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Rabbi Doniel Staum - Parshas Chukas 5774 "The Treasured Faithful"
by Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW

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On Friday evening at the end of the beloved tefillah, Lecha Dodi, we sing, "תוך אמוני עם סגולה בואי כלה בואי כלה" – Among the faithful of the treasured people; Enter, O Bride, Enter, O Bride!”

Why are we referred to as עם סגולה" - The treasured nation”, particularly here, as we welcome in Shabbos?

Just prior to the giving of the Torah, G-d instructed Moshe to inform the nation[1], “And now, if you hearken well to Me and observe My covenant, you shall be to Me, a treasure from amongst all the nations, for Mine is the entire world.”

Rashi explains that just as kings store away in their treasure houses expensive vessels and precious stones, so will Hashem treasure us from amongst all the other nations of the world.[2]

At this year’s Torah Umesorah convention in May, at the Friday night seudah Rabbi Nate Segal recounted the following personal incident:

“There’s a fellow who joined my shul around Tisha B’av this past year. He came regularly for a few weeks, and after Succos he announced that he was now going to be Shabbos observant. He works for P.C. Richard and Sons and he doesn’t make a lot of money.

“This year Thanksgiving coincided with Chanukah. On Thanksgiving evening (Thursday night) in shul, he informed me that that the following day was Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, and for that week only he would see me on Saturday morning in shul, but not on Friday night. I tried to reason with him, and explain to him about Shabbos, and sacrificing for Shabbos, but he would hear none of it. It was by far the biggest profit day of the year. “I’ll see you Saturday morning,” he repeated.

“On Friday morning I was bothered that perhaps there was more I could to convince him to observe Shabbos that week. But I couldn’t think of anything. Then I remembered the classic story with Rav Aryeh Levine zt’l[3]:

On Friday afternoons, shortly before Shabbos, Rav Aryeh would leave to shul early so that he could pass by various stores and inform the store owners that they should make sure to close their store before Shabbos.

One Friday afternoon Rav Aryeh noticed a long line of customers waiting outside an ice cream store. Inside he could see the storekeeper busily serving one person after the next, without any thought of closing.

Rav Aryeh debated within himself, “If I was that storekeeper would I be able to withstand such temptation of so many customers? Would I be able to send them all away because of Shabbos?” But Rav Aryeh reasoned that despite his own thoughts, Shabbos was about to begin and he had to urge the storeowner to close his store.

Rav Aryeh then entered the store, put his streimel on a chair, and sat down calmly at a table. When the storekeeper noticed him he immediately approached and asked if he could help him. Rav Aryeh replied: “You certainly have a great test before you and I see that it is quite a challenge. But Shabbos is Shabbos.” With that Rav Aryeh politely stood up, donned his streimel and left the store. When he was already down the block, he turned around and saw that the customers were leaving and the storekeeper was pulling down the shutters and closing his store.

Some time later the storekeeper met Rav Aryeh. “Those few words which you said to me touched the depths of my heart. I realized that you knew and felt my thoughts and feelings, and yet you felt the pain of the honor of Shabbos. I felt that I couldn’t allow such a special Jew as you to suffer on my account. So I overcame the challenge and sent the remaining customers away.”

Rav Aryeh smiled warmly. “I believe that you are greater than I am. How can I know if I would have withstood such a test if I were in your shoes?”

I’m not Rav Aryeh Levine and I didn’t go to the store just before Shabbos, but I did go that Friday morning. When he looked up and saw me standing there, he was shocked: “Rabbi what are you doing here?” I smiled politely and said “I came to see what it is that is so difficult and important that you would give up Shabbos for it?” His eyes filled with tears. “You came to see that?” Then he started to cry. He couldn’t get over it. “Rabbi, I was thinking that perhaps I should leave the store in time for Shabbos but I wasn’t completely sure. Your visit clinched it! I can tell you that I will leave the store by five minutes after four this afternoon, so I can get to shul for davening tonight.”

He usually made $30,000 in sales on Black Friday, and this year he only made $10,000 in sales. But that Friday night he walked into the shul. After Mincha I addressed the congregation and said: “Here’s a real live Maccabe! It’s Chanukah and here is a live demonstration of a Maccabe who won!” Then the shul erupted in a dance around him.[4]

With Rashi’s explanation and the aforementioned story in mind we can offer the following explanation: As we welcome the Shabbos on Friday evening we are surrounded by fellow Torah observant Jews who have put their lives on hold. Their businesses and endeavors that consume them throughout their week in their efforts to support their families all come to a screeching halt. Suddenly everyone is dressed in physical and spiritual regality and enveloped in divine serenity.

It is a testament to the fact that we are a people who treasure Shabbos above all of our physical pursuits. We are all called the Treasured Nation because Hashem treasures us, and when we show how much we love His Shabbos, we demonstrate that we treasure our being His Chosen Nation. At the onset of the holy Shabbos each week we melodiously proclaim “Among the faithful of the treasured people” – because we are in midst of the faithful who treasure the Shabbos, we are worthy to lovingly usher her in: “Enter, O Bride, Enter, O Bride”.

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[1] Shemos 19:5

[2] סְגֻלָּה. אוֹצָר חָבִיב, כְּמוֹ ”וּסְגֻלַּת מְלָכִים“ (קהלת ב:ח), כְּלֵי יָקָר וַאֲבָנִים טוֹבוֹת שֶׁהַמְּלָכִים גּוֹנְזִים אוֹתָם, כָּךְ אַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ לִי סְגֻלָּה מִשְּׁאָר אֻמּוֹת (מכילתא).

[3] from the book “A tzaddik in our Time”

[4] Rabbi Segal was speaking to a room packed with educators and concluded with the following poigniant thought: “Why did it happen? Because I followed Rav Aryeh’s example. Rav Aryeh taught us that the love of a rebbe for a student can come in many different ways. We can’t judge our students and we must feel their pain and struggles. We have to think out of the box and find creative ways to foster that bond and connection. When we do so there is no end to what we can accomplish with our students.”

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