Weekly Chasidic Story #792 (s5773-21 / 17 Shevat 5773)
Envoys of the King of England and Queen Shabbat
It was mid-afternoon on a Shabbat in Bagdad, when one of Iraq’s highest-ranking treasury officials arrived with urgent haste at the office of the Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Salman Mutzafi.
Connection: Weekly Reading–4th of the Ten Commandment
It was mid-afternoon on a Shabbat in Bagdad when one of Iraq’s highest-ranking treasury officials arrived with urgent haste at the office of the Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Salman Mutzafi. The official was accompanied by the British Consul, as well as a delegation of top-level businessmen who had come from England to conclude an important business deal. In light of the vital nature of the matter, the gatekeeper was sent over to R’ Mutzafi’s home to fetch him.
Not finding him there, the gatekeeper went to the Beit Midrash (the Torah-study Hall), where he discovered Rabbi Mutzafi sitting and studying together with his teacher, Rabbi Yehuda Pesaya, the important Kabbalah book, “Etz Chaim,” compiled from the teachings of the holy Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Tzefat by his main student Rabbi Chaim Vital. Totally immersed in the most elevated of matters, RabbiMutzafi was wrenched away by a summons to engage in secular matters with gentiles on Shabbat!
Hearing the summons, he thought at first, “What do I have to do with them?”
Then, suddenly, he had a second thought. “I will go and try to accomplish a glorification of the One G-d in their eyes (kidush Hashem)!”
R. Mutzafi’s Shabbat garb was different from that of the rest of the week. On Shabbat, he wore a silk robe with a white coat over it, and a light-colored turban on his head. Dressed this way, he rose and went to his office.
When he walked in, everyone stood and bowed respectfully. He took from a cabinet his special and impressive watch that was always set to Israeli time. R. Mutzafi turned to the assembled group and said, “The sun will set in two hours, and about three-quarters of an hour after that the Shabbat Queen will depart and I will be able to attend to you gentlemen. I am a Jew, and I observe my G-d’s commandments.”
His simple and candid declaration took the others by surprise. The British Consul said, “We respect your religion and your commitment to it, and your honesty. We will wait here until your Shabbat is over.”
The Rav returned to his teacher, almost dancing with joy. He had never felt the holiness of Shabbat as much as he did that day, knowing that ten or so dignitaries awaited him, each of them now aware that there is a holy Shabbat Day in the world, that it was given as a sign by the Creator Himself, and that the Jewish nation observes the holy Shabbat day, the fourth of the Ten Commandments, and is pledged to maintain its existence forever.
Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from “Stories my Grandfather told me” (Mesorah) by Zev Greenwald.
Connection: Weekly Reading–4th of the Ten Commandments
Rabbi Salman Mutzafi (1900 – 17 Tevet 1975) was a descendant of an illustrious family of Torah scholars who first arrived in Baghdad during the Spanish expulsion. After serving many years as the city’s chief rabbi, he moved to Israel where he founded the Bnei Zion Yeshiva. Recognized as one of the great kabbalists of his generation, he is also the compiler of Siftei Tzaddikim: a guide for visiting the graves of special righteous Jews buried in Israel.
Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.