by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon
A family in Pittsburg was committed to being observant. However, especially during the winter months it sometimes was difficult to be shomer shabbos. The husband was an up and coming successful businessman and felt that his presence in the office was necessary, and it would be counter-productive to leave early. However, his commitment was strong, so he would leave his office a half hour before Shabbos began and would arrive home as his wife was getting ready to light the Shabbos candles. He would then take a quick shower and get dressed and go to shul. He felt he was conducting himself in a responsible manner
This schedule, however, perturbed his wife as she wanted him to be home earlier on erev Shabbos and erev yom tov, and not always come at the last moment. Not that she needed him to help her out with any chores, but she felt that in honor of the Shabbos, he should be home earlier, and what would be if there was unexpected traffic. She mentioned this to him more than once, but his reply was, I am following the shulchan aruch (code of Jewish law).
By the time Shabbos actually begins, I am out of the shower, dressed and on the way to shul.
While she knew that he was correct in that aspect, it still bothered her. She argued, halachicly you are correct, but it is lacking the spirit of greeting the Shabbos. She did not know how to convince him to change, and did not want this to cause any friction in the otherwise wonderful relationship, so she decided that the next time she will be coming to New York, she would have a yechidus with the Rebbe, and ask him for his advice.
The Rebbe informed her, that he would personally discuss it with her husband, the next time he will come for a yechidus.
Sometime later, the husband was in New York and also had a yechidus. [Author’s note: I should note that the Rebbe used to have accept yechidus three nights a week, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, often going on until the wee hours of the morning]. The Rebbe inquired about his weekly schedule and when it came to Friday afternoon, he stated proudly, “I leave the office, to give me just enough time to be ready for Shabbos on time.”
The Rebbe told him, In my opinion, the latest you should remain in the office is two hours before sunset. It would be good for you, the Rebbe concluded.
Hearing this request or advice from the Rebbe, the man committed to do so. That Friday he left his office two hours before sunset (candle lighting time) and instructed the workers that they should leave before sunset.
A few weeks later a fire broke out an in one of the offices in his business. Boruch Hashem all of his workers were able to walk out on their own and the only damage, was monetary.
When he was informed of what happened, the man said, my office is the office in the back. Being that I wasn’t there, the workers concentrated in the offices upfront, and all of them were able to leave uneventfully. Had I have remained there as I used to, I (and whoever would have been in the back with me) may have had trouble running out through the smoke and fire.
So yes, adding some time to Shabbos was definitely for my benefit.
Rabbi Mangel mentioned this story (I am omitting the name of the family as their children are now grandparents, living in the community), when he mentioned what the Alter Rebbe writes in Likkutei Torah.
The possuk states V’shumroo ess shabsosai – and you shall watch my shabbosim (in the plural). Our sages state that this alludes to the point that if the Jewish people would keep two shabbosim, Moshiach will redeem us. However, another saying of our sages states that we only have to keep one Shabbos properly to obtain this reward.
The Alter Rebbe reconciles this by explaining that indeed all we have to observe is one Shabbos, however, there are two aspects in every Shabbos, and that is what the first saying is alluding to; we must keep both aspects of shabbos. He then explains the two aspects are; the laws of Shabbos and the spirit of Shabbos, (chitzoniyous and pnimiyous). Other commentaries explain the two aspects are Shabbos and tosfos Shabbos. Shabbos begins at sunset on Friday and concludes the following night when three stars are visible; that is Shabbos. While tosfos Shabbos is adding to Shabbos on Friday afternoon, some time before Shabbos actually begins, and ending Shabbos sometime after it is dark on Shabbos night.
So let us resolve to keep the two explanations of the second aspect of Shabbos from now on, and may we merit the reward of the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days.
Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He is available to farbreng in your community and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org