June 29/30 - The First Shabbat

In the morning after the wedding, we received a phone call from the bride asking if she could come up to our room. Hmmm, I wondered, what is this about? It turns out, in the craziness before the wedding, and with Shayna falling asleep in her plate after the wedding, Janet didn’t get a chance to properly thank her very special flower girl. So, just 10 hours after her wedding ended, she was in our room thanking Shayna and giving her a very special necklace. It was incredibly sweet. Shayna would love to show you her flower girl gift when we get back to San Diego.

My cousin Sandy picked us up at the hotel in the early afternoon, after our final shwarma lunch in Herzliyah, and drove us to her house in Bet Shemesh - a mostly Orthodox community outside of Jerusalem.

First, it was absolutely wonderful to see Sandy, her husband Buddy, and their four kids – Sam (14), Jacob (12), Liora (10) and Gilad (6). Considering it was a Friday afternoon, with five additional people moving into their home, with luggage for a month, and Jacob vacating his room to make space for us, and Buddy preparing for a three week business trip to Australia Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night), and Sandy preparing for a concert on Sunday, and preparations needing to be finished so all of the children could start camp on Sunday . . . it really wasn’t that chaotic. Did I mention Israel was in the middle of a nearly record breaking heat wave?!?

Shabbat is a loving gift from God woven into the fabric of this world. Each Shabbat has its own special, unique Kedushah (holiness). This Shabbat was the first ever Shabbat Jennifer and I were together in Israel, it was the first ever Shabbat for Shayna, Nadiv and Maital in Israel, it was the first Shabbat in a long time I was lucky to be spend with Sandy and Budddy, it was the first Shabbat we have spent together, as a family, in a community where everybody celebrates Shabbat – everybody in the building, on the block, in the neighborhood. “This is the day God has made, rejoice and be happy in it” (Psalms 118:24) and we were!

Don’t get me wrong, it was wonderful, but it also had some other marked differences from the way we generally celebrate Shabbat. Friday night, to welcome Shabbat, I went to services with Buddy and Sam, and Jen and the kids stayed home with Sandy and their other children. Sandy grew up as a committed Conservative Jew in Detroit, made Aliyah, and served as the Chazan for a liberal synagogue in Jerusalem before marrying Buddy. So while she is committed to the Orthodox lifestyle in which she is raising her children, she isn’t totally committed to attending the non-egalitarian services. Ironically, very few other Bet Shemesh women attended Kabbalat Shabbat services though I am confident their thinking was quite different.

Services were very nice – straightforward, clean, nothing fancy. There is a shiur (lesson) before the service and a drashah after. So those who just want to pray are able to do so chick-chuck and those who want a longer more elaborate experience, with learning, are able to do so as well.

We caught the tail end of the shiur before services (it was about the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz) and didn’t hear a word of the drashah afterwards as we quckly made our way out.

Again, walking down the street wishing everyone a “Shabbat Shalom” is a very special experience on multiple levels.

On the way home, Buddy was talking about some of the challenges of raising older children. Sam is their oldest, and therefore the trailblazer. Sam is a very mature, responsible loving child who makes it easy, but still they worry. Late at night, kids from other parts of town hang out in the parks of their neighborhood, drink beer, and so the parents worry. Of course, Buddy went on to explain, that generally doesn’t start until after midnight, so he feels pretty secure knowing that Sam has an 11:00 PM curfew – meaning, Sam has free run of the neighborhood, by himself or with friends, until late at night, and this makes Buddy feel safe.

For all the talk of fears of living/being in Israel, how many of you or your friends let your 14 year old roam the streets in your neighborhood until 11:00 PM and you feel safe? Israel is an amazing country.

Dinner was wonderful. Stayed up late, very late, talking, and then off to sleep.

Shabbos morning, the early service that Buddy likes to attend, begins at 6:30 AM. Let me repeat that, 6:30 AM. And they have no problem getting a minyan! I thought it was wonderful, but Jennifer and the kids were not that interested in a 6:30 minyan!

The first four aliyot were leyned (chanted) by a 14-year old boy, classmate and friend of Sam’s. At one point, he stumbled and was corrected. Somebody from the congregation came up concerned that the young man did not actually ever pronounce the worlds properly. See, it is okay for the reader to make mistakes, but he must be corrected and he must ultimately say the words correctly. It is all about the words!

After the early minyan, Sandy and Buddy, one on each side of the mechitzah, lead a children’s minyan. It was wonderful to see the comfort the 8-10 year olds have with the traditional service and siddur!

The rest of the day was spent eating, playing in the park, napping (not for me and Jen chasing the kids) and praying. It was wonderful being all together and celebrating Shabbat as a total experience for the day.

It was amazing the depth of the knowledge and insight the children shared about the weekly Parashah (Torah portion) at each of the meals. As each child delivered a D’var Torah at every meal, Sandy and Buddy engaged them with probing questions, which were fielded by the kids in an impressive manner. A treat to watch!

As Shabbat ended, Havdallah turned into nuttiness as Buddy needed to head to the airport and my kids needed to head to sleep – it was almost 9:00 PM!

The busy end to a full but quiet and restful Shabbat.

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