David Bruce: 250 Anecdotes About Religion — Sabbath, Saints, Scandals


• Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach was an Orthodox Jew, and he never traveled by automobile on the Sabbath. Once, he was late for a Sabbath “happening” at a temple in Los Angeles. Night was falling, and he told the group he was traveling with that he had to get out and start walking because the Sabbath was starting. He and his group pulled their two cars over, got out, and started what turned out to be a 27-mile walk to the temple. News of their walk traveled quickly — a deejay called the Night Owl even interviewed Rabbi Shlomo and broadcast the interview during the walk — and several people joined them. At 4:30 a.m., they arrived at the temple. Rabbi Shlomo prayed, held the Friday night service, told stories, and taught Torah, and finally at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, he and his group sat down to the Sabbath meal. A person who was there said later, “For as long as I live, I will never forget that Shabbos with Shlomo Carlebach. Everyone who did that walk was transformed. We were a bunch of kids who didn’t know anything about Shabbos until we took that walk, and this is how he taught us. After witnessing Shlomo Carlebach keeping Shabbos with such passion, devotion, and fervor … how could you not keep Shabbos after that?”

• British actress Constance Benson sometimes toured in Scotland, whose inhabitants took the Sabbath seriously. For example, when she checked into a rooming house on the Sabbath, she was locked in her room and warned not to raise the blinds, as the landlady didn’t want her neighbors to know that a “low play-actress” was staying in her house. Ms. Benson writes that the piano was locked up on the Sabbath, but “there was generally a cheerful aroma of whiskey about the house.”

• A Teamster with a problem went to his Rabbi: His occupation frequently made it impossible for him to attend Sabbath services. The Rabbi listened, then asked, “While you are working, do you carry poor passengers free of charge?” The Teamster said that yes, he did. The Rabbi next said, “Then you serve the Lord in your occupation just as faithfully as I do when I am in the synagogue.”


• One of the most famous slaves in history is St. Patrick, who was kidnapped at age 16 in Britannia and taken away by pirates to Hibernia, which we know today as Ireland. A chief named Miliuc bought him and made him a shepherd. For six years, Patrick remained a slave, until he heard a voice that told him, “Soon you will go to your own country. See, a ship is ready.” He then escaped and walked 200 miles to the seashore, where he found a ship that was willing to take him to home and freedom. Later, of course, he returned to bring Christianity to Ireland and became a saint.

• In 1431, English soldiers burned the French heroine Joan of Arc at the stake. After she died, the soldiers collected her ashes and threw them into the Seine River. However, the ashes of her heart were not thrown into the river because it had not burned even though the executioner swore that he had tried to burn it using charcoal, oil, and sulfur, in addition to the original wood. After she died, several people, including some English soldiers, became convinced that in killing Joan of Arc, they had killed a saint. In 1920, the Catholic Church made their fear a reality when it made her St. Joan.


• Muhammad Ali is a Muslim. Christian televangelist Jimmy Swaggart tried to convert him, but Mr. Ali declined to be converted, saying, “Think about it. If Jimmy Swaggart can convert the best-known Muslim on earth back to Christianity, what would that do for Jimmy Swaggart?” Soon afterward, Swaggart was involved in a sex scandal. One of Mr. Ali’s friends suggested, “You really ought to write Jimmy Swaggart a letter, saying that God still loves him and Jimmy Swaggart should accept Allah as his only lord and savior.”

• Pope John XXIII often took walks through the Vatican Gardens. To preserve the privacy of the Popes, the cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica had been closed to the public, but the good Pope ordered it open to the public again, saying, “Why shouldn’t the faithful watch me? I don’t do anything that would give cause for scandal.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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