Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Protesting Chilul Shabbat

With all the talk in recent weeks about riots or demonstrations to protect the Sanctity of Shabbat in Yerushalayim, I thought that I'd share this story from Simcha Raz's biography of Rav Kook "An Angel Among Men".

It seems that one Shabbat a group of people from Mea Sharim came to the Rav's house to ask him to join them in a protest against a cafe that was open on Shabbat.

Surprisingly, the Rav refrained from the Mitzva of throwing rocks or burning trash cans and approached the situation quite differently.....

Protesting Sabbath Desecration

R. Avraham Bik related this story:

One Friday night, early in the winter of 5693 (1932), a storm
raged through Jerusalem. Heavy rains soaked the ground, and a
fierce wind shook the trees in the courtyard of the yeshiva. When
the Sabbath prayers ended, the worshippers - mostly students of
the yeshiva - left the sanctuary. I, however, stayed behind. My
apartment was in the distant neighborhood of Nachalat Achim, so
I decided to wait for the rain to stop.

The Rav, whose custom was to make Kiddush at seven o'clock
[even when services ended earlier], roamed around the room that
housed his rabbinic court. Every once in a while, he went over to
the bookshelf and took out a volume. All of a sudden, I heard
footsteps and voices coming from the stairs leading up to the building.
I opened the door and saw dozens of young men from Me'ah She'arim
and Battei Hungarin [ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods], teeming at the

"A cafe owner is desecrating the Sabbath on King George St.,"
they shouted. "Let the Chief Rabbi come with us and protest, at
least. He must stop Sabbath desecration in the Holy City."

"Let him go!" they all shouted in unison. "He will not go!" they
countered in a loud, provocative voice. "He is the Rabbi of the
Zionists... He will not go!"

"What are you screaming about?" I chided. "Have you lost your
minds?" I was so infuriated that I was prepared to fight them. When

I closed the door, I saw the Rav standing in the auditorium with
his head bent low. Apparently, he heard the screams outside and
came to see what was going on. After standing there for a while,
he left the auditorium and went to his small study.

A half-hour later, the rain subsided, but thunder and lightening
still pierced the sky. I was about to leave when I heard the Rav
say to his wife in his husky voice, "I believe I saw a yeshiva student
here. Where is he?" I quickly ran over to the Rav and said, "Did
the Rav ask for me?" "Yes," he replied. "Can you please escort me
to that restaurant on King George St.? I want to see what this is
all about, if their cries are really valid."

"What is going on?" I thought to myself. "What did he originally
think? Beforehand, he did not want to go, and now he changed his
mind?" I helped him on with his overcoat, and we began walking
through the deserted streets of Jerusalem. When we reached our
destination, we found the restaurant bolted shut, so we simply turned
around and began walking back to the yeshiva. At one intersection,
we saw a man running in our direction. It was R. Aharon Teitelbaum,
a supporter of the yeshiva, accompanied by R. Shalom Natan Ra'anan,
who was in charge of the cafeteria.

"Shabbat Shalom!" said R. Teitelbaum. "What happened, honorable
Rav?" The Rav responded with a Sabbath greeting of his own and
then resumed his trek home. R. Teitelbaum was quite perplexed
and still waiting to find out what happened, when the Rav suddenly
stopped and turned to me.

"How many people were in the courtyard?" he asked. "If I am not
mistaken, there were more than ten (a minyan). Correct?"

"There was certainly more than a minyan," I answered; "why, they
covered the entire staircase!"

The Rav grabbed R. Teitelbaum's hand and said: "How, then, did
they think that I would join them in their protest? Had I arrived
when the restaurant was still open, I would have been obligated to
warn the owner to close down. And had he not listened to me, I
would have caused him to desecrate the Sabbath in public, in front
of ten Jews. Now, however, this young man and I served only as

"But now," continued the Rav, "they will spread a rumor that Rav
Kook refused to protest Sabbath desecration."

"So be it!" said the Rav with an uplifted hand. "So be it! We are
accustomed to doing things discretely."

We accompanied the Rav to his house. At the door, R. Teitelbaum
whispered in my ear, "Tonight I realized that the Rav is greater
than we all think."

Source: “An Angel Among Men”, Rabbi Simcha Raz, Pages 304-305

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