I once heard the following amazing story, credited to Rabbi Yoel Gold: Brothers Isaac and Albert Falchi co-owned a jewelry store. One Friday night, their families were having Shabbat dinner together. During Kiddush, the phone rang. It was their store’s security company leaving the following voicemail:
“There was a zone three break in at your jewelry store!”
The brothers looked at each other in disbelief. Zone three was where their safe was!
The families’ entire livelihood was at stake. The safe held one million dollars’ worth of their products. If someone successfully emptied the safe, their business would be ruined.
Isaac said, “What’s our plan?”
Albert responded, “Isaac, Shabbat is Shabbat! There is nothing to do. If the money is gone, then it will all go to Hashem. I’m not leaving.”
All night long, the phone continued to ring. The brothers were distraught, but kept repeating, “Shabbat is Shabbat.”
Determined to stay calm, they kept to their Shabbat routine the following day. After sundown, Isaac and Albert drove to the store together.
The security gate and locks were both intact, and didn’t look like they had been touched by intruders. Externally, the store looked fine.
Isaac said, “Albert, I’m going inside. Say some Tehillim.”
Inside, the store was a disaster. There was much broken glass, and empty showcase boxes had been thrown all around.
“The most important thing is the safe, where the gold and diamonds are kept,” Isaac told himself.
He went to open the safe. It took several minutes, as his hands shook terribly when entering the combination. He was shocked and relieved to find that everything was still in place.
This was a true mystery. The outside was untouched, yet the store had obviously been breached. How had the thieves gotten in or out?
A patrolling policeman noticed the brothers standing outside. Albert explained what they knew, and requested help.
After a few minutes inside, the officer asked, “If the alarm company called you last night, why are you just here now?”
“Friday night was our Sabbath, holy to us. We wouldn’t break it for all the money in the world. Shabbat is Shabbat.”
The policeman was taken aback and said, “Your Shabbat has saved your life.”
Confused, they asked, “What do you mean?”
The officer explained this type of break-in was common in jewelry stores. The robbers came from the roof of the building and crawled into the store through the vent, which activated the alarm. Then, they would wait silently for someone to arrive and check the safe. After the safe is open, the thieves jump down, attack the owner, and then take everything inside. “They were likely waiting for you all night. If you had come when called, they would have taken your lives and the contents of the safe.”
We are commanded by the Torah to keep Shabbat. We recite the words, “veshamru banay Yisrael et haShabbat – and the nation of Israel guards Shabbat. The Falchi brothers were reciting these very words when the first call from AGT came.
The Jewish people have observed Shabbat for centuries, despite so many obstacles and challenges. But, as the Ahad Ha’am once said, “More than the Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.”
In a nail salon in Manhattan, author Jenna Maio overheard two non-observant women speaking beside her. One mentioned to her companion that she was a descendant of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, and then mentioned the upcoming high holiday.
“I’m not going to my family or synagogue. I’m going to work.”
Speaking personally – If Rav Yisrael Salanter’s own descendents did not grow up to keep a holiday holy, what chance did I have of raising an observant family?
However, my parents have faced similar circumstances. My father himself is a direct descendant of the Iben Ezra. As a baal teshuva, he is the only sibling out of five to keep Shabbat or the laws of kashrut.
When we take a firm stance on Shabbat, it makes an impression both on our family and ourselves. As they learn from us, perhaps we can increase the chance of our children observing Shabbat passionately.
Do we ever make thoughtless comments on Shabbat like, “Oh, wish I could take a picture today!” Or, “Davening was so slow in shul today. I was bored.” When these thoughts arise, we should try to think like Albert and Isaac: “Shabbat is Shabbat! We won’t take any mitzvahs for granted.”
The Torah is a pathway, our only instruction manual for life. It allows us to walk in the ways of Hashem. Our lives are filled with important decisions that dictate where we go next. The Torah helps us choose which way to turn.
Sometimes, following the Torah is simple, and the benefits are obvious. On Shabbat, we disconnect from distractions and the family bonds. Prayer calms anxiety and brings peace to our busy lives. Kashrut laws can improve health, and taharat mishpacha practices can lead to a more passionate life with our spouses.
However, our relationship with the Torah is not just fair-weather; it’s meant to be cherished in both good times and moments of difficulty, when we don’t feel like it or we think we can do better if we behave differently.
The Torah is our guiding light, illuminating every step we take towards a treasure far more valuable than gold or diamonds. We are constantly faced with conflicting choices, but when we follow the Torah’s guidelines, we will be well on the way to leading our best life.