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Close Your Business on Shabbat
by Ami Pykovski

As a young man, I ran a clothing business in Los Angeles. At the time I was early in my journey to Judaism and my business was open on Shabbat. On a typical Saturday,  I would make $5000 and this was a major portion of the weekly sales. I wanted very much to close the business on Shabbat, but I calculated that if I did that, I would lose $20,000 a month. Finally, after a lot of thought, I decided I had no choice but to go ahead. The business would be closed on Shabbat. However, although it would be closed on Shabbat, I planned on working until late Friday night.

I wrote to the Lubavitcher Rebbe about my decision to close the business on Shabbat without saying anything about Friday. The Rebbe’s answer was: “Start from before sunset and great is your merit to spread Judaism with joy.” The Rebbe enclosed eighteen dollars and wrote that I should give them to charity locally.

Now I had no choice. The business would be closed on Shabbat. In order to do so, I had to break a contract with the landlord of the space I rented for my store. It was a huge area that was spread out over an entire block and the cost of canceling the contract was enormous. I tried convincing friends to buy the contract off of me, but nobody wanted to. When I saw that I had no option, I decided to inform the landlord that I was canceling the contract.

When I went to his office, I was told that he wasn’t there. I went back to the store and a businessman whom I did not know walked in and said he wanted to buy the property from the landlord. I asked him why he had come to me and he said that he had already been to the landlord who had told him that he couldn’t sell it since I had a ten year contract. He could only sell it if I agreed to cancel the contract.

I was still unsure how much money to ask from him for breaking the contract, when he offered an amount that was much higher than I would have dared to ask for. We signed an agreement and I evacuated the premises. With the money I got, I bought a building and set up a clothing factory that I never would have dreamed I could build. In the normal course of things, I would have had to work for decades in order to achieve such a thing; suddenly, the Rebbe had shortened the way for me. It was all  gin the merit of deciding to keep Shabbat.

Another example where I saw Divine Providence was after I received the dollars from the Rebbe and decided to keep Shabbat. I had an offer to open a chain of stores called Indian Head in Los Angeles, but I decided not to get involved in retail so I wouldn’t have to work on Shabbat. Instead, I decided to invest in the manufacture of clothing and to offer it to Macy’s. When I went to the buyer at the company, she thought I would show her dozens of styles, as was to be expected from companies that do business with Macy’s. I came with just one style. It turned out she was very impressed that I had come with just one style. She said that because I had the guts to come to them, she was excited about working with me and she placed an order worth $25,000.

That was the first time that I worked with a company on such a large scale and I was very excited. But when the clothing came from the dyeing process, I was devastated. They had mixed up the colors and every pair of pants came out in a different color. When I saw this, I began to cry. I was sure I had lost all my money, which was a large amount in those days, as well as the opportunity to work with Macy’s.

After vacillating for a while, I decided to send them the merchandise anyway and I left the office for two weeks, afraid of the angry phone calls I would get. Upon my return, I found dozens of messages from the company on my answering machine. The phone rang just then and the company rep was on the line. “I’ve been looking for you for two weeks,’ she said. ‘Your pants were incredibly successful. They are totally sold out!”

The first year that I closed the business on Shabbat, I was concerned about my financial situation. After all, I had closed a successful business. I didn’t know whether I’d be able to pay the high tuition in the Chabad schools of Los Angeles. I told the principal of the school my daughter attended that I was switching her to the Hillel school. I was sorry to switch her but I thought I had to, due to my circumstances.

In Elul, two weeks after the start of the school year, my family flew to the Rebbe in Brooklyn and we passed by the Rebbe with our children. The Rebbe pointed at my daughter and asked which school she attended. I was embarrassed to tell the Rebbe that I had taken her out of Chabad. I said she learned in a branch of Chabad, but the Rebbe made as though he didn’t hear me and asked me what I said. The Rebbe finally said to me in English, “She was born to be a queen of Chabad,” and he instructed me to put her back in a Chabad school.

That year, not only was I able to pay her tuition, but I was also able to pay the tuition for two other girls in the school.



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