Our Tearful Shabbat Guest

Our Tearful Shabbat Guest
This past Friday we hosted guests from an upscale tourist company, the kind of company that caters to VIPs. In a few weeks they’ll be sending us a couple who, for example, will be arriving in Israel by private jet.
This is a bit nerve-wracking for me. Since we aren’t the Waldorf Astoria. We are a b”H, KA”H big family in not such a big home, who serve yummy food and can manage (with some difficulty and the assistance of an excellent cleaning lady) to clear a clean path from our front-door to our living-room table when guests are on the way.
This past Friday night, that VIP company sent us an American partner in a law firm/ law professor who was in Israel for her son’s wedding to an Israeli woman as well as her husband, also a retired lawyer. At first, I felt a little nervous. How would our meal compare with the one they could have eaten at the luxury hotel where they were staying?
But I needn’t have been.
This couple was incredibly lovely. The wife was emotional over her son’s marriage to a woman she adored. And to be in Israel. And to be experiencing her first traditional Shabbat meal (“Are your Reform Jews? Or Conservative?” she tried to figure out.)
Several times over the course of the meal, when we talked about Jewish things, I felt she was close to tears.
But when I mentioned that there was still time to light Shabbat candles together, the tears I’d sensed at the brink of her eyes for much of the meal finally flowed.
“I would love to light Shabbos candles!” she said through her tears, “My grandmother would light Shabbos candles every single week! Every single week…she never missed a week.”
Crying, crying. Sweet tears of nostalgia, of yearning.
So I lit the candles with her. She knew most of the blessing, with some minor additions from me.
And I was blown away.
By the dynamite impact of that grandmother’s candle lighting on a little girl so many years ago.
I don’t know if that grandmother heard kiddush, or ate a Shabbat meal, or observed any aspect of Jewish tradition aside from lighting those Shabbat candles every week.
But the power of the light of those little candles inflamed a young girl’s heart back then, and still burns bright in the heart of that girl, now a grandmother herself, decades later.


  1. This is so beautiful!!

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