Vol. 15


Guarding the Holy Shabbos

1906; Kishinev, Russia;(1) New York, New York, USA

Why would a sixteen-year-old have to sleep on a park bench?!

My great-great-grandfather Rabbi Shalom Yachnes was born in the year 1890 in Kishinev, Russia. He was a very happy boy. He was a typical boy until something happened that changed his life forever.

In the year 1906 there was a terrible pogrom(2) that killed most of his eleven siblings. His mother also was killed. Also, his beloved father, Avraham Abba, was wounded. Avraham was wondering what to do. He decided that the best place for his son was America.

“Shalom!” Avraham loudly called. “Come here.”

“Coming,” Shalom replied. He went to his father.

“Shalom, I am sending you to America.”

Shalom gaped in surprise at the shocking news. “But Totty (father), I don’t even know how to speak English!”

“It’s all right. G-d(3) is with you. I’m sending you to Aunt Rosa’s nice comfortable house.”

“Okay,” Shalom reluctantly agreed.


The days flew by. It was time for Shalom to say goodbye to his father, and he had mixed feelings. He was going to miss his father, but he knew that Aunt Rosa was excitedly awaiting him, so he said a tearful goodbye to his father and climbed aboard the ship.

As the ship was rocking about, Shalom thought about what was awaiting him in America. After about three rough, nauseating weeks, people on the ship could see land ahead. After the ship docked, young Shalom took his one suitcase and went to Aunt Rosa’s house.

He trudged up the steps and knocked on the door. Aunt Rosa opened the door and exclaimed, “Hello!”

“Hello,” Shalom responded.

“Come on in,” Aunt Rosa said. Shalom collapsed onto a chair. “Shalom,” she said, “America is a lot like Kishinev, except here in America we work on Shabbos.”(4)

Shalom stood up and said, “If so, I will not stay here.” Shalom’s bag was still in the door when he stood up and walked briskly out the door, not knowing where to go.

Shalom went to lie down on a park bench. He fell asleep.

When he woke up, a Jewish man named Mr. Tobak, with a long white beard, was at his side.

“What is the matter?” Mr. Tobak asked. Shalom told him. “I see,” said Mr. Tobak, stroking his beard. “I will teach you chazzanus (the art of cantoring). I will also teach you shechita (how to slaughter animals for kosher meat), so you will never have to work on Shabbos.”(5)

My great-great-grandfather merited that he had a large family who are religious and shomer Shabbos (keep the Sabbath).(6) I am proud of my great-great-grandfather for keeping all the mitzvos (commandments) and Shabbos, and always having trust in G-d.

Laylay Weinberg; New York, USA


1. The city that was Kishinev, Russia, is now Chisinau, the capital and largest city of Moldova.

2. A pogrom is an organized persecution or massacre (often led by the authorities) of a minority group. In this case, the pogrom was against Jews.

3. This incomplete spelling is a show of respect.

4. Shabbos means “the Jewish Sabbath,” a day of rest on which most work is forbidden by Jewish law.

5. Animals are not slaughtered on Shabbos, and cantoring does not involve the kinds of work that are forbidden on Shabbos.

6. Shalom’s having a large family who observed Shabbos was viewed as G-d’s reward for Shalom’s own Shabbos observance.



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