An Ordinary Extraordinary Shabbat

An Ordinary Extraordinary Shabbat

Last Friday evening we hosted the extended family of a bar mitzvah boy from LA. 18 people in all. Grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles and cousins.
On Friday afternoon the family’s tour guide called to convey an urgent request: the group members are very strict about not eating pork. Could we please refrain from including pig-products in any of our dishes? We assured the guide that that would be no problem whatsoever.
We loved this family from the moment we met them. How wow, we thought, for an entire family to come to Israel all together like that for a simcha.
But the real wows were yet to come.
When we blessed our children, the 2 fathers, an anesthesiologist and his brother, an extremely successful businessman, walked with their NCSY benchers in hand to their children, placed their hands on their heads, and blessed them for what seemed to be the first time in their lives.
The elegant grandmother sitting next to me, who lives half the year with her doctor-husband in Phoenix and summers in LA, began to cry.
But the real crying began when those 2 sons in their 40s walked over to their father in his 70s and bent over from their 6-feet so he could place his hands on their heads as he sat and read those same words from his NCSY bencher.
I brought a package of tissues to his now weeping wife.
Nachas so thick in the air you could see it, feel it.
And then we served the chicken soup.
The group’s tour guide, a tough sabra who had grown up on an anti-religious kibbutz, said to me, “That smell…It reminds me of home,” and with red eyes (could those actually be tears?) he stepped quickly out of the room. For a long time.
When he was leaving after the meal I suggested, “Want me to pack up some soup for you to take?”
He gave me a hard look, “You don’t understand, Mrs. Weisberg. You killed me! That soup smelled just like my grandmother’s!”
“You are welcome back any Shabbat, I will give you as much soup as you want!”
“You don’t understand…You killed me with that soup. I was crying. I had to leave the room so nobody saw me!”
Afterwards the guide wrote to his company that that Shabbat dinner had been the most beautiful one he had experienced in 15 years of guiding. They should send all their groups to us!
For people like us who do Shabbat every week, it’s easy to read the words in our NCSY benchers and eat our chicken soup and not feel anything at all.
So it’s amazing (and even though we do it all the time, and have been for many years, it never stops being amazing) to have an opportunity to see Shabbat through the eyes of somebody witnessing that intense, primordial holiness for the first time. Or at least for the first time in a very long time. To see with our own eyes the pintelle yid at our table shining as brightly as the Shabbat candles in our windowsill.


  1. very moving story thank you !!!

  2. This is beautiful!!!! and as someone who has been welcomed at your home (JWRP, July 2015), I understand the love that you shared…

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