but even many of them are returned to the fold, one way or another.
The following moving story is recorded in Aleynu Lishabeach by Harav Yitzchak Zilberstein shlita.
About fifty years ago, someone lived in a mostly religious settlement in Israel. Since most of the inhabitants were strictly Sabbath observant, they did not allow any cars to enter their community from the beginning of Shabbos until its end.
One Friday evening, one of the worshippers came into the synagogue in a state of rage and announced that there is a group of Jewish workers repairing the railway tracks very near to their settlement. Everyone was very upset that in the Jewish State a Government body would send out a group of Jewish workers, who are paid by their tax money, to publicly desecrate the Sabbath; especially right near their homes. Spontaneously, they all left the shul and headed for the railway tracks to attempt to stop the work immediately. Most of the group parked itself right on the tracks and prevented the workers from doing their job; some by verbally protesting the desecration of the Shabbos and some by physically preventing the work from going on.
In the meantime, some of the congregation approached the foreman and asked him to postpone the assignment until after Shabbos. "Believe me," he replied, "I would love to be resting at home right now like the rest of you, but I must follow the orders of my bosses. If you can bring me a written confirmation from them to stop the work, I will instantly free all of the workers and send them home."
For a moment, the committee was stymied. The foreman did have a good point. After all, he was a worker himself who had to obey his superiors or risk getting fired. Suddenly, a short, thin member of the congregation, who was known to be a very quiet fellow, stepped out of the group, and approached the foreman while rolling up his shirt sleeves. Surprisingly, he shouted at him, "What sort of confirmation do you want?" Everyone thought that he was rolling up his sleeves in preparation of the punch he was about to deliver to the one who had the nerve to disturb their Sabbath tranquility. But as he got closer to him, the usually mild-mannered congregant continued, "Do you need a written confirmation that we are Jews and were commanded by Hashem to keep His day of rest? Well, then, here it is. Written on my arm are numbers which were tattooed on me in Auschwitz as a written declaration that we are Hashem's special people. Isn't that enough of a confirmation for you that we are Jews who must keep the Shabbos?"
Everyone was shocked at this sudden outburst from the last one they would have expected it. But all of them, including the protester himself, were even more amazed at the foreman's reaction. He turned white and remained silent for a few moments; unable to respond. Finally, he came to himself and began crying like a baby. He rolled up his own sleeve and revealed to everyone the numbers written on his arm too. He fell upon the short protester and hugged and kissed him as he said, "We are brothers; brothers of the same holy People. And I promise you that from this day on I will never again desecrate the holy Shabbos; with or without a confirmation from my superiors. The only Superior I will obey is Almighty G-d!"
A few moments later there was no one left beside the railroad tracks. Everyone had gone home.
A treasured People indeed.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network