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Visions of Greatness
A COLLECTION OF
RABBI YOSEF WEISS
Several days after Mr. Friedman arrived in Philadelphia,
he was walking by a large textile factory, and he noticed a
man and his wife staring at him.
"Mr. Friedman, is that you?" the woman finally asked.
"Yes, it is," said Mr. Friedman. "And aren't you Mrs.
Steinmetz1?" (Name is fictitious.)
"That's right," she said. "I'm so glad to see you! You must
have just arrived."
"Just three days ago," Mr Friedman replied. "So, how
are you and your family?"
"Fine, thank G-d."
After several minutes of catching up on old news, she
motioned to the factory behind them with a circular sweep
of her hand. "My husband built up this factory from the
small fabric store he started when we first came," she said.
"Thank G-d, we're doing well, but..." She stopped there.
"But, what?" Mr. Friedman prompted.
"I really miss the 'gut Shabbos' and the 'gut Yom Tov'
together with the peace and harmony those days brought,"
she whispered, with downcast eyes.
Mr. Friedman looked at her, and then at her husband. He
looked hard and long, digesting his first confrontation with
old friends who were now Shabbos desecrators.
"Why don't you start keeping the Shabbos and Yom Tov?"
he suggested. "Then you'll have peace and harmony again."
"Oh no, that's impossible," Mr. Steinmetz said immedi-
ately. "We can't risk losing business by closing the factory.
Not even for one day."
They turned around and left with a curt "Zeit Gezundt"
Several weeks later, Mr. Friedman met his friend Mr.
"How are you doing?" Mr. Friedman inquired.
"I haven't been well, Isaac. I haven't been well at all,"
Mr. Steinmetz sighed.
"What's wrong?" Mr. Friedman asked in concern.
"I have bleeding ulcers," he told him.
Mr. Friedman thought for a moment. "Maybe," he began
cautiously, "you should consider working less. Maybe you
should take off one day a week..."
"No, no, impossible!" Mr. Steinmetz said bluntly.
Mr. Steinmetz's condition did not improve. In time, he
deteriorated to the point where he had to undergo multiple
Mr. Friedman visited him in the hospital after one opera-
tion. This time, he was forthright.
"You know, Hashem gave us a beautiful gift," he began.
Mr. Steinmetz raised his eyebrows.
"It's called Shabbos" Mr. Friedman said. "And you've
been throwing it away all these years! Let's make a calcula-
tion together. How many days of Shabbos and Yom Tov have
you thrown away over the years because you couldn't
afford not to work?
"Maybe," Mr. Friedman continued, "had you kept the
Shabbos, and treasured Hashem's gift, you would have had
many more days and years of good health."
Mr. Steinmetz did not look totally convinced, but at least
he didn't refuse on the spot, as he had before. Feeling a little
heartened, Mr. Friedman took his leave.
An hour before Kol Nidrei on the eve of Yom Kippur that
year, the phone rang. Mr. Friedman picked up the receiver
and heard sobbing. It was Mr. Steinmetz, calling to wish him
a gut yohr. He told Mr. Friedman that he had become shomer
Some time later, Mr. Steinmetz sold his business and
moved out of town. He didn't live much longer, but he died
at peace with himself, secure with the knowledge thathe had
returned to G-d and Torah.
Of course, Mr. Friedman had to find a means of employ-
ment for himself. And he saw immediately that this would
be no simple task. Many of those who forsook Shabbos and
Yom Tov did so because of their employers, who demanded
that they work on Shabbos.
But Mr. Friedman was undaunted. He was determined
to keep Shabbos, and he felt certain that Hashem would help
him find an employer who would allow him to observe the
Mr. Friedman found a job in the second store he tried,
despite his broken English. On the first Friday, he came to
work as usual. But as the day wore on, he began to worry
about how to tell his employer that he would be leaving
Mr. Friedman decided in the end that actions would
speak louder than words. So about an hour before sunset, he
reached for his coat. From the other end of the store, he heard
his boss shout, "Where are you going, Friedman?"
"I'm going home. It's almost Shabbos/' Mr. Friedman
"No problem," he said. "There are services in the temple
next door at nine o'clock."
"But I observe the Shabbos beginning from sunset," Mr.
Friedman told him, "and I must go now." He made his way
to the door.
"See you tomorrow," his boss called after him.
Mr. Friedman stopped. "Tomorrow's Shabbos" he said.
"Saturday's our biggest day," his boss said.
"Shabbos is my biggest day, too," Mr. Friedman said
firmly. "And I don't work on Shabbos" With that, he left.
The next Sunday, when Mr. Friedman came to work, his
boss met him at the door. This is it, he thought. This is where
I start to look for another job.
"How many children do you have?" his boss asked
"Two," Mr. Friedman said.
"How do you expect to support them?"
"I will do what I have to," Mr. Friedman said quietly,
"but I will never work on Shabbos."
The boss said nothing. He let Mr. Friedman into the
store, and Mr. Friedman went right to work. His boss made
no more comments about the Shabbos absence, and Mr.
Friedman did his work quietly and efficiently. But every
Friday, Mr. Friedman left early; and he never came in to
work on Shabbos.
Several months later, Mr. Friedman approached his boss
and asked for a raise.
"You want a what?"
"Just a five-dollar raise. I'm a good worker, a productive
worker, and I've been working all these months for only
forty-five dollars a week."
"True," his boss said with a sly smile. "But you're not a
full-time worker, are you? After all, you don't work on
Saturday. Be happy that you have a job!"
Mr. Friedman reached for his coat.
"Where are you going?" his boss said sharply.
"I'm going home. I'm leaving."
"Wait a minute, Friedman. Let me discuss it with my
Mr. Friedman did not hear from his boss for several
days. The meeting had apparently been a ruse to get him to
stay. So Mr. Friedman approached his boss once again.
"I'm leaving in two weeks."
"Let's go across the street to a restaurant and discuss it,"
his boss suggested.
"It's not kosher" Mr. Friedman said.
"I'll give you a free trip to Israel," his boss said sarcasti-
By this time Mr. Friedman was getting frustrated. All he
had asked for was a five-dollar raise. "I'm leaving, and that's
it!" he snapped.
His boss looked at him thoughtfully. "What will you
do?" he asked. "Money, you don't have. English, you don't
speak. And you don't work on Saturday!"
Mr. Friedman looked up toward heaven with a prayer in
his heart. He took a deep breath and said, "I'll open up my
own business!" And then he walked away.
Mr. Friedman managed to scrape together just enough
money to open a small drapery store on the lower level of his
apartment building. Business was slow. But nonetheless,
every Friday, about an hour before sunset, he would close
the store, run upstairs and prepare for Shabbos. Then he
would take his two children and walk to shul. People would
whisper behind them, "Look at him! He's such a fool! He
closes his store on Saturday and expects to become a rich
In his heart, Mr. Friedman would retort, "I am rich!
Richer than you! I have the Shabbos*."
One Friday, just as he was about to close the store, three
"My name is Henry Ballod," said the leader of the three.
"We've come from Wildwood, New Jersey. We need drapes
for our motel; it's got eighty windows altogether."
Mr. Friedman realized that such a large job would re-
quire several hours to select the colors and materials. There
would certainly not be enough time to complete it before
Shabbos. So he said, politely but firmly, "I'm about to close
my store now because I'm an observant Jew, and I don't
work past sunset on Friday. Please come back after the
weekend, and I'll be glad to help you."
"What!" shouted Mr. Ballod. "We came from Wild-
wood over a hundred miles away. We don't have time to
wait for you! We'll go elsewhere for our business!"
"I'll do a cheaper and better job," Mr. Friedman said
hurriedly. "Just come back after the weekend."
The men stormed out, and Mr. Friedman closed the store
Monday morning Mr. Friedman opened the store as
usual. To his great surprise, Mr. Ballod and the two men
walked in! Without a word about Friday's incident, they
chose their drapes, and gave him a deposit. In due time, Mr.
Friedman did the job, and they were very satisfied with his
After that motel job, business really picked up. The
phone was ringing with orders from all over. The store was
always full of customers choosing drapes, and Mr. Friedman
had to order supplies by the truckload. As always, he
thanked Hashem for his success, but he really couldn't
figure it out. Just weeks ago he was an unknown immigrant
with a fledgling drapery business; now he was getting
orders left and right!
Several months later, Mr. Friedman had to go to Wild-
wood, New Jersey, to take care of a job. When he finished
that job, even more people approached him with orders for
drapes. He was busy taking orders when he suddenly heard
a vaguely familiar voice.
"Friedman, I sent them all!"
Mr. Friedman looked up and saw Mr. Bailed beaming
at him. He explained that he had mentioned Mr. Fried-
man's name at the annual convention for hotel and motel
"I didn't just mention your name to my acquaintances/'
Ballod said. "I took the podium and told the whole audience
about my experience when I bought drapes from you. How
you insisted on closing the store before sunset on Friday,
even though you stood to lose such a big job. I told them how
impressed I was by the way you respected your religion
more than money, which you obviously needed. You are a
guy who doesn't sell himself for money. And in the end, you
did a good job for a good price, I said that someone like you
a man with principle can be trusted!"
With tears in his eyes, Mr. Friedman whispered, "Thank
You, Hashem, for bringing me where I am today. I didn't
work until eleven o'clock at night, seven days a week, like
the others, and I kept every single Shabbos. Nevertheless, I
became more prosperous than any other textile merchant in
THE HEALING TOUCH
When one visits the sick on Shabbos, he should sayf
"Though the Shabbos prohibits us from crying out, may a
recovery come speedily." (Shabbos 12a) The lyun Yaakov
explains that the observance of Shabbos brings with it a
healing cjuality. The following story, told by Rabbi Shlomo
Chaim Gruskin, rav of Congregation Bnai Zion in Detroit,
Michigan, is a poignant example.
Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Gruskin is a chaplain of the State
of Michigan. Part of his duties involve making rounds in
hospitals for the mentally ill. Every year before Pesach, he
used to distribute Pesach packages to all the Jewish patients.
One year, due to a change in hospital policy, many of the
patients were sent out of the hospital to foster homes in the
inner city. As a result, R' Gruskin had to do a good deal of
travelling in order to drop off his Pesach packages. The
delivery of the Pesach packages threatened to become an
And then Rabbi Gruskin met Milton.
Milton owned a furniture store and offered the services
of his workers and a truck to help deliver the packages.
Every year without fail, Milton helped Rabbi Gruskin in the
distribution of the Pesach boxes.
One Sunday morning, Rabbi Gruskin received an unex-
pected phone call.
"Hello, Rabbi. This is Milton."
"Milton! How are you?"
There was a short silence. Then, "I'm calling from Sinai
Hospital, Rabbi." Milton's voice broke. "Rabbi, please pray
for me. I'm very ill."
"I'm so sorry to hear that, Milton. Not only will I pray for
you, but I'll also come down to see you as soon as I can."
R' Gruskin went to see Milton the very next day. He had
lost weight, his cheeks looked sunken, and his complexion
"Rabbi, please pray for me," Milton begged. "The doc-
tors say that I have a tumor in my pancreas."
"Milton," R' Gruskin began, "you're a kindhearted
person, and you've helped me a lot during the past few
years. I'm certainly going to pray for you. But I have to tell
you that there is someone else you should consider asking to
pray for you someone whose prayers will be answered
faster than mine will."
"Who is it, Rabbi?" Milton asked anxiously. "I must call
"Shabbos, Milton. The Shabbos can pray for you."
"What do you mean?" Milton asked.
"Milton, start keeping the Shabbos" R' Gruskin said. "In
that merit, she will pray to the Almighty to heal you."
Milton thought for a moment. "But I don't know any-
thing about keeping Shabbosl"
"Don't worry," R' Gruskin told him. I'll send you books
that will introduce you to Shabbosf and describe everything
that you have to do."
Several days after R' Gruskin brought the books, he
dropped in for another visit. Milton was in a somber
"They think the tumor is malignant," Milton told him,
"and they want to operate." He paused for a moment. "I've
thought about our conversation, and I decided that I want to
Milton pressed the call button for the nurse, and stayed
silent until she arrived. When the nurse came in, he said to
her, "Tomorrow is the Sabbath. I don't want the television
on, and I won't be taking any phone calls. I'm going to
observe the Sabbath from now on."
R' Gruskin turned to Milton and said, "Let's shake on it."
Milton took his hand and shook it vigorously.
R' Gruskin came to visit Milton on the day of the opera-
tion. It was after four o'clock by the time he arrived at the
hospital, and he was sure that the operation would have long
since finished, with Milton already out of the recovery
room. But Milton's bed was empty.
He must still be in the recovery room, R' Gruskin thought.
But he wasn't there either. Nervously, he went downstairs
to the surgical lounge, where he found Milton's family
waiting on tenterhooks for news of the patient's condition.
Just as he arrived, a doctor entered the corridor to meet
the family and report on Milton's progress. The expression
on his face already told them that the news was not good.
"The tumor was malignant, as we had suspected," the
doctor said. "But that's not our problem now. We're having
difficulty closing the incision, and he's hemorrhaging badly."
He paused. "We don't expect him to make it through the
Milton's wife broke down crying.
R' Gruskin calmed her down the best he could. After she
was'somewhat calmed, R' Gruskin said, "As long as Milton
is with us, we must do everything we can. I'm going to shul
now for the afternoon prayers, and afterwards I'll add the
name Rafael to his name. We're in Hashem's Hands now."
After davening Minchah, the men recited Tehillim for
Milton, and the name Rafael was added to his Hebrew
R' Gruskin went back to the hospital at eleven-thirty that
night, and he found the family still sitting in the waiting
room, hoping to hear good news from the doctors. R' Gruskin
stayed for several hours, giving them some badly needed
emotional support. When he finally left, he reassured them
that he would return immediately after davening Shacharis
the following morning.
.....end of sample selection
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