When the Shmirat Shabbat K’Hilchata broke Shabbos

When the Shmirat Shabbat K’Hilchata broke Shabbos

Can I adjust the hotplate timer?
Can my kids play monopoly?
Can I add water to the in-danger-of-burning cholent?

What would I and all of us JewishMOMs do without “Shmirat Shabbat K’Hilchata”? When I heard that the book’s author, Rabbi Neuwirth, passed away this Tuesday, I was hard-pressed to think of any person in recent history who has written a book that has done more good, and helped more people to keep a mitzvah than Rabbi Neuwirth zt”l.

And I wondered what inspired him to write it…

I discovered two reasons in the feature article about Rabbi Neuwirth that appears in this week’s Hebrew edition of Mishpacha. One was a miracle and the other was a vow.

First, the miracle. Shabbat saved the life of Rabbi Neuwirth’s father.

During the Shoah, after the Neuwirth family had escaped to Holland, Rabbi Neuwirth’s father, “suffered from severe pains and went to the local pharmacist to request medication. In addition, the father requested poison to kill the mice that visited his home in large numbers. That Shabbat, the father was supposed to take the medication for the first time, but after he smelled the medicine he concluded that it must have a bitter taste. And in a split-second decision— in order to honor Shabbat—he decided he didn’t want to consume something with a bad taste, and chose not to take the medication. Only after Shabbat did it become clear that the pharmacist had mixed up the packages; instead of pain killers that package was full of the poison against mice.”

And the second reason? On account of a vow made by Rabbi Neuwirth after he broke Shabbat.

Rabbi Neuwirth explained: “I went through the Shoah with my parents, two brothers and a sister in Holland in a room where we lived for nearly three years. There I had a gemara of tractate Ketubot and the 3rd section of the Mishna Brura. We were forbidden to get close to the windows. There was nobody there besides us. The European winter cut our flesh. We didn’t even dream about davening with a minyan. All that we had was Shabbat and the holy books that were with us.

“In 1946 we were released and arrived at the port near Marseille in France. It was Shabbat when they told the group of refugees I was with that there was a ship setting off for the Land of Israel. They said that this was our only chance to get to the Land of Israel. Since I did not know what was going on in the world, and there was good reason to think that this was a matter of life and death, I allowed myself to travel. On the way, I took upon myself that if Hashem would enable me to get to the Land of Israel, I would write a book that would make great the honor of Shabbat.”

And Rabbi Neuwirth zts”l certainly did. Yehee Zichro Baruch.


  1. by learning the halachos with this sefer, i was able to understand how “knowledge can set you free”

    once i had a better understanding of the reasoning behind each shabbos prohibition, i was able to figure out what was allowed and what was not. for me, having this knowledge truly let me enjoy shabbos

  2. Savta Ima

    I was intensely moved by your article,especially having had the zechus of a personal connection with Rav Newith(or “Noivert” as he pronounced it). I never knew of these stories, which gave me a context by which to appreciate his greatness as well as his contribution to Yiddishkeit, more than ever.
    So, once I have this little soapbox, allow me a few snippets to offer a miniature hesped of sorts.
    Rav Noivert was a rare kind of humble. The right kind. He viewed his role purely in terms of responsibility for fellow Yidden, and never put the spotlight on himself. Yet he was firm and solid in his principles and teachings. He was one of our halacha teachers in the late 1970’s at Rebbetzin David’s seminary in Jerusalem, which, by the way, we did NOT call “BJJ” in those days 🙂 Naturally, his curriculum was Hilchos Shabbos, yet for weeks or even months we did not “go there,” and even when we finally entered the realm of Shabbos laws, we began with another very basic sefer and not his own. It was never about him, but about the content and knowledge he wanted us to have, so as to ensure we would be connected with halacha at a very fundamental level – such that since we would know the sources we would know how to properly ask a shaila(!) and even how to research for answers ourselves.
    So what was his focus for the first month or two of seminary? He wanted every one of us chutzniks to completely master the laws of terumah and maaser, and everything that would be associated with that topic, such as the differences between hechsherim, what do do when faced with eating unidentifiable produce, fruits vs vegetables, and the list goes on. But it was all hands-on. The daily grind consisted of R’ N. beginning class asking,”L’mi yesh sakin? Umi heviah aizeh pri? Tapuach? Ulay agass?” [Ok, who has a knife? Anyone brought a fruit? An apple? Maybe a pear?] And the items plus one hapless volunteer were brought to the front of the class to review and demonstrate yet again the details, the process, and the nusach that were involved in taking terumos and maasros flawlessly. He would announce that he was committed first and foremost to our knowing how to eat kosher according to the laws of the Land, and nothing else would happen until we – every one of us – got it right.
    Every couple of sessions he would review, “Banot, how many Torah prohibitions are there against eating milk with meat? Against eating chazzir? AGAINST EATING FOOD THAT HAS NOT BEEN TITHED? So you see how important it is for you to know?” At the same time, he always spoke gently, kindly and respectfully. It was amazing. We rather felt this process as a sign of fatherly concern; after all he wanted his girls to eat. And he felt responsible for our eating kosher so that we could eat. Bottom line.
    At the end of our year he gave us beautiful blessings, let us know magnanimously that we were welcome to rely on his “prutah chamurah” if we ever needed to take ma’aser,and assured us he was available if we had any halacha shailos. To that end, a girl asked for his phone number. Here comes the priceless punchline: His reply? “Ain li telephone, Baruch Hashem.” I don’t own a phone. Emoted with feeling, by the way. A posek, no less! Those were the days.
    The first thing I began learning with my new husband a couple of years later was Mishlei. The second thing was Shmirat Shabbat Kehilchata. We went on with it pretty steadily for some years. I will have to get my own prutah chamurah now…Yehi zichro Baruch.

  3. thank you, Savta Ima!

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