The Protective Power of Shabbos
In one of the popular zemiros we sing on Shabbos, we proclaim, ki eshmerah Shabbos Keil yishmereini — “When I guard the Shabbos, G-d will safeguard me.” If we protect Shabbos against desecration, then Hashem protects us.
The story is told of a struggling family in Poland after the turn of the 20th century that decided to send one of their nine children — a 12-year-old girl named Rose — to America, where they hoped she would have an easier life. They managed to save money for a one way ticket, and her father brought her to the dock.
Knowing this was likely the last time he would ever see his daughter again, Rose’s father said to her, “Rose, my child, remember that Hashem is watching you at every step of the way. Remember His laws and observe them. Never forget that the Jewish people have kept Shabbos throughout the ages, and Shabbos will protect you. Things will be hard in your new country, but never forget who you are. Keep Shabbos no matter what sacrifices you will have to make.”
Rose arrived in the U.S. and moved in with relatives who had abandoned their “old-fashioned” religious lifestyle. They gave her new clothes, a haircut, and she looked like a typical American girl. Nevertheless, she remained faithful to her father’s parting words, and continued observing Shabbos. She got a job, and every week she came up with a different excuse why she could not come to work on Shabbos. After several weeks, Rose’s manager figured out what was going on, and called her over.
“I am pleased with your work,” he told her, “but your weekly absences on Shabbos must end. Come in on Saturday, or you’ll be looking for a different job.” Rose’s relatives pressured her to go to work on
Shabbos to save her job. She felt torn between her relatives and new friends, on the one hand, and the promise she had made to her father, on the other. When Shabbos came, she decided to remain strong.
Rather than have to confront her relatives, she left the house as though she were going to work, but actually went to a park bench and sat among the pigeons. She sang the Shabbos song יונה מצאה בו מנוח, which was written by Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi and speaks of how the dove that Noach sent out of the ark found rest on Shabbos. Rose spent the day sitting on the bench and staring into the sky. When
As she approached the house, she heard her cousin Joe shout, “Rose! Where have you been?” Rose assumed that the family found out she was not at work and were angry at her. She started crying and
said, “Joe, what will I do? Everyone will be angry with me!”
Joe looked at her and said, “Rose, didn’t you hear?”
“Hear what?” Rose asked.
Joe informed her that the factory where she worked had caught fire. This was the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that erupted on Saturday, March 25, 1911. Rose Goldstein was among some 40 of the 190 factory workers who were not killed. Many workers were trapped inside the building or jumped to their deaths.
“Don’t you see, Rose?” her cousin said tearfully, “Because you kept the Shabbos, your life was saved.”
Another remarkable story about the protection granted to us by Shabbos occurred just [a few years] ago, and was widely circulated throughout the Jewish world. It was first told on the Dan’s Deals website, which had received the story from an Orthodox Jewish travel agent. The information — including copies of the email exchanges — were all published on the website.
One of the agent’s clients, a non-observant Jew named Andy, had emailed his desired flight itinerary, which included a flight from Malaysia to Beijing on Saturday. The agent prepared the itinerary, but changed the flight from Malaysia to Friday. In his email to Andy, he explained that he will not book a flight for a Jew for Shabbos, and so he booked him on the Friday flight. Andy replied that he needed the extra day in Malaysia.
The agent told him he would have to book his flight on his own, but if he did, to please let him know if he changes his mind. Sure enough, Andy emailed back, “I changed my mind. You’re right, I should be more observant. I’ll manage. As I’ll be spending an extra night in Beijing and will leave on Sunday, let me know if you have any recommendations for kosher meals.” The agent prepared the itinerary and gave him a recommendation for meals.
On Motza’ei Shabbos, the agent opened his email and saw the following message from Andy, which was sent 7:15 p.m. Beijing time:
“Holy G-d! You surely heard what happened to MH370," [That flight ended in disaster — the plane has disappeared, and over one year later no trace of it or its occupants has been sighted.]
“Because you kept the Shabbos, your life was saved. I cannot stop thinking about this. This is a true miracle for the books. You are a true lifesaver… I cannot think anymore! We’ll talk later this week.
Don’t know how to thank you enough.”
The agent wrote back:
“I am so happy for you! It is not I who is the lifesaver. G-d and Shabbos were your lifesavers. You owe them something.”
These stories should strengthen us all in our commitment to observing Shabbos at the highest possible standard, with the knowledge that the more careful we are to keep Shabbos, the more Shabbos will protect us.
Reprinted from Living Shabbos by Rabbi David Sutton with permission from Artscroll Mesorah.