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
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
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
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.