Due to some pressing concerns, I am going to take a break from commenting on the Torah portions. During this period, I hope to re-organize some of the longer pieces into more manageable bites to help new people study and grow.
In today’s post, I wanted to share some recent happenings in our household that made us go back and look at all of the Scriptures concerning the Sabbath, which you can find posted here.
In between the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks and the December 2015 shooting in San Bernadino, at 4 a.m. one morning I heard Abba whisper, “Above all, keep My Sabbaths.” In prayer later, Abba reminded us that to keep Shabbat means to guard it intentionally, intently, and vigorously,. He reminded us that a guard–a soldier– is fully dressed, fully armed, and fully alert–ready at all times to deal with intruders.
Now, honoring the Sabbath is definitely a priority in our home–and has been for years. But, a few weeks ago, circumstances arose on Sabbath morn that tempted us to do something that we thought would demonstrate love to a “neighbor.” However, the outcome proved that we had acted unwisely. At the end of the day, much to our chagrin, it was clear that our blessed Sabbath had been stolen from us. The next morning, before we bowed our heads before Abba, we rehearsed the circumstances of the day before and realized we had not prayed before we acted. We had just assumed.
Thankfully, nothing tragic resulted. Abba mercifully let us experience chaos and confusion, as well as disappointment and embarrassment. The person we were attempting to help did not appreciate our efforts in the least, we got lost along the way, and we were sent back home with our “good ideas.”
It was very obvious that Abba was trying to get our attention. I went to bed exhausted and feeling defeated. The next morning at 4 a.m. I heard His voice clearly, “Above all, keep My Sabbaths.”
As we drew near to Him that morning to repent for acting out of human reasoning the day before, Abba reminded us that the Jews who kept Shabbat in Paris were at home safe and sound during the attacks. Further, He reminded us that Messianic believer Nicholas Thalasinos had lost his life at a Christmas party at the Health Department where he worked in San Bernadino—not exactly a kosher event for one who professes to embrace God’s Torah as a lifestyle.
As we continued praying, Abba brought to mind His promises that if we would obey His commandments, we would live! (Lev. 18:5, Neh. 9:29, Eze. 33:19 Rom. 10:5, Gal. 3:12)
It seemed that Abba wanted us to know that, in this day and hour, it is more important than ever to make sure we are where we are supposed to be, and to be who we are supposed to be–moment-by-moment. He reminded us that, more than the Jewish people have kept Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept them. We ended our prayer by thanking Him for the faithfulness to the Jews throughout history who have guarded His holy days and holy ways and, as well, preserved the Hebrew Scriptures so that we can hold them in our laps. We humbly thanked Him for being so merciful to reveal the blessings of His Sabbaths to the gentiles and to hide us under His talit while we learn to walk with Him.
A couple of days ago I came across a true account on chabad.org that I had read some years ago in Small Miracles for the Jewish Heart about a young lady whose life was preserved because, above all, she kept the Sabbath. I hope it will be as meaningful for you as it has been for me. Shalom!
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The Shabbat that Kept Rose
A young girl stood near her father on the quay of a Polish harbor, a steamer trunk at her feet. Out of her nine siblings, twelve-year-old Rose was the child chosen to be sent to the “golden land,” America. Life in Poland was hard, hunger a constant visitor in her home. After much scraping and pinching, her family had saved enough for a single one-way ticket to the United States. And Rose, the youngest of the nine, was the lucky one chosen to go.
Her father hoisted the trunk on his shoulder and walked silently, his coattails flapping behind him. Rose could see the effort he was making to keep his emotions in check. The weight of living was apparent on the lines of his face, in the burning sadness of his wise eyes, and in the gray in his beard. His back, however, was ramrod straight, in seeming defiance of his tribulations. “Don’t forget who you are!”
With an involuntary sigh, her father dropped the trunk on the deck and turned to his daughter. A gray head bent over an upturned innocent face, as the father gazed deep into his daughter’s unclouded eyes. He felt an urge to scream, to protest the cruelty of fate. How he longed to snatch Rose back home, to hold her as he had held her when she was a mere infant. Instead, he laid a trembling hand on her cheek.
“Rose, mein kind (my child), remember: G-d is watching over you every step of the way. Remember His laws and keep them well. Never forget that more than the Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews. It will be hard in the new land. Don’t forget who you are. Keep the Sabbath — no matter what sacrifice you must make.”
“Tatte! Tatte!” (Father! Father!)
Rose buried her face in the scratchiness of her father’s coat, her slender arms wrapped tightly around him as if to anchor herself to all that was familiar in Poland. Tatte gave another heaving sigh. His straight shoulders bent over his daughter as his tears mingled with hers. A blast from the ship tore the two apart. Tatte bent down and hugged Rose again, squeezing the breath out of her in a hug meant to last a lifetime. Then he turned and walked down the gangplank, a stooped man, finally defeated by life’s hardships. As the ship steamed away from the shtetl life of Poland, a fresh sea wind blew on the passengers preparing to start life anew.
For Rose, the journey was crammed with questions and uncertainty. Would her relatives really extend a welcome to her, or was she to be all alone in the new land? How frightening was the thought of a new life without her loved ones. As the ship made its entrance into New York harbor, the passengers stood plastered against the railing, shouting and clapping as they saw the “new land.” Rose stood aside, shy and unsure. Would the new land fulfill its promise of hope, freedom, and riches? Would her relatives meet her there — or was she now homeless?
Rose did not have long to worry. Her relatives were waiting for her, solicitous of their “greenhorn” cousin. She was soon safely ensconced in their home. With her mature appearance and demeanor, it was not long before Rose found a job as a sewing machine operator.
Life in America was new and strange. Polish mannerisms were quickly shed — along with religion. Modesty, keeping kosher, and Torah were abandoned, together with the outmoded clothing and accent. Rose’s relatives insisted religion was “old-fashioned”: an unnecessary accessory in America. Rose, however, never forgot her father’s parting words. She put on the new clothes her relatives gave her, cut her hair to suit the fashion, but never gave up on the Sabbath.
Every week without fail, Rose devised a new excuse for her boss to explain why she did not come to work on Saturday. One week she had a toothache, another week her stomach bothered her. After three weeks, the foreman grew wise. He called her over. “Rose,” he said in a tone that indicated he only had her welfare in mind. “I like your work, and I like you. But this Sabbath business has got to stop. Either you come in this Saturday, or you can look for a new job.”
Upon hearing of this development, Rose’s relatives were adamant. Work on Sabbath, she must. They applied pressure; they cajoled, pleaded, and enticed. Rose felt like a leaf caught between heavy gusts of wind, pushed and pulled with no weight or life of its own. She was so young and vulnerable. She wanted to please her relatives. But her father’s words kept echoing in her head. What should she do?
The week passed in a daze for Rose. Her emotions were in turmoil. On the one hand, Tatte is not here to help me be strong. I do want to please my new friends. I want friends. I want to fit into this new land, she reasoned. And then just as quickly came another thought: On the other hand, how can I forget Sabbath? How can I give up the beauty Tatte taught me?
“Rose, sweetheart, listen to us. It’s for your own good.” On and on went her relatives, until Rose’s determination wavered.
On Friday, Rose walked to work, lunch bag in hand and head stooped in thought. She sat at her machine throughout the day, listening to the humming of the other machines as she absentmindedly went about her job of mass-producing. Would it be so awful to do this tomorrow as well? Decision time was nearing.
Whirr, bzzz whirr, bzzz. The machine kept tune to Rose’s troubled thoughts. What should she do — or was the question, what could she do? As the sun slipped over the parapets of the Lower East Side, Rose knew there was really no question. She was Jewish, and she would keep the Sabbath.
Sabbath in America was not like the warm day Rose had known at home. This week was the worst yet. She lacked the courage to face her relatives and tell them of her resolve. Instead, she left the house in the morning, pretending to be headed for work. Back and forth through the streets of Manhattan she paced. Together with the city pigeons, she rested in Tompkin’s Square Park. “Tatte, this song is for you,” she whispered. The pigeons ruffled their feathers. “Yonah matz-ah bo manoach” (“on it [the Sabbath] the dove found rest…”). There she sat among the pigeons, singing the traditional Sabbath songs, with tears in her eyes and sobs between the verses. When three stars finally peeked out from the black sky announcing the end of Sabbath, the moon shone down on a weary girl and bathed her face in its glow. Rose had triumphed, but her victory would cost her dearly. She had no job and had alienated her family.
“Baruch HaMavdil. . .” (the blessing said upon the departure of the Sabbath). It was time to face the hardness of the world. Rose trudged homeward dreading the nasty scene to come when her relatives learned that she hadn’t been to work.
As she neared home, a shout broke into her reverie. “Rose! What . . . what . . . I mean, how are you here? Where were you?”
Rose looked up at her cousin Joe, her expression woebegone.
“Joe, what will become of me? I kept Sabbath and lost my job. Now everyone will be angry and disappointed with me, and oh, Joe, what will I do?” The words tumbled out together with her tears.
Joe looked at her strangely. “Rose, didn’t you hear?” he asked gently.
“There was an awful fire in the factory. Only forty people survived. There was no way out of the building. People even jumped to their deaths.” Joe’s voice was hushed, and he was crying openly. “Rosie, don’t you see? Because you kept Sabbath, you are alive. Because of your Sabbath, you survived.”
Out of 190 workers, Rose Goldstein was among the minority of those who survived. The infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on Saturday, March 25, 1911, claimed the lives of 146 immigrant workers present.
Because it had been Sabbath, Rose Goldstein was not there. As her father had said,