Did you hear of the fellow who proudly announced, “I am a man of principles! And if you don’t like my principles, well then, I have others.”

The portion of Vayelech follows directly after Nitzavim. In fact, in most years, the two are read together on the same Shabbat. Now, nitzavim means standing firm, while vayelech means to move and be mobile, which seem somewhat contradictory. However, the juxtaposition of these two Parshahs prompted the Rebbe to comment that while they may seem to reflect conflicting themes, there is a very powerful message in the one following directly on the other.

Nitzavim doesn’t only mean “standing.” That would be the Hebrew word omdim. The word nitzavim means “standing firmly.” And the Rebbe’s message1 is that only by standing firmly by our principles and convictions can we, in fact, move forward in life and live to express the vayelech “upwardly mobile” theme. We need principles that are real and uncompromising.

There are so many stories that I’m sure so many of our readers can share when they experienced this message personally. Let me share two, both on a similar theme.

Back in the early 1970’s, I spent several years studying in Montreal at the Rabbinical College of Canada. I also received my semichah (rabbinical ordination) there. One of the prominent families in the Montreal Jewish community back then were the Richlers. And I remember clearly the true story of their family business and the challenges they faced, specifically regarding Shabbat observance. The Richler Brothers ran a very big business in the motor industry, selling and servicing trucks, if I’m not mistaken.

The family was Shabbat-observant. Their business, as big as it was, was closed on Shabbat and Yom Tov. Once, they were given a very lucrative contract with the Ford Motor Company of Canada. But when Ford discovered that Richlers didn’t operate on Shabbat, they canceled the contract, arguing that it could never work.

However, sometime later, Ford approached the Richlers again, and this time they offered to abide by their religious requirements. Apparently, the other company they had engaged didn’t quite meet their professional expectations, and they came back to the Richlers “cap in hand.”

Ford and Richler went on to have a very successful relationship for many years.

In my own community in Johannesburg, South Africa, a similar story played out back in the 1970’s and 80’s, albeit on a smaller level.

The Arenstein Brothers, Monty and Itz, had started a motor dealership. It was a retail business selling automobiles. Monty was Shabbat-observant and insisted that the business would be too. Now, anyone who is familiar with the motor trade knows that most car sales are made on weekends when people have time to go shopping and test drive cars to their satisfaction. How would a motor dealership ever succeed if it was closed on Shabbat?

But Monty insisted. The brothers even borrowed the title of an old movie, and their slogan, bumper stickers and all, was “Never on Shabbos.”

I distinctly remember a particular Tishrei, a month replete with Jewish holidays, which decreased the number of days they were open for business to a fraction of a regular month’s work. The other partners argued that it would be impossible to sell even a minimum of vehicles that month. How would they survive financially?!

Well, what should I tell you? Not only did they survive, but they thrived. And after some years they sold the business for a very good price.

Like the Richlers in Montreal, the Arensteins in Johannesburg stuck by their convictions.

May we all have the courage of our convictions and see the blessings materialize in our lives.