Embrace Shabbos Chapter 5: The Impact on Future Generations

Rabbi David Sutton March 28, 2024

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The Haggadah says, Es amaleinu eilu habanim — “Our toil” refers to our children. How much effort do we put into raising our children, how much money do we spend on tuition. There are all kinds of challenges today and we need to exert every effort to hope and pray to Hashem for help. The Zohar (Ruth, Vol. 2, p. 42b) tells us about a powerful tool to guarantee success in our children’s spiritual development. The pasuk (Shemos 31:16) says, V’shamru Bnei Yisrael es haShabbos la’asos es haShabbos l’dorosam bris olam — “And Bnei Yisrael observed the Shabbos, to make the Shabbos for their generations an eternal covenant.” The word l’dorosam, “for their generations,” is written in the Torah without the letter vav. This spelling allows us to change the vowelization and read the word as l’dirosam, which means “for their homes.” Both readings are correct. If you keep Shabbos in your homes, then Shabbos will survive through the generations. The way you keep the Shabbos has a profound impact on how your children will observe the Shabbos.

An example of this is illustrated by an incident related by Rabbi David Ozeri of the Yad Yosef Torah Center, which he heard during a recent trip to Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Ozeri’s friend related that he had arrived at his minyan Friday night a few minutes early, and so he began conversing with the man seated next to him, who seemed like a “simple Jew.” (We should clarify that in truth, there is no such thing as a “simple Jew.” Rav Eliyahu Abba Shaul, son of Chacham Bentzion Abba Shaul, once described his grandfather to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach as a “simple Jew,” referring to the fact that he worked and did not devote himself exclusively to Torah study. Rav Shlomo Zalman immediately interrupted him and said, “Even though he worked, I am sure he was not just a ‘simple Jew’!”) As a child this fellow had emigrated from Tripoli to Israel. He was a young schoolchild in Tripoli when the tyrannical regime of Muammar Kaddafi came to power, and the government issued an edict requiring all Jewish children to attend school on Saturday.

The boy’s father made plans to leave the country, but in the meantime, until this could be arranged, he faced a grave problem. How could his son attend school on Shabbos without desecrating the holy day? The boy’s teacher was very strict, and would certainly not allow him to avoid writing on Shabbos. And if the father would be caught bribing the teacher, he would be sent to prison.

That Sunday morning, the father went to school with the boy, holding in his hand a beautifully wrapped gift, an expensive book. He went over to the teacher and said, “I wanted to thank you for all you do for my child. Thanks to you, he is receiving an outstanding education, and I want to express my gratitude for all your hard work.” He handed the teacher the gift, and said that if his son has a good month in school, he would bring another gift. Sure enough, the teacher left the boy alone every Saturday, and the father brought the teacher a book as a gift each month, ostensibly as an expression of gratitude for the fine education his child was receiving. This continued for several years, with the father giving a gift each month to his son’s teachers.

Three years later, after the family moved to Eretz Yisrael, the father explained to his son that he inserted money between the pages of the book each month to bribe the teacher without getting caught. Although the family did not have a lot of money, the father paid a considerable sum each month out of his savings so that his son would not have to violate Shabbos in school. The man told the American visitor that this had a significant impact upon him, and throughout his life he always treated Shabbos with the utmost respect and reverence. So much so, that as he walked in the streets of Eretz Yisrael on Shabbos he could never understand how anyone could not observe Shabbos.

When a person sacrifices for Shabbos, people take notice, especially their children, and this has a great impact. One of the unique merits of Shabbos observance is the positive influence it has on the people around us who are moved and inspired by our devotion and sacrifice. The way we conduct ourselves on Shabbos has a significant effect upon future generations.


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Reprinted from Embrace Shabbos by Rabbi David Sutton with permission from ArtScroll Mesorah.