A Soldier's Promise
He opened the door and was shocked to see a soldier sitting there
The mittele Belzer Rebbe, on one of his trips, stayed in a hotel in Vienna for Shabbos. On Friday night after the meal, he sat in his room and learned, as was his usual custom. Suddenly he heard sounds coming from another room in the hotel. He stopped learning and listened closely. It sounded like someone was learning with tremendous hislahavus. He left his room and followed the kol Torah, which led him to a room down the corridor. He opened the door and was shocked to see a soldier sitting there, swaying back and forth in front of a sefer. The Belzer Rebbe waited. When the soldier finally looked up from his sefer, the Rebbe approached him and asked, “Who are you? It’s not a typical sight to see a soldier learning like this.” The soldier replied, “A few years ago I was drafted into the king’s army. My biggest concern was how I would be able to observe Shabbos. Hashem helped me and I was assigned to work for one of the top generals. After a few days on the job I gathered my courage and approached him. “I explained to him that I was Jewish and that I was not permitted to work on Shabbos. I told him I was willing to work day and night in exchange for Shabbos, my day of rest. I found favor in the general’s eyes and he granted me permission. I worked hard the whole week, but on Shabbos I rested.” The soldier paused for a moment and then continued his story. “Because Hashem had given me such a big present, Shabbos Kodesh, I decided that I wanted to give something back to Hashem. Aside from davening and eating the seudos, I have designated the entire Shabbos for learning.
Since I have made this promise, I haven’t broken it. Every Shabbos I sit and learn from the beginning of Shabbos until the end. And that is why you found me learning. I am just a simple soldier serving in the army, but first and foremost I am a soldier in the army of the King of kings.” When the Belzer Rebbe heard this, he was astounded. He walked over to the soldier and hugged him tightly. “You are no simple soldier,” the Rebbe said with tears in his eyes. He then looked the soldier directly in the eye and replied, “I believe you are the one who doesn’t allow Mashiach to come. The nachas ruach that Hashem has from your learning is more worthwhile to Him than anything in this world, even korbanos. Chazal say in maseches Shabbos, daf 30a, that Hashem told David Hamelech, ‘Tov li yom echad she’atah osek b’Torah mei’elef olos shebincha Shlomo asid lehakriv lefanai—one day that you sit and learn is better for Me than the thousand offerings that your son Shlomo will bring before Me.’”