Vayakhel-Pekudei: The man who couldn’t afford to close his factory on shabbat
“If I close my factory on shabbat, I will lose 4000 rubles each time.”
That was the reply given to the Chofetz Chaim by a Jewish factory owner in Chernikov in Northern Ukraine after the Chofetz Chaim had appealed to him to keep shabbat, to close his factory where he was employing many Jewish people.
The Chofetz Chaim had explained that at the beginning of Parshat Vayakhel we are given yet again the mitzvah of shabbat and on this occasion the Torah says (Shemot 35:2),
“Sheshet yamim te’aseh melachah,” – “Your work shall be performed on six days,” – “uvayom shevii yihyeh lachem kodesh.” – “and on the seventh day you must have a holy day.”
The Chofetz Chaim explained that the Torah doesn’t say here ‘ta’aseh melacha’ – you will perform melacha, but rather ‘te’aseh melacha’ – work will be performed. The mitzvah of keeping shabbat is connected to the work during the week in order to teach us that if you keep shabbat, te’aseh melacha, your work will be sufficiently performed during the week and you will have a secure income.
The Chofetz Chaim was saying that ultimately we do not rely exclusively on our own efforts to bring in an income. We are partners of Hashem and it is ultimately Hashem who has the responsibility of dispensing all the money and treasure that exists in the world.
Unfortunately, the Chofetz Chaim’s words fell on deaf ears, and a few years later that very same factory owner wrote a letter to the Chofetz Chaim. He said he was writing with tears in his eyes. The Bolsheviks had taken over his city, his factory had been snatched away from him and he was left with nothing. “If only I had listened to you,” he wrote to the Chofetz Chaim.
Now, I can understand how it is possible for somebody to keep shabbat but to be worried on shabbat and spend the day thinking, “If only I was at work. If only I was earning more. I’m missing out on opportunities today to bring in a greater income.” However, if your boss had said to you, “Take the day off! Don’t worry, keep your sabbath! Everything will be alright in the business,” then when you were keeping shabbat you wouldn’t have any worries at all!
How much more so therefore when the boss of the world is saying to us, “Keep shabbat!” And “te’aseh melacha!” – “During the week, your work will be sufficiently done. I will guarantee that through your observing of the sabbath day, you will have proper and steady income!”
I have seen on so many occasions how there are wonderful Jewish people with incredible devotion and commitment who have kept shabbat lovingly. Not only have they enjoyed a life-enhancing, spiritually uplifting day once in every seven days, but in addition, they have had a secure income.