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August 21, 1987 - Image 43

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-08-21

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Special to The Jewish News


own a narrow alley
veining through Mea
Shearim, inside a small
battered door and through a
dark passageway, there is a
tiny room one man calls
home. Old shoes, stacks of
talmudic studies, encrusted
tins of yogurt, a desk and a

cot cramp the space hardly

big enough for a man to turn
around in. After a knock, the
door does not quite open,
rather it cracks ajar. A large
and weathered hand appears,
pauses, and then motions to
wait. Soon a pair of eyes
creeps around the doormask.
Here are eyes that gaze afar
and pierce intently all at once.
We have found him: the
"Shabbos Rebbe."
Thought by many secular
Israelis to be a crazy man, he
can be seen standing each
Saturday morning on the
highway island at the en-
trance to Jerusalem. From
morning until night he holds
up his sign: "SHABBAT IS
And as hundreds of motorists
drive by, the yellow-robed and
long-bearded hassid shakes
his finger and yells: "Shab-
bos! Shabbos!"
It is an exhaustive task. He
takes it very seriously, and
uses as much body language
as possible to convey his
argument: "Walk, do not
drive, on shabbat." Some-
times, as he grows weary, he
rests on the small chair he
brings with him, and then the
image at the entry to Jeru-
salem is a hassid dozing next
to his sign. People laugh at
him, they jeer him, others pre-
tend not to notice. But the
message of the Shabbos
Rebbe is one that may be far
more important than the ap-
parent ravings of a crazy
The Shabbos Rebbe has a
name — Yaacov Mayer Ya-
cubson. He is a sixth genera-
tion Israeli, "more than sixty
years of age," who spent the
early years of his life teaching
Talmud to children. Twenty
years ago he witnessed a
`miracle.' "It was the miracle
of the Six Day War," says
Rabbi Yacubson, with his
hand pointing up and shak-
ing. "I say a miracle, because
we must not honor the Israeli
army. This was a miracle from

God. Don't misunderstand,"
he explains, "I have joined
both Mizrachi (religious
Zionists) and Neteuri Karta
(religious anti-Zionists) — but
Neteuri Karta first."
The miracle Rabbi Yacub-
son refers to was not the con-
quest of the land, nor even the
liberating of Jerusalem. "NQ"
he says, "it was the sudden
atmosphere of repentance
that came to Israel. People
that weren't religious became
religious." Punctuating with
his hands, he declares, "This
revealed to me that it was this
generation that would bring
the Meshiach. The Torah has
predicted it. It has all been
Key to the Messiah's ar-
rival, in Rabbi Yacubson's eye,
is the prophesy that if the
Jews will observe two con-
secutive shabbatot, the Me-
shiach will come. He quit his
job, allowed his task to "come
into my heart," and became
the Shabbos Rebbe, working
to prepare the way. This has
pitted the rebbe against sab-
bath drivers. In the past, he
has laid on the street before
buses in an attempt to con-
vince Egged not to operate
Saturday tours. But for the
past eight months, he has
positioned himself at the en-
trance to Jerusalem where he
maintains his new and lonely
vigil against private motor-
Long ago he decided
against the tactic of throwing
rocks at the windshields of
passing vehicles. "Rocks are
unclean on shabbat," explains
the rebbe, "so it is forbidden
to touch them., let alone throw
them on shabbat. But I
would not throw rocks even if
it were not shabbos. The peo-
ple must want to keep the
sabbath willingly. It must not
be imposed upon them. So I
yell `shabbos' to explain what
they are doing wrong — not
to force them into anything."
Yacubson understands that
his tactics stand out in pre-
sent day Jerusalem where
violence and intolerance is
becoming a way of life for
those of different lifestyles
and backgrounds — Arab and
Jew, Orthodox and Reform,
religious and secular. "It is
forbidden to force people,"
observes the rebbe. Nor does
he approve of his neighbors
that have adopted violence.
Shaking his head and wrink-
ling his forehead in unhap-
piness, the rebbe recalls, "I

Yaacov Meyer Jacobsen shields his eyes in the street lest he see a woman.

Shabbos! Shabbos!

Two decades of beseeching Israel motorists to curb
their cars on the Sabbath have won the "Shabbos
Rebbe" only two converts. But he keeps his weekly
highway vigil waiting for the Messiah to come.. .



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