In November, the media broadcasted news of two Israel-bound flights that were forced to land in Athens, Greece so that the passengers wouldn’t desecrate Shabbos. The subsequent turmoil and uproar still linger.
Commenting on the proximity of the Torah sections on nazir and sotah, Rashi comments: “lomar lecha shekol haro’eh sota bekilkula yazir atzmo min ha’ayin – it teaches us that whoever sees a sotah in her disgrace should abstain from drinking wine.” Chazal state: We don’t witness anything by chance. If a person finds himself in a certain time and place and happens to observe something, there is a reason for it.
The Baal Shem Tov is famous for stressing – and elaborating on – this point. Nothing is random, he taught. There is a hidden message in everything one observes or hears.
Why did this unexpected landing in Athens become front-page headlines? What did Hashem want us to learn from it? Some people are still busy analyzing the choice of the airline companies, but I wonder if Shabbos Kodesh wanted to remind us of its greatness and the mesiras nefesh Jews at all times have demonstrated not to desecrate it.
Perhaps it was a hint to all of us to upgrade our level of Shemiras Shabbos and anxiously await the Shabbos Queen every week like a hungry man who impatiently waits to be served food. Note that in Hebrew the letters of the word “erev” (Erev Shabbos) match those of the word “ra’ev – hungry.”
People check their watches as Shabbos enters, feverishly continuing their activities until the last minute. Why? The Ribbono Shel Olam entrusted us with a matanah tovah, an immeasurable gift straight from His private treasure house. Shabbos is the mekor haberacha, the source of all blessings, and we don’t even allow ourselves to savor the gift and faithfully guard it.
How often do people set out on trips and end up barely making it for Shabbos? How many stories have we heard or read of people who didn’t make it to their intended destination due to laxity in not allowing extra time to cover unexpected delays? Not so long ago a chassan and kallah missed their own Shabbos Sheva Berachos in a different city due to improper planning. When Shemiras Shabbos is at stake, one cannot play games. Unpredictable situations must be taken into account.
The late Klausenburg-Sanz Rebbe nostalgically recalled that his father, the Rav of Rudnik, would set his clock every Friday half an hour later than the actual time, which psychologically worked to motivate his family to accelerate their pace of preparations and peacefully welcome the Shabbos Queen.
Inspired by this tale, every Thursday night my family hangs up notes proclaiming candle lighting time 10 minutes earlier than the real time. Try it. It works wonders.