For 13 years, Jimmy Baron worked as a radio announcer in Atlanta as the Morning Drive Radio host on 99X Radio. Committing to observing Shabbat was a gigantic step for him because much of his job revolved around concerts and other events on Friday nights. But he loved Shabbat and found ways to hold onto his job without having to attend Friday night music fests.
In addition to growing as a Jew, Jimmy had one other passion in life: he was an obsessive Bruce Springsteen fan, travelling around the country to attend Springsteen concerts, spending thousands of dollars and burning up vacation days to see The Boss perform.
Several years ago Springsteen announced that his tour schedule would include a major concert in Atlanta on a Friday night. Jimmy had been keeping Shabbat for only six months and was still growing in his observance, so he was very tempted to go. But for the first time in his life, he didn’t purchase tickets to the concert.
A few days before the show, a friend of Jimmy who worked in the record industry called him to invite him to go backstage after the concert and hang out with Springsteen in his dressing room.
This was a dream come true! He had never met Springsteen in person and this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But how could he break his commitment to keep Shabbat? He was torn, but he gathered up his strength and replied that he would be unable to go to the concert because it was on Shabbat.
His friend was shocked. “You did hear what I said, right?” his friend asked.
“Yes, I heard you, but this is my life now. I’ve made this commitment,” Jimmy replied.
“Jimmy, God will forgive you!” his friend said.
“Boy, you must have some inside knowledge.”
Jimmy didn’t hesitate. He refused his friend’s offer and took a critical step in demonstrating his dedication to Shabbat and his Jewish observance.
“Six months earlier I would have been at that concert,” Jimmy said. “That was a very powerful moment. If on that one night I would have made an exception because it was Bruce and I would have gone to the concert, I know I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. You have to look within yourself and think: Is this something tomorrow, or next week I will be happy about or beat myself up about.”
The Friday night came and Jimmy and his wife were at a friend’s house for Shabbos. The holiness of Shabbat, the camaraderie of his close friends and the spiritual high he received from Shabbat reminded him just how correct his decision had been. Jimmy’s friends knew about the concert and his difficult challenge and they brought out a custom-made cake with the words “I Missed Bruce Springsteen for Shabbos”.
A few years after that Friday night concert, Jimmy was in a bar in a fancy Atlanta hotel one night when he noticed a familiar face walk in. There, by himself, was none other than Bruce Springsteen.
Jimmy walked over to him and offered to buy him a drink. It turned out that Springsteen was in Atlanta recording a new album. The two men sat down and spoke uninterrupted for 30 minutes, far longer than he would have gotten in the dressing room after the concert.
Jimmy smiled, appreciating the Almighty’s wink and payback at making the right decision. There was no question in his mind who The Boss really is.
Rabbi Michoel Gros is the author of Homeward Bound: Inspiring Stories of Return (Feldheim Distribution), a collection of dramatic and touching stories of Jews returning to their roots and uncovering hidden strengths. It is available in local Jewish bookstores or at http://www.feldheim.com/homeward-bound.html