Rabbi Chaim Weintraub is a rabbi who lives in Kiryat Shmuel, Israel. He has a special affinity for youth at risk, or what I like to call these young people... youth in pain. He visits them in bars and discos, in cafeterias and on the streets where they hang out, smoking and getting high. He talks to them and offers them friendship. Most of them are covered in tattoos and piercings. Some have as many piercings and tattoos as the 613 mitzvot in the Torah, or close to that.
Shortly after celebrating his three-year-old son’s upshernish, Rabbi Chaim’s son was at his kindergarten and complained he had a headache. The teacher told the little boy to rest in one of the cots in the next-door room and soon the day would be over and he could go home. After 45 minutes, she went to check on him and found that tragically, he had breathed his last breath. The ‘little angel’ had returned his soul to his Maker.
During the week of shiva, surrounded by friends, family and community members, Rabbi Chaim was visited by eight of these troubled young men. They said to him as a group, “We want to do something to honour your little boy, so we’ve decided that we will keep this coming Shabbat according to Jewish law. We won’t smoke, we won’t get high, we won’t light fires, we won’t cook, we won’t drive. We will keep the entire Shabbat for your son.” Rabbi Chaim thanked them and they left.
One of the people who was visiting and heard the exchange remarked, “You must be disappointed. After what you’ve done for them, we would have expected a better commitment. One Shabbos, wow! Couldn’t they have promised to keep Shabbos for the whole year? One Shabbos – big deal!” The man’s voice was dripping with sarcasm.
Rabbi Chaim turned to his visitor and said, “I want to ask you a question. How much money do you think I would pay to have my son back with me for one Shabbos? A thousand dollars? A million? Would I give up my house, my car, my assets, my clothes and every last cent of my savings? You know the answer. I would take off my suit and give every last piece of clothing. I would give my last shekel, my last dollar, my last cent for just one Shabbos.
“On Friday evening, I would come home and lift him up and embrace him. I would sit him on my lap and sing Shalom Aleichem and Aishet Chayil. After I made Kiddush, I would give him a little sip of wine, and when he asked for more, my wife would say, ‘Not too much alcohol!’ I would take him to wash his hands for the bread and wash his hands first so he would feel important. We would eat soup and gefilte fish and he would make a mess and join me singing melodies. I would ask him questions from the parsha and he would be so proud to know the answers. I would put him to bed and kiss his head, and in the morning, I would wake him up for some cheesecake and milk, and then we would walk to shul together. At shul, he would run around making a ruckus and noise, and then we would come home for lunch. After lunch, we would play ball and I would throw him high in the air like he loved. Do you know what I would give to experience that Shabbos?
“This coming Shabbos, our Father in Heaven will have eight of His boys home for Shabbos. Eight of His precious children, who He has missed for so long, will be spending Shabbos with Him after so many, many years of absence. You’re wrong. Don’t denigrate one Shabbos. Don’t underestimate one Shabbos. You can’t imagine what it’s worth.”
Rabbi YY Jacobson
One of America’s premier Jewish scholars in Torah and Jewish mysticism, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (YY) Jacobson has lectured to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences on six continents and in 40 states. Rabbi Jacobson founded and serves as dean of TheYeshiva.net, teaching, via the Web, one of the largest Torah classes in the world today. Formerly, he served as editor-in-chief of the largest Yiddish English newspaper, The Algemeiner Journal, and as spiritual leader of Congregation Bais Shmuel in New York.