When I Saw the Shabbos Bride–for Real by Peter Levavi
26 years ago my husband volunteered on a secular kibbutz, where he befriended Peter Levavi, a recent law-school graduate. Over the years, Peter and my husband have remained good friends. So this past December when Peter took a vacation from his job as a Senior Vice President to participate in the Pardes Executive Learning Seminar, Josh took him along to some of his favorite places in Jerusalem– including his beloved Slonimer shul in Meah Shearim for Friday night davening. During his visit, Peter prayed at quite a few synagogues spanning the religious spectrum. But his Slonimer experience was something special.
The Slonimers do a Mincha service just as the light in the windows from the reflection of the Sun off the Jerusalem stone of the neighboring buildings is beginning to fade.
When it goes black, we transition to L’cha dodi.
The congregation says the first line, and then the shaliach tzibur, an old man with an accent coming from those previously thought lost in the Holocaust, repeats the line and adds “L’cha doydi, likras calau, p’nai Shabbas nikabelaw” in a haphazard tuneless chant.
We proceed one line at a time, back and forth, until everyone stands up and faces the rear to greet the Sabbath bride.
The longing of these Chassidim was of sufficient strength to summon her apparition.
We could all feel her, and if you squinted hard enough, even see her enter the room to join us.
After Maariv, everyone lines up and walks past the Grand Rebbe to wish him a gut shabbos. He meets each congregant with a powerful gaze that penetrates deep to the soul.
Without speaking, and in a fraction of a second, he conveys what he expects of his chasidim: adherence to the laws, and clinging to the traditions that were all but lost 70 years ago.
It was an experience I pray I shall never forget.