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The Rebbe Inspired Me to Turn Down the Job

The Rebbe Inspired Me to Turn Down the Job

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Imagine my excitement when I received a job offer to work on a national presidential campaign in Tampa, Florida, this past summer. For someone interested in politics and in making a difference, there is hardly a more attractive opportunity than joining a presidential campaign. I was elated thatI was torn I had a chance to work for a candidate I believed in, and that I was able to participate in this important election.

The one catch: this job would require me to work on Shabbat.

The position I was offered would involve helping to build an organization that would mobilize citizens to get out to vote on Election Day. This would require driving, making phone calls, sending emails and organizing events—seven days a week. I would lose any sense of Shabbat.

I was torn. It would be only a three-month commitment. I told myself I could go back to keeping Shabbat after the election. I told myself the election’s importance justified putting Shabbat on hold. I was determined to participate in this election and thought that I must have received the offer for a reason. And so, despite my reservations, I accepted the job.

As I packed and looked at flights to Florida, I felt increasingly anxious and confused. Shabbat is the highlight and grounding energy of my week. Was I prepared to give it away? Could I really bring myself to work on Shabbat? What would it be like to go without Friday night chicken soup and Shabbat day kugel? Most importantly, why did G‑d present me with such an attractive professional opportunity that conflicted with my observance of Shabbat?

I prayed for guidance about what to do. I also took to Google. On Chabad.org, I came across a story that put my predicament into perspective:

One Sunday in the 1980s, a man who was engaged to a non-Jewish woman went to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe. “I envy you,” the Rebbe told the man. Understandably, the man and those present were shocked. How could it be that the Rebbe was envious of this person?

The Rebbe continued, “You have been given an enormously difficult test. Could I really bring myself to work on Shabbat? The spiritual and moral growth you will experience if you successfully withstand this test far exceeds anything I can imagine. I envy the opportunity you have to develop your soul’s muscles.”

Reading this, my perspective shifted. Was I presented with this desirable job offer to test my dedication to Shabbat?

Jewish history is a saga in which ordinary people challenge conventional thinking, overcome their limitations and embrace the irrational choice. How many of our ancestors sacrificed wealth and social status, often paying the ultimate price in their refusal to abandon our heritage? Having lived in Berlin for the last two years, I felt the weight of Jewish history acutely.

This job offer, I realized, presented an opportunity to demonstrate thatWhat a privilege! my commitment to Shabbat was more than just words or routine. It was an opportunity to exercise my soul’s muscles. What a privilege!

And so, on a sunny Friday in August, with no back-up plan, I called the campaign, explained that I would not be able to join them in Florida and wished them luck.

As good as it felt to have stuck to my guns, I’ll admit that part of me was scared. I had passed on a job I wanted in an unstable economy—a risky move professionally.

Three days later, I received a phone call from Iowa, with a new job offer to work for my supported candidate in a critical state. With newfound confidence and clarity, I expressed gratitude for the job offer and stated proudly: “I am a Sabbath-observant Jew. That means I don’t work from sundown on Friday through Saturday night. Six days a week I will be devoted to the campaign. The seventh is set aside.”

The campaign agreed and I moved to Iowa for three months. With the help of the Chabad shluchim at my university, I reached out to and was warmly received and hosted by the remarkable Chabad centers in Iowa. Because of the kindness and support I received from the Chabad emissaries in Iowa, and the welcoming embrace I received from the hospitable community of Postville, I was able to work for the campaign, support my candidate, and celebrate Shabbat and the holidays in Iowa. As one chassid in Postville remarked: no matter the results on Election Day, a major victory had already taken place.

Michael Snow, a 2014 graduate of Binghamton University, was a Fulbright Scholar in Berlin, Germany. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Jewish Week and The Times of Israel. Michael won first place in the 2011 Chabad of Binghamton Cholent Cook-off.
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December 22, 2016
שמירת שבת
It was a pleasure to have you in our community for shabbos.
הצלחה רבה
Gman
Postville