Rabbi Benzion Klatzko lives in Monsey, New York, with his wife and 11 children. He founded Shabbat.com, which provides Shabbos accommodation hosting across 120 countries for Israeli and American soldiers, converts, single mothers, and more. Rabbi Klatzko and his family host around 65 guests each Shabbos! He is also a composer and singer, and has produced a music video to commemorate the 2021 Lag B’Omer tragedy in Meron.
Q: Where does your love for Shabbos stem from that draws you to host 65 guests weekly and create a website called Shabbat.com?
Shabbos is my life raft; I would be at sea in stormy weather without it. It is a mixture of a love of people and for Shabbos that converged. Shabbos gives meaning to the rest of the week. We are people who are always looking for meaning and I too look for meaning in my life. Sometimes we get so busy doing it, we forget why we are doing it. I found Shabbos was an incredible oasis, allowing me to remember why I am a yid and what my relationship with Hashem is all about. It’s indescribable the concept that if you invest in Shabbos how much Shabbos invests in you.
There are various ways to participate in Shabbos projects, so to join in this chesed opportunity, click www.shabbat.com/donate
Q: What hashgacha pratit, Divine providence, did you witness in your life?
In the past five minutes or the past hour? I see it every time I wake up. Let me share with you two very touching stories. There was a man, who I’ll call “Jake,” who called me after Shabbos with an incredible tale. “Rabbi, the most unbelievable thing happened. I was stuck on the road and I knew that I wouldn’t make it home for Shabbos so I went on Shabbat.com and found a rabbi in New Jersey who would host me. I was grateful that he let me come at the last minute. On Shabbos while I was enjoying the Shabbos meal, I noticed that the rabbi looked a little down. So I turned to him and asked, ‘Rabbi, is there something bothering you?’
‘Yes,’ he replied candidly. ‘Unfortunately there is an aguna, a woman in this community who has been waiting for 18 years to receive a divorce. It is so painful for her because there is no one to help this lady.’
I asked, ‘what is her name?’ He told me. “Wow! I was actually at her wedding! I remember something that struck me as quite peculiar. The officiant rabbi at the wedding called a certain person to serve as a witness for the marriage. This surprised me since this person, who as far as I knew didn’t keep Shabbos and only someone who is shomer shabbos can serve as a witness to a marriage. When the rabbi heard this he immediately jumped up from his seat and said, ‘Let’s track this guy down. We might be able to free this women from being an agunah.’”
After Shabbos, Jake and his host tracked down that witness. Although today that person who served as a witness is completely Shomer Shabbos he admitted that at the time of the wedding years earlier, he was not completely shomer shabbos. In fact he had eaten in a non-kosher restaurant that very Friday night before he was called upon as witness to the marriage ceremony. Hearing this, Jake’s host rabbi contacted a certain Gedolei Yisrael who paskened that the kiddushin, the marriage was invalid and that therefore she wasn’t an aguna after all. Of course, this meant that she could marry immediately.
Here’s the second moving story. Once in a while I post a general Shabbos invitation on Shabbat.com, inviting everyone within 15 miles to join us. One young lady replied that she would love to come. During the meal, she asked if she could speak with me. I agreed.
“Who told you to invite me?” she asked me. “No one. I just posted a general invite to everybody,” I replied. “It can’t be,” she shook her head in disbelief. “ Are you really unaware of my situation? I was sure that was the reason why you invited me. My father is in prison, my brother is a drug addict, and my youngest brother has no one to take care of him since my mother had a nervous breakdown. Here I am, a 19-year-old teenager who is supposed to be the mommy and daddy, while at the same time I’m supposed to be in school. I’ve been struggling with so many issues that I have reached a dead end. I made up my mind that this Friday night, I was going to take my life. And then, I got your invitation so I decided that I will go to you for Shabbos and then Saturday night I will take my life.”
After listening to her story, I turned to her and asked, “Are you having a good time?” She said, “Yes,” and then I said to her, “Are you still going to take your life?”
“Are you going to invite me again? she questioned. “Yes, of course,” I reassured her.
I did and a few months later, her father was released from prison. My daughter became her best friend and today she is happily married with children. All because of a Shabbos invitation and a warm welcome.
Q: Who do you admire?
My wife is insanely kind. There will be a book about her someday. We were at my daughter’s wedding and my wife and I took separate cars. The wedding ended around 11:30. I kept looking at my watch wondering when my wife would be coming home. It was 12:30, 1:30 and finally at 2:30 my wife came home. What happened? A lady from the wedding lost her car keys and so my wife stayed behind with her, looking for her keys. They both couldn’t find the keys. We live in Monsey and the lady lives in Passaic, New Jersey, which is about 30 to 40 minutes away. They called an Uber but it didn’t come. So my wife drove this lady on the night of our daughter’s wedding to Passaic. By the time she arrived at home it was 2:30 in the morning and she didn’t complain. The next day, she went back to the hall, looking for the keys again and finally found them in the grass. That is just one of many great stories about a great lady.
Q: What is the name of the music video you composed to commemorate the 2021 Lag B’Omer tragedy in Meron?
AL ELEH – על אלה – The video is performed by Pinny Schachter and my son Luzy is the child soloist. To watch the video, click below.