Everything Is a Tool to Arouse Us to Teshuvah

At a time when the emotions of Jews around the world are in turmoil, Rabbi Pinchas Yisrael Tirnauer sent us the following story. It is a story of emunas chachamim, of shtadlanus l’shem Shamayim.

Any additional explanation is superfluous.

In the city of Grodna, there was a large tobacco factory. It was owned by Jews and most of its employees were also Jewish. The factory was one of the most important ones in the country and, therefore, the government issued an order that the factory had to increase its output and begin working on Shabbos. The residents of Grodna were terrified by this edict and sent messengers to the Chofetz Chaim to ask what they should do. They also asked the Chofetz Chaim to urgently convene a meeting of Rabbanim in Warsaw to come up with a plan.

When the elderly Chofetz Chaim heard what the delegation wanted, he said tersely that a meeting of Rabbanim had to take place in Grodna. The messengers thought that, due to his age and weakness, he had said Grodna instead of Warsaw, because while the factory was in Grodna, the efforts vis-à-vis the government had to be made in Warsaw. But the Chofetz Chaim firmly repeated “Grodna” and instructed that a meeting be convened and that he would attend despite his very weak physical state.

The Jews of Grodna gathered and the Chofetz Chaim came and spoke with all his might about strengthening Shabbos, and the greatness of keeping Shabbos, and that there is no power in the world that can permit chillul Shabbos. He pleaded with the residents of Grodna to increase their observance of Shabbos.

When the Chofetz Chaim finished speaking, he continued to the owners of the tobacco factory, and spoke to them with enthusiasm and persuasiveness about the power and superiority of Shabbos. When they pledged that under no circumstances would the factory open on Shabbos, the Chofetz Chaim continued on to a gathering of the factory employees. He asked them to undertake to observe Shabbos with mesirus nefesh, and to pledge that they would not desecrate it for any fortune in the world, even if it meant giving up their lives. When they agreed, the Chofetz Chaim was satisfied.

The heads of the community in Grodna did not understand what the Chofetz Chaim was trying to do. After all, it was necessary to send emissaries to the government in Warsaw, not to shore up the Shabbos observance in Grodna. Why had the Chofetz Chaim done this?

Furthermore, while all the heads of the community were talking among themselves, the Chofetz Chaim selected two people and sent them to Warsaw to tell the government officials that opening the factory on Shabbos is against their religion and deeply offends their sensitivities, and would the government reconsider the order. The  community leaders were even more puzzled now. The two people the Chofetz Chaim had selected were not experienced at this type of mission. Why were they being dispatched by the Chofetz Chaim? The community worried doubtfully whether they would be successful or not.

Ultimately they learned that the government had accepted the request of the emissaries and lifted the order to open the factory on Shabbos.

The Chofetz Chaim was teaching us that everything is in Divine hands. The government and its edicts are merely a tool in Hashem’s Hands to arouse us to better keep the Torah. The moment we internalize the power of emunah and the firm decision to follow the ways of Hashem and keep his mitzvos, even with mesirus nefesh, then we have attained our goal. From here on, we have nothing left to do but hishtadlus, make an effort. Our heart, our decisions, our firm cleaving to Hashem — they are the deciding factors!