The Human Side of the Story

For the week ending 17 October 2009 / 28 Tishri 5770

The Prophetic Handshake

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll
"Give me your handshake as a promise that you will always observe Shabbat and then I will give you my blessing."

These were the words of the Chafetz Chaim to his student in Yeshivat Radin who came to receive his blessing before leaving the yeshiva to get married. Although he could not imagine why this was demanded of someone like himself who had always scrupulously observed Shabbat, he shook the sage's hand in making the commitment.

Years later he miraculously escaped the Holocaust and arrived in the US with his wife and four children. He succeeded in getting a job in a factory owned by a non-Jew who allowed him not to work on Shabbat. A couple of months later he was told that he would have to start working on Shabbat, and when he refused he was fired.

Without any livelihood his family began to suffer the pangs of hunger. The situation became so desperate that even his very religious wife urged him to go back to work. No longer able to bear the cries of his starving children he boarded the train to the factory. But midway he recalled the handshake promise to his mentor and decided to return home. An hour later there was a knock on the door and there stood the boss who had fired him with a bundle of money in his hand. He warmly embraced our hero and told him the following story:

"I never intended to fire such a reliable worker as yourself, but did so to prove something to my partner. He insisted that any Jew would give up Sabbath observance in order to keep his job, and I disagreed. We then made a bet and my firing you was the only way we could decide who was right. I now want to give you the money I won in that bet and to inform you that I am promoting you, at a higher salary, to be in charge of a department. After all, who can be relied upon more than one who is faithful to his Creator!"

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