Saved by Shabbos

A LIfe Lessons Story by Chana Klein

“When I safeguard the Sabbath, G-d will safeguard me…”
(The Ibn Ezra’s Letter of Shabbat: October 30, 1158)

The cooking was done.

Before Shabbos, I lit the fire under the blech.*

My (ex) husband left for shul.

I went upstairs and got into bed to read a book.
More than an hour later, an awful smell crept into my bedroom from under the door. So I got up and opened the door. The thick, horrid odor overwhelmed my being.

It occurred to me that the flame under the blech may have gone out and left the burner to continue to emit gas. I felt more and more nauseas. I was wobbly, and could not think clearly. It had difficulty getting myself down the stairs.

When I got to the kitchen, I held my breath to not breathe in the air and I put my finger on the metal blech to see if it was hot.
It was cold.
I bent over to look under the blech to see if there was a flame.
The fire was out.

My first thought was we would not have hot food for Shabbos. Jewish law (Chazal) tells us that we must have hot food on Shabbos.

In my mental confusion, I thought about lighting a match to get the fire going so that we may have hot food.

“But,” I reminded myself, “it’s Shabbos, and we are prohibited from lighting a fire on Shabbos. That’s straight from the simple text of the Torah.”
That was clear.

I turned the knob to stop the gas from filling the house.
On Shabbos we are commanded not to turn anything on or off unless it is creating a danger. That means that on Shabbos no electricity gets turned on or off, no hot water, because it would activate the boiler, and no telephone use.

I had never given much thought to what a person does when they smell gas in the house.
I had figured it was a noxious smell, like mold, and had no clue about its combustibility and dangerous nature.

Had it not been Shabbos, and a burner had gone out, I would have lit a match right away, without even thinking, in order to get whatever food was cooking in the pot cooked.
But I couldn’t on this day. It was Shabbos.

I found out later that night that had I lit a match, or turned anything on or off, had I turned on the hot water faucet, or even used the phone to call the gas company, it would have created a spark that could have exploded not only my house, but the nearby houses with it.

It was only because it was Shabbos, only because of Jewish law (Halacha) that I did not do anything other than open all the windows and close myself off in the bedroom with that window open, as well.

I must have fallen asleep when I got back upstairs because I didn’t hear my (ex) husband come home. He reports that as soon as he got home he shut the windows, not knowing about the gas and figuring that I had forgotten to shut them. He sat at the table and could not keep his head up. He fell asleep before he even had a chance to tell me he was home. His great fatigue was likely because of the gas fumes in the house, which of course, he did not notice.

Later in the evening when we were learning in the kitchen, it dawned on me that had it not been Shabbos, had I not followed Jewish law, my knee jerk reaction would have been to light that match.

Had it not been Shabbos I might have made a phone call to tell someone about the smell.

Had it not been Shabbos, I might have turned on or off a light, or an appliance.

Had it not been Shabbos, I might have used the hot water faucet, which would set off the hot water heater, and might set off an exploding spark.

Any and all of those things could have caused an explosion that would have exploded my house and the houses nearby and I would not have lived to tell the story … or any other story.

All because of Shabbos…

Copyright ©2011 Chana Klein

*Observant Jews don’t cook on Shabbos. We are supposed to have warm food so we light a fire before Shabbos under an aluminum sheet, called a blech, to warm up food cooked before Shabbos begins.
**A natural gas leak can increase the risk of fire and explosion since it spreads quickly and combusts easily. An electrical spark or fire source can set this off if there is a leak in your house. The instructions I found online say that if you suspect a natural gas leak inside, immediately stop what you’re doing. Do not flip any electrical switches, unplug anything or use a phone, and go outside. Inhaling high concentrations can also lead to asphyxia (when the body is deprived of oxygen) and possibly death. Early symptoms of asphyxia include fatigue and chest pain.


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