Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Tammuz 5763 - July 10, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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











Maaseh of Shabbos
By Rabbi Shlomo Goldstein

Erev Shabbos Parshas Bolok marks the sheloshim of the renowned educator, HaRav Moshe Ebstein zt"l. His aristocratic bearing stemming from his German- Jewish background coupled with the majesty acquired from his Rebbe-muvhak, Maran HaRav Hutner zt"l blended to mold this master teacher who had a unique way of inspiring all, while making the Novi come alive. The gemora (Megilla 14a) relates, "There were many prophets amongst Israel, double the number of those who left Egypt. Those prophesies which were needed for future generations were written [in Tanach]; those prophesies which were not needed for future generations were not written."

When Rav Ebstein zt"l taught, every student wanted to grow to be one of "those many prophets of Israel." As the Rambam (Yesodei haTorah 7:1) writes, " . . .when one continually uses one's intellect to overcome the yetzer hora . . . and when one drives oneself not to pursue worthless matters . . . immediately ruach hakodesh dwells on him . . ."


It is appropriate to relate a story that Rav Ebstein would tell about himself during his teenage years, from which we can all learn how to grow spiritually. He was "fortunate," he said; he "only" had to suffer slave labor in Siberia during World War II. Amidst his good fortune was to be exiled there with his Novi rebbe, Dr. Yehuda Aryeh Wohlgemuth zt"l. When the first time came that R' Moshe was ordered to work on Shabbos, he was shocked! "Would these hands that had never been mechallel Shabbos now be mechallel Shabbos?" he asked himself.

He and his rebbe found a solution. There weren't many hiding places in the vast wilderness of Siberia. Yet, there was one place to hide. The plumbing was, of course, very primitive. The entire camp was served by an outhouse, which was a deep hole in the ground that eventually would become full. Then a new such pit would be dug. Obviously no one would willingly enter such a hiding place. Yet this is exactly where R' Moshe Ebstein and his rebbe hid for their first Shabbos working assignment.

Needless to say, they could not daven, nor learn Torah, nor eat anything in such conditions; but they were able to keep Shabbos. To refrain from violating the Torah's negative prohibition of working on Shabbos overrides these lesser considerations. This "arrangement" could have continued had it not been that someone informed the authorities of their unique hiding place.

So, for the next Shabbos, they tried to think of a plan to escape chillul Shabbos. Without any method available to avoid chillul Shabbos, they would be required, and permitted as explained by the Chofetz Chaim in sefer Machane Yisroel Ch. 7, to join the workforce on Shabbos. In order to pacify his student Dr. Wohlgemuth said, "I will do the av melochoh and you will only have to do the toldoh." Even though they must be mechallel Shabbos by working, there is still room for ruchniyus !

As they had done the previous Shabbos, R' Moshe and his rebbe were able to distinguish between the prohibition of work and the positive commandment of remembering the Shabbos. Now they were unable to keep the more important aspect of Shabbos, its prohibition of work. But, even though they must work, they needn't neglect the lesser positive mitzvah of remembering Shabbos.

Everyone was sent out shortly after daybreak to chop down trees in teams of two. Together they worked at this extremely heavy physical labor while discussing halachos and midroshim of Shabbos. The Soviets were unaware that these two prisoners were still keeping the positive commandment to remember Shabbos.

Throughout the day of backbreaking labor they remained focused on the goal of expounding on kedushas Shabbos. When at nightfall a whistle was blown to call everyone back to the barracks, it was as if they were aroused from a deep slumber in the middle of the night, not realizing where they were, confronted by guards with bayonets and dogs.

Physically they did not feel that they had worked all day, since spiritually they were on such a high plateau. It was with their first chillul Shabbos that they felt that it was the first time they were actually mekadesh Shabbos to the highest degree humanly possible!

With warmth, Rav Ebstein would say that what was supposed to be chillul Shabbos turned into a kiddush of Shabbos. This was the lesson Rav Ebstein would relate from every posuk, passionately and personally, to each and every listener; regardless of their current level of spiritual development: we can grow and be as great in our service of Hashem as we aim to be. Yehi zichro boruch!


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.