Sunday, 25 April 2010

A Surprise Shabbat Guest

The following story, as narrated in the book "The Taryag Mitzvos" by Rabbi A.Y. Kahan, brought down in "Shaarei Yitzhak" is a true story concerning a certain unnamed tzaddik. The story took place over 1200 years ago in Eretz Yisrael.

"Seeing the miserable plight of the many Jewish families living in Jerusalem, where poverty stared out from every doorway, the leaders of the Sefardic community finally came to the conclusion that they must do something to come to the aid of their people. They decided to send a representative from amongst themselves who would travel to faraway cities to raise money for the poor Yerushalmi families.

Since such a journey involved many dangers and difficulties, the tzaddik chosen went to Chevron to pray to Hashem that he should have a safe and successful trip. While in Chevron he was fortunate to find a caravan of Arabs who were about to set out on a long trip through the desert of Etzyon Gover, the direction the tzaddik intended to travel. Before joining them, the tzaddik clarified one condition- no travelling on Shabbat. In order to ensure their compliance, the tzaddik paid the leader of the caravan a large amount of money. The caravan leader agreed and they set out on their journey.

When Erev Shabbos came, the tzaddik approached the leader and reminded him of their agreement. The leader replied, "Do you really expect me to halt such a large caravan of camels and their riders for a single Jew who wants to relax and idle away the day? You can't be serious!"

The tzaddik was stunned, they had an agreement, such a reaction he did not expect. Now he was faced with a dilemma. Should he continue to travel with the caravan on Shabbos or remain alone in the dangerous wilderness, in order to not desecrate the Shabbos. Well aware of the sacredness of his mission and the holiness of Shabbos, which when faithfully observed, is equivalent to performing all the other mitzvos of the Torah, the tzaddik felt confident in his heart that Hashem would guard him from danger and decided to remain behind. After removing his pack containing his belongings, he settled himself down and began making preparations for Shabbat. Meanwhile the caravan continued on its way and soon it was no more visible than a distant speck on the vast desert horizon.

Now the tzaddik placed a white cloth on the sand, set down his 2 challos, some salt, a small flask of wine and his becher (Kiddush cup). Then, he put on his Shabbos garments. The orange gold sun had begun to set. The tzaddik was ready to begin davening Kabbolos Shabbos, when he suddenly sensed that he was not alone. He turned around …. And almost fainted from fright, as he found himself face to face with a huge lion. The man stood petrified and said quietly,

"" בידך אפקיד רוחי In Your (Hashem's) hand, I commit my spirit. Only You can rescue my soul"

After a few moments, he realized that the lion had not moved an inch from the place where it stood, as if to say, "I am here to guard and protect you from any harm"

The tzaddik started to daven and the lion did not move. He recited Kiddush, washed his hands for netilas yadayim, said the Hamotzi on the challos and sang beautiful Shabbos zemiros (songs) which echoed in the stillness of the night. And all this time the great lion did not budge, but merely stood gazing at him with a gentle look of a kitten. Thus, he conducted his Shabbos meal, feeling as though he were in Gan Eiden. Eventually he became so relaxed in the presence of his unusual guest that during the Melava Malka, he even offered the friendly lion a taste of the challah and the fish from which he had eaten.

Upon completing the Melva Malka seudah (meal), as the tzaddik finished bentching (brachah after eating a meal that contains bread), something surprising happened. The lion suddenly lowered its head and body as if to invite the tzaddik to mount its back. By now he realized that his was no ordinary lion, so after gathering together his belongings, the tzaddik climbed onto the lions back. In moments, they were off into the night. Swiftly and smoothly the great lion carried the tzaddik, mile after sandy mile, past all the dangers of the desert which lurked along the way. As they rode onward, the tzaddiks lips whispered his thanks to Hashem, and in his heart he joyfully praised Him for the tremendous miracle which He had done for him.

By daybreak, they had caught up with the caravan. As the tzaddik dismounted from the lion, the members of the Arab caravan stared in shock and disbelief at that which their eyes beheld. Could this be possible?! Then the lion strode over to the leader of the caravan and let out an angry, thunderous roar which sent shivers up and down the spines of all present. As the tzaddik walked calmly to his camel, the rest of the passengers stared at him with awe and admiration. It was now clear to them that this was a G-dly man who had merited Divine intervention.

From this true story you can see to what heights a person who sincerely observes the Shabbat can rise, so that even the kind of the wild beasts will come to guard him, as it is written in Bereishis 9:2

ומוראכם וחתכם יהיה על כל חית הארץ" 'And the fear and dread of You shall be upon every beast of the earth' "

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