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"Hashem, our G-d, sealed a covenant with us at Chorev" (Devarim 5:2).

When we received the Torah at Mount Sinai (also known as Mount Chorev) we entered into an irrevocable agreement with Hashem to be His People forever. Neither can we change Him for another god, nor can He change us for another nation. Sometimes, however, an individual Jew forgets his obligations and attempts to "leave the fold." Hashem will often use unbelievable methods to help him find his way back "home." In the end, of course, he always has free choice to cooperate with the Divine Providence or not to, but if he chooses to do so, he will be surprised how much Hashem does to hold on to him. That, in itself, will arouse his intense love for our Father in Heaven.

The following, unbelievable story, related in Aleynu Lishabeach, is an example of how much Hashem helps a person who even has a thought of repenting from his sins. It was told by a Torah scholar whose older brother returned to the Torah's ways and now learns in a kolel in Bet Shemesh.

Like many Israeli youngsters who completed their army service, Ya'akov set out to see the world. He planned a trip which would take him 2 years; beginning in Australia and ending in Japan. The only difference between Ya'akov and most of the other Israelis who were going this route is that he came from a religious family. He had long ago stopped keeping Shabbos and from there it had been downhill all the way. Now he was going to see what the "outside world" looked like.

Everything went fine until Ya'akov arrived in Japan with no more than $200 left in his pocket. He could not do very much with that; surely not tour the exotic country. Even minimal rent in a small, humble apartment cost $500 a month, and Ya'akov planned to stay there for at least another half a year. He concluded that he had no other choice but to find a job to support himself and combine work and touring in the time left for his trip.

But this turned out to be not at all that simple. Although all other boys his age found work with no difficulty at all, he just couldn't find a job. He went from interview to interview but nothing materialized. Most frustrating was that many opportunities almost worked out but fizzled out at the last moment. He was no less capable than the others but somehow his luck had soured terribly. Ya'akov found himself sleeping in the streets like the homeless; getting more and more depressed, day by day.

Since he couldn't find any natural explanation, Ya'akov began thinking whether his problems were the result of supernatural causes. Sitting on a park bench, after receiving another negative response to his job application, while many of his friends were accepted, he began thinking how better his life was, in many ways, when he was religious. He began to rethink how he had plummeted to his present situation and he remembered that it had all begun with his abandoning the holy Shabbos. He realized now, in retrospect, that that step had been the first one away from Hashem and His Torah. Perhaps, he thought, in order to correct that major mistake, the first step back must be to observe the holy day once again.

But, he contemplated, if he was having so much trouble getting a job in Japan when Shabbos observance was not an issue at all, how would he ever be hired if he refused to work one of the days of the week besides Sunday? Nevertheless, Ya'akov's resolution to mend his ways got stronger by the moment and he was convinced that Shabbos was the first mitzvah he had to tackle. He remembered being taught that parnasah (sustenance) is in the hands of Hashem and that He didn't need our help in delivering it to us. We merely had to find favor in His Eyes and He would do the rest. Ya'akov made a firm decision that even if he were offered a job, he would refuse it, if it meant working on Shabbos.

And then, the most amazing thing happened. Not more than half an hour had passed since Ya'akov had made his self-reckoning, when an Israeli suddenly appeared on the scene and asked him if he recognized him. After thinking a while, Ya'akov replied, "Of course I remember you. We met, years ago, in a seforim (book) store in Tel Aviv and talked together for a long time." After chatting for a while, Ya'akov described his present situation and was shocked when his "friend," Moshe, declared, "Don't worry about a thing. I'll help you out." They immediately went to a hotel together and Moshe rented a room for Ya'akov for two weeks telling him not to feel pressured to return the loan until he found a good job.

The fact that a Jew had taken interest in him, and not any of his Gentile friends, helped further cement the bond Ya'akov was beginning to feel, once again, to his Jewish roots; roots which he knew were bound to the Torah and its mitzvahs. He also was amazed that Hashem seemed to be acknowledging his repentance so soon. For the next two weeks, Ya'akov continued to search for work, but this time, he only wanted a job which did not involve desecrating the Sabbath. This did not develop so quickly.

On the day Ya'akov had to leave the hotel, the hotel manager approached him and said, "Listen to me. I have been observing your behavior since you checked in here, and I like the way you act. If you are looking for a serious job, I would be happy to introduce you, and even recommend you, to my relative who is opening up a new factory and is looking for young men like you." Naturally, Ya'akov went for the interview and was shocked when the owner immediately offered him a very good job with an exorbitant salary. However, to the owner's dismay and bewilderment, Ya'akov hesitated to accept. When he asked if there was a problem, Ya'akov replied that he is a Jew and cannot work on Saturday. The Japanese fellow had never heard of such a concept before but did not want to lose the very capable candidate who sat before him, so he asked him to explain what exactly was bothering him. Ya'akov began to explain that his ancestors had been slaves in Egypt thousands of years ago and Hashem had taken them out and presented them with a Torah which obligated them to keep His commandments, one of which was Shabbos.

"And you mean to tell me that you are part of this ancient Nation," asked the Japanese in surprise.

"Yes, I am," replied Ya'akov with a mixture of pride and shame.

"Well, I've never heard anything like this, and, naturally, I have never done this before, but I will allow you to work only five days a week for me."

Ya'akov felt a wonderful feeling of satisfaction overcome him and he beamed with happiness. Suddenly, his thoughts were disturbed by the voice of his new employer who asked, "Is there anything else you need from me?"

Hesitantly, Ya'akov replied. "Well, to tell you the truth, I wouldn't have dared to request it of you, but if you asked me, I must admit that I have another bit of a problem. I borrowed money from a friend of mine from Israel and I would like to repay him as soon as possible. Would it be ok if, for the first few weeks, you pay me at the end of each week rather than at the end of the month?"

The factory owner replied, once again, that he had never done such a thing before but would make an exception for Ya'akov, because he liked him so much and he had made such a positive impression upon him. He then asked if he needed anything else. Ya'akov replied that he had already received much more than he had ever dreamed of, and got up to leave.

Suddenly, his new boss asked him, "One second, how did you get here?" "By foot," replied Ya'akov. "And how are you returning?" "By foot." "Where, exactly, are you staying?" Ya'akov told him the name and address of the hotel where he was situated and the Japanese man took out a map of Tokyo and found the location. "What?" he exclaimed. "You walked so far? Why didn't you take a train?" "Because I haven't a penny to my name," Ya'akov explained.

The messenger from Heaven took out a roll of bills from his pocket, handed them to Ya'akov, and said, "Listen, I never did this before either but I am giving you one thousand dollars as an advance on your salary. If you are so G-d fearing and upright, I'm sure you will not abandon me. But any employee of mine must have good living conditions and proper travel arrangements!"

Ya'akov was thrilled with his new position and his wonderful, considerate boss. But, most of all, he was overjoyed that Hashem had obviously accepted his thoughts of teshuvah (repentance) and had done so many obvious, unusual acts of Providence to help him return to the fold. He immediately searched for and found religious Jews who lived in Tokyo and asked them to learn Torah with him, while he worked in the factory amidst strict Shabbos observance. He saved a sizeable amount of money, returned to Israel and entered a kolel where he continues to learn Torah and serve Hashem wholeheartedly.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel