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  Shabbos in the Chofetz Chaim's Home from
Stories My Grandfather Told Me Volume 1 -- Bereishis
Memorable Tales based on the Weekly Sidrah

By Zev Greenwald  Libby Lazewnik  Tova Katz 



Shabbos in the Chofetz Chaim's Home

“G-d blessed the seventh day and sanctified it”

(Bereishis 2:3)

Leib, a 14-year-old boy, studied in a small yeshivah in Russia. On one occasion, he was due to return home for a visit. The train was scheduled to reach his station on Thursday afternoon. He would board there and travel to his home in Stuchin, Poland. Even if the train ran exactly on schedule, Leib knew that he would arrive home just hours before Shabbos.

As it turned out, the train did not arrive at the station until Thursday evening. By the time Leib had boarded, darkness had fallen. By Friday morning he knew he would never reach Stuchin before Shabbos. He would have to find another place in which to spend the holy day.

Leib asked a conductor for a list of the stations where the train was due to stop. He had decided that if he recognized one of the stops as a place where Jews lived, he would get off the train, in the hopes that someone would invite him home for Shabbos. To his joy, the conductor informed him that one of the cities was very close to Radin. Leib was quite excited at this news, because his aged great-uncle, the Chofetz Chaim, lived in Radin. Leib’s grandfather was the Chofetz Chaim’s brother. It looked as though he would be able to spend Shabbos at the home of his illustrious relative.

When the train came to his stop, Leib gathered his belongings and got off the train. He asked passersby the way to Radin, and quickly made his way to his great-uncle’s house. His arrival was greeted with joy by the Rebbetzin. She explained that her husband had already left for shul, adding that, as a rule, the Chofetz Chaim, as the Rav, went to shul early in order to learn with some of the congregants before davening. She advised Leib to rest a bit before going to shul.

Having spent the entire previous night awake on the swaying train, Leib was exhausted. He fell asleep immediately.

Upon awakening, the first thing he saw was the Chofetz Chaim seated at his Shabbos table, learning from a sefer. His uncle welcomed him warmly, then suggested that the boy wash his hands and daven Kabbalas Shabbos and Ma’ariv, after which they would eat the Shabbos meal together.

When Leib had finished davening, the Chofetz Chaim summoned his wife to join them at the table. The Chofetz Chaim made Kiddush, and the three of them -- the aged rabbi, his wife, and the 14-year-old youth -- sat down to their Shabbos feast.

When the meal was over, the Chofetz Chaim excused himself and went to his room to sleep.

Leib prepared himself for bed as well. He tried to fall asleep again but to no avail. At last, he rose and went into the kitchen, where a clock stood on a shelf. Leib looked at it to check the time, then rubbed his eyes in disbelief. The clock appeared to be functioning and yet it showed 4 o’clock! How could it be 4 in the morning already? Shaking his head in bewilderment, Leib returned to his bed.

When he awoke in the morning, he again went into the kitchen, where this time, he found the Rebbetzin.

“Good Shabbos,” he began. Then he asked her the question that had been troubling him. “Last night, after the meal, I couldn’t fall asleep right away. I went into the kitchen, and saw that the clock showed that it was 4 in the morning! Does the clock work properly? What time did we finish the meal last night?”

“It was very late when we finished,” she answered.

“But the meal didn’t last that long! What time did we sit down to eat? Did I sleep so long when I first came?”

“I’ll tell you what happened,” replied the Rebbetzin. “When the Rav returned from shul, you were in a very deep sleep. I wanted to wake you so that you could hear Kiddush, but my husband stopped me. He said that you were tired from your long journey, and advised me to let you sleep. He said that he would wait, and make Kiddush when you woke up.

“When some time had passed, not wanting to make me wait any longer, he asked our son Aharon to make Kiddush so that my son and I could eat our meal. Meanwhile, my husband sat and learned, waiting for you to wake up. We agreed that he’d call me when you did, and that we would sit down together to the Shabbos meal, in your honor.”

The Rebbetzin added, “You slept for hours, but the Rav was determined not to start the Shabbos meal without you!”

Had Leib not asked his question, neither the Chofetz Chaim nor his wife had planned to say a word about their extraordinary behavior that Shabbos night!

 
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