Gary and Lisa were a young married couple living happily in South Africa back in the mid-1990s. They both worked in the field of corporate clothing, with Gary managing the operations and Lisa handling the design. They were not what one would call religious, but they were traditional. They would always eat a family meal together on Friday night. They would light candles, eat challah along with their meal, and then head out to the movies and parties. Lisa’s sister had become religious overnight when she married a religious boy. At the time, Lisa actually felt sorry for her sister, who was suddenly bound by a myriad of restrictions, which included not being allowed to talk on the phone or watch TV on Saturdays. Gary and Lisa did not want to be limited in that way.
Life was good in many ways, but they did feel like something was missing. Their lives were busy, but felt empty and unfulfilling, especially on Saturdays. They would go out to eat and have bad service. They would go to the movies and wait in long lines. They would go shopping at the mall and sit in traffic on the highway. Their lives were frenetic as they ran from one activity to another with little pleasure along the way. They thought that maybe one day down the road they would make some sort of lifestyle change, but at the time, they stuck with the status quo.
Gary and Lisa were delighted when their friends Marc and Caryn called to tell them about the birth of their son. They were then surprised and deeply touched when their friends asked them to be G-dparents (kvattar and kvatterin), to carry the baby from his mother to the sandak at their son’s bris. Marc and Caryn were religious and wanted the bris of their child to be carried out on the highest level of kedushah (holiness) possible. With that goal in mind, they asked Gary and Lisa if they would be willing to keep the laws of Shabbos on the Shabbos just prior to the bris. They had wanted the couple they entrusted to carry their son on this auspicious day to do the right thing, at least right before the bris. Just one Shabbos. Gary and Lisa were more than happy to fulfill their friends’ request and spent Shabbos with Lisa’s sister and husband. They reveled in the relaxed atmosphere of Shabbos, so drastically different from what they were used to. It felt for them as though they had stepped off the proverbial treadmill and entered a sanctuary of peace and serenity.
Everything was moving ahead on schedule until they were thrown a curveball the night before the bris. Gary and Lisa received a call from their friends telling them that the baby was yellow. His blood levels had been fine until then but suddenly his numbers spiked and they would be unable to do this bris as scheduled. The bris was going to have to wait until the following week. Marc and Caryn requested that their friends keep Shabbos one more time in light of the situation. Gary and Lisa were more than happy to comply. Once again, they spent Shabbos with Lisa’s sister and husband, and once again it was a positive experience. They left the rat race behind and entered a world where life was suspended. It was a reprieve that centered them and fueled them for the week ahead. They thoroughly enjoyed it.
On the night before the rescheduled bris, Gary and Lisa unexpectedly received yet another phone call telling them that the bris would again be postponed. The doctors were baffled. They had no explanation as to why the jaundice was taking so long to resolve itself. But no matter what the reason, they bris could not go on under such circumstances. Gary and Lisa had to keep yet a third Shabbos. They were quite surprised, but not bothered in the least. They were then told by their brother-in-law that since they would be keeping Shabbos for the third time in a row, it would be considered what’s known as a chazakah, a presumption. As a result, he explained, they should continue to keep Shabbos from then on.
This was a pivotal moment for Gary and Lisa. They understood that there are no coincidences in this world, and viewed the events leading up to the bris, the inexplicable multiple cancelations, as a sign from Hashem. In a sense, shmiras Shabbos had been forced upon them, but the timing was impeccable. While they had once contemplated the possibility of making such a change in their lives sometime in the future, the events surrounding the bris gave them the push they needed and accelerated the process. They embraced shmiras Shabbos wholeheartedly and never once looked back.
Since Gary and Lisa began keeping Shabbos, they were blessed with three beautiful children. Their sweet daughter and her friend were our guests last Shabbos. When their daughter shared with us this incredible story, I knew I had to reach out and speak with her mother directly so I could hear it firsthand. Lisa tells the story with the same wonder and appreciation as if it happened just yesterday. She and Gary felt the Hand of Hashem so clearly at the time. Right after she and her husband began keeping Shabbos, they felt incredible brachah in their lives. They saw an improvement in their parnassah immediately. This makes perfect sense because, as we know, Shabbos is the makor habrachah, the source of blessing.
When we spoke, Lisa recalled the feelings she had felt on the day of the bris all those years ago. As Gary and Lisa carried the baby, they were overwhelmed with gratitude to Hashem for the way He had orchestrated the occurrences of the preceding weeks. They were awed by the knowledge that while they were escorting the baby to an event that would have a profound effect on the rest of his life, the tiny infant they held in their arms, who was just beginning his life, had already had such a transformational impact upon theirs.