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Vayakhel"On six days, work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem; whoever does work on it shall be put to death" (Shemos 35:2).
Sometimes Shabbos is difficult to observe. One wintry Friday evening, I was surprised to meet a man whom I considered to be religious, coming home from work after dark. He excused himself by saying, "Look, I keep Shabbos whenever I can. But in the short winter days, I can't leave work early enough to make it home in time."
Of course, he had his priorities wrong. One has to keep Shabbos always. And when he can work a full day; fine. But when he cannot, then he must sacrifice his work for Hashem's holy day of rest.
Besides, when one is really Shabbos observant, he will find that Hashem will help him keep the mitzvah properly; even under challenging conditions.
When World War II began, the Brisker Rov, Rabbi Yitzchak Ze'ev Soloveitchik ztvk"l, found himself, and some of his children, separated from his wife and the rest of the family in Brisk. Eventually, he made it to Vilna, and there received certificates for himself and the children who accompanied him, to travel to Eretz Yisroel. They traveled to Moscow, from where they were to take a train to Odessa and then a ship to Turkey and then proceed to Eretz Yisroel. Since it was dangerous for them to remain in Moscow too long, they were forced to take the train to Odessa on Wednesday and arrive in Odessa on Friday; although sundown in Odessa was approximately 3:00 pm, and Russian trains were often delayed. The story is recorded in many books about the Rov's life. The following translation appears in the splendid book, The Life and Times of Reb Rephoel Soloveitchik of Brisk, by B. C. Glaberson.
On Wednesday, at five o' clock in the afternoon, the Brisker Rov and his children boarded the train from Moscow to Odessa, hoping to arrive before Shabbos. However, the train was delayed along the route, as usual, a number of times. Once, it just stopped in the middle of nowhere for eight hours. After the long delay, it was clear that there was no chance of reaching Odessa in time for Shabbos; as the Brisker Rov had feared…It was already late Frdiay afternoon and there was still a long way to go. The Brisker Rov was saying Tehillim (reciting Psalms) with great intensity during the whole journey…Suddenly, the train started speeding incredibly. The Brisker Rov continued saying Tehillim and stood at the window watching the waning sun as it approached the horizon. The speed of the train, unbelievably, increased even more; almost flying along the rails. Suddenly, they noticed houses cropping up. Reb Rephoel (one of the Rov's sons) said he thought they were just passing some small village. But it turned out to be their destination; Odessa! The train had caught up most of the lost time and arrived just a few minutes before the onset of Shabbos. They could still see the sun upon arrival.
They stayed over Shabbos in Odessa, and Saturday night the ship was scheduled to depart for Istanbul. The passengers were required to board the ship on Shabbos. The Brisker Rov and his companions, nonetheless, waited until after Shabbos before boarding the ship and encountered no obstacles. For some unknown reason, the ship had been delayed for the exact period of time corresponding to the restrictions of the Rabbeinu Tam (a later time for the ending of Shabbos) which the Brisker Rov observed!
Shema Yisrael Torah Network