| Hashem (G-d) commanded Noach to build
an ark because He wanted people to have the opportunity to see what
was going on and repent. Noachs job was not just to build a
boat, but to lead people back to the proper path. The Seforno (Gen.
6:8) teaches that Noach failed in this mission because he emphasized
the negative when he spoke to them. He proclaimed, You are sinners.
You are transgressors. To effectively influence them, he should
have spoken about the positive he should have taught them to
know Hashem. When we are shown the beauty of Hashem, Torah, and Mitzvos
amazing things happen as the following true story illustrates:
A Rabbi was speaking to a Jewish senior citizen group in the 1970s.
He told them a story of a young man who was a talmid (student) in
Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim in Radin, Eastern Europe. The boy was seen
smoking a cigarette on Shabbos. This was a serious situation. The
Yeshiva maintained an atmosphere of fastidious mitzvah observance.
In addition to being a desecration of Shabbos, it posed a threat
to the supreme mitzvah environment fostered within the Yeshivah.
This act could have a damaging impact on the entire Yeshivah and
this boy could be an injurious influence on the entire student body.
Many on the faculty felt that the boy should be expelled for this
breach. It was decided that he should see the head of the Yeshivah,
Rabbi Yisroel Meir Hakohen Kagen ztzl, who was known simply
as the Chofetz Chaim. Nobody knows what was said at that meeting,
but it is said that the boy never violated Shabbos again.
The Rabbi added, Would that I could have been a fly on the
wall and heard the wise words eruditely employed by the Chofetz
Chaim to persuade this boy to keep Shabbos faithfully.
I can only speculate what was said. Perhaps the Chofetz Chaim
elucidated the sanctity and holiness of Shabbos. Perhaps he emphasized
the importance of Shabbos. Perhaps he meticulously outlined the
intricate laws of Sabbath observance. Oh how I wish I was there
to hear how the Chofetz Chaim promoted Shabbos observance,
said the Rabbi as he segued into a brilliant sermon plumbing the
philosophical depths of Shabbos. The Rabbi continued to speak masterfully.
After the speech was over and the audience had left, the Rabbi
noticed that one man remained seated. When the Rabbi approached,
he saw that the old man was pale as a ghost. Before the Rabbi could
say anything, the old man blurted out, I know what the Chofetz
Chaim said to the boy.
The Rabbi didnt take this too seriously. It had long been
established that no one knew what transpired within the room
the Chofetz Chaim never told anyone. How do you know what
happened? he asked patronizingly.
I know because I was the boy in the story.
It was now the young Rabbis turn to turn white.
The Rabbi begged him to elaborate and the old man related, It
happened over 50 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday.
I was frightened like anything to go into the Chofetz Chaims
office. He was already an old man and I was a youth. I was afraid
I would receive a long lecture and a berating. What actually happened
is something I never anticipated. The Chofetz Chaim held my hand
in his, looked at me with fatherly eyes and said, Shabbos
Heilegeh Shabbos. (Sabbath, The Holy Sabbath). He just kept
on repeating these words over and over, thats all he said,
each time with more heartfelt and heartbreaking emotion.
Then I saw a tear form in his eye. It rolled down his cheek,
down his beard and descended upon my hand. That tear burned me as
if it were on fire. I felt a shared sense of pain and astonishment
I suddenly perceived how important Shabbos is. I vowed to
myself that I would always observe Shabbos completely and faithfully
and I always did, ever since.
The elderly man then caressed the hand that bore the invisible
scar of that precious tear. It had become his permanent reminder,
indeed his sign for the "Heilegeh Shabbos."
Dedicated by Elizabeth & Eran Saida.
©2005. Printed with permission from Rabbi Baruch Lederman