Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Teves 5761 - January 17, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family
A Bolt From Heaven
by Rifca Goldberg

A true story that took place on the West Coast of U.S.A. The names have been changed for the sake of anonymity.

Esther Cohen was looking for something `more.' She didn't know what, but her life, the way it was, just wasn't enough. She began coming to my house as a babysitter. Then more frequently, to ask questions as she would peel potatoes or finish dressing the baby. I tried to answer her questions, which usually led to discussions about everything from the creation of the world to why a Jew has a different soul than non-Jews. And Esther began to change. She stopped spending so much time with her non- Jewish friends and started spending more and more time at our house, as well as going to as many classes as she could at the nearby shul. Soon she only wore long sleeves and skirts, much to her mother's chagrin. And not long after, she decided to only eat kosher, to her mother's total consternation. Her main meals were lunch at our house every afternoon; she was a loved part of our small family.

One Shabbos, as she ate her weekly meal with us, her eyes lit up even more enthusiastically than usual. "My father told me that he wants to start going to evening classes at the shul with me. I think he's starting to really get interested in Judaism!" She beamed at us; we beamed at her. We were all so happy.

Esther's mother was more reluctant. Baruch Hashem, she and I got along well. Mrs. Cohen would call or come over. I would listen to her bitter complaints and accusations about her daughter. Knowing that Mrs. Cohen only wanted the best for Esther, I kept pointing out the things that other people's daughters were doing as compared to Esther's modest and refined behavior, and soon Mrs. Cohen and her husband were coming to us occasionally for Shabbos meals as well. Slowly, the Cohens decided to go kosher, with the help of the rabbi of the shul, so that Esther could eat comfortably in their home, but Shabbos was a day of work for them, just like all the other days.

One weekday, I was passing Mr. Cohen's fabric store and decided to pop in. I loved his store! Here were all of the best and most expensive materials. Once my father gave me money to buy myself some fabric. I bought here, from Mr. Cohen; the Shabbos dress I made from the crushed velvet still looked new even after a few years of wear. No customers were in his store at the moment so we spoke a bit. As I looked around, I couldn't help myself and I began to appeal to him with all my heart: "Mr. Cohen, you have such a beautiful store, such a beautiful family, and such a beautiful neshoma! Please consider closing your store on Shabbos!" He just shook his head apologetically.

"It's my busiest day. It's my livelihood. I can't just stop working on Saturdays." But he did compromise in his own way; he began closing earlier on Fridays, and Friday nights the whole Cohen clan made kiddush and ate a festive Shabbos meal.

My entreaties and arguments, as well as those of the shul members, increased during the summer and sometimes Mr. Cohen did close his fabric store for all of Shabbos. At first, it was terribly difficult for him, but by Elul, he decided to make a little experiment. He kept Shabbos that entire month while we all waited to see the outcome. I prayed daily that he be strong enough to get through Tishrei without breaking any chaggim as well.

On the first day of Rosh Hashona, a Tuesday that year, I walked into the shul and there in the foyer stood Mr. Cohen. I practically raced up to him and asked him breathlessly how come he was here! During the day! On Rosh Hashona!

He looked like such a holy Jew! Ever since they had decided to become slightly more observant, he had grown a beard and now he stood regally with a full white beard, large yarmulke and three piece suit.

First he wished me a Shona Tova. Then he told me what had happened:

"I had decided that from now on, I wouldn't open my store at all on Shabbos. But the Festivals were really another story, especially this year when all of them fell on weekdays. I just couldn't allow myself to think of it. Instead, I concentrated just on Rosh Hashona. Should I? Shouldn't I? I vacillated painfully. Yesterday, erev Yom Tov, I sat in my empty store, took out the ledgers, and figured out exactly how much I earn every month.

"The month of Elul had been less busy than usual. I attributed that to my closing on Shabbos. So there I sat, looking at all the figures. Why, I would need to gross another $3,200 by that evening to make this last month as profitable as all the other months! `There's no way I can close for the chaggim,' I told myself. Yet the idea of keeping the store open on Rosh Hashona felt like putting lead in my throat. I didn't want to keep it open. On the other hand, I'm the provider for my family. I kept watching the clock ticking closer and closer to sundown. My stomach felt so tense, I felt as if I had swallowed lead! I'd have to keep the store open on Rosh Hashona! There was no other choice.

"Less than an hour to closing time, I got a phone call. A very good customer of mine was calling to ask me to wait for her. `Alright,' I told her, `but please come as quickly as you can.' Immediately, I called my two teenage sons to come to the store to help. She arrived ten minutes later and began pointing here, there, everywhere! `I'll take 20 yards of that teal German velvet and 15 yards of the wine colored velour...' She didn't ask for prices as her wide sleeves swept through the bolts and bolts of fabrics. My sons and I were perspiring heavily as we worked as quickly as we could, cutting, folding, packaging, and trying desperately not to look at the wall clock. I had difficulty swallowing, thinking what a pity it would be to break Yom Tov by just a few minutes. Finally, she finished. I totaled up her large acquisition with tears in my eyes. The total was $3,183! We wished her well, darted back to our house to shower and dress. We arrived here in shul with three minutes to spare!"

He was beaming as he told me his amazing story. Then he stroked his beard. "Mrs. Goldberg," he said, lowering his voice confidentially, "after what happened yesterday, I will NEVER open my store again on Shabbos or Yom Tov." And he never did!

Last year, Mr. Cohen and his wife came to Israel for a visit. I was thrilled to see them. During dinner, we spoke about that Rosh Hashona. Mrs. Cohen laid out on the table pictures of Esther with her six lovely children and then pictures of all their other children, surrounded by more beautiful grandchildren. Mr. Cohen's eyes misted over as he said, "All of my children did teshuva, married and are raising our wonderful grandchildren in frum communities. What would have happened to my family if I hadn't closed my store? What would have been?"

All I could answer was, "Boruch Hashem you did! Boruch Hashem!"


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