My Jewish Family

My sisters from Itamar

 

 

As I was on my way to Yeshuv Itamar in the hills of Samaria, my bus stopped to let on a family.  Since leaving from the central  station in Jerusalem, the bus had already been full with mothers, children, and fathers excited to come home for Shabbat.  The woman coming on to the bus had 7 children. The bus had only 1 seat left.

 I had sat in the front so I could feel the force of the hills as I entered the Shomron, but had not expected the surprise I would receive from my position.  Onto my lap came a 2 year old girl, hair in pigtails, smiling at her other siblings who were similarly occupying the laps of 6 other strangers that had accepted the responsibility of “seating” for the remainder of the trip.  

As an au pair in Israel, babysitting became a team effort.  Mothers I came across in the park would instruct me on keeping the baby warm, feeding her enough. I was never at a loss for advice.  At first, I took it as an insult. Eventually, I took their advice with appreciation and knew they only had my charge’s best interests at heart.

Here in Boston, I spend many of my Shabbats with an Israeli family at their house. I am welcomed in as a family member, invited over during the week, and I have an open invitation for a bed if I ever get sick in Boston and don’t want to be alone.  I call them my “adopted family” and I don’t think they realize how much of a blessing it is to have found them here in a city far from my home. 

Whether it be in Yesha or  it be in a different city in the United States, I never feel uncomfortable going to a fellow Jewish families house for Shabbat. Always, I know I feel at home. How is it that I can feel so comfortable in a complete stranger’s house? That I know I will be taken in with open arms and treated like a family member?

The Jewish people is more than a nation. The Jewish people is a family, and if Israel is the physical embodiment of the Jewish soul, then it makes sense that I feel comfortable with a stranger’s baby on my lap, or walking in to a stranger’s home, because, in reality, these people are no strangers. They are my family.

How Shabbat Brings Us Back to Earth

“Shabbos is practice for the world-to-come.  Weekly practice in living in a world that doesn’t need fixing.”

“On Shabbos you don’t have to believe in holiness because you can see it.”

“More than the Jewish people have kept the Shabbat, the Shabbat has kept the Jewish people”

 

 

“No one is going to be there tonight…” I told Yitzi as we trudged through snow and wind to reach our final destination.  The Boston streets were deserted. Commonwealth Avenue was a virtual ghost town.  It was Friday night, and despite pleas from parents and friends that we stay inside, Yitzi and I were heading to Chabad for Shabbat dinner in the midst of what Bostonians often call a “nor’easter (a massive snowstorm enveloping the city).

When we finally reached Chabad’s corner of Comm Ave, we were sure that when we walked through the door we would find no other guests. We were wrong. Contrary to our prediction, the house was more full than we had ever seen it.  The tables could not handle the amount of people.  There was talk of wine and challah shortages. Students were on the floors, in the foyer…everyone had come to Chabad.

So why, on the day when it is the most challenging to reach Shabbat services and dinner, do more people come than when walking to Chabad takes little effort? Is it that significant events such as snowstorms remind us that there is something bigger than ourselves out there? Do we crave the one thing that seems immortal in our minds,a Jewish tradition that has lasted for generations? Or do blizzards and city wide tragedies help us to realize that our everyday challenges are nothing compared to the importance of connecting with other human beings?

All of Friday, April 19,2013, the city of Boston was on lockdown.  Residents were urged to remain indoors as a massive manhunt was underway for a terrorist that had set off bombs at Marathon Monday and hijacked a car after killing a policeman.  With the terrorist still at large, the ban was lifted.  My assumption was that upon my arrival at Chabad, I would be the only guest.  There was a dangerous man on the loose. Who in their right mind would leave the safety of their own home for Shabbat?

I was wrong. When I arrived at Chabad, I encountered the same scene I had witnessed during the snowstorm. Tables were overflowing with people, students were on the floors, in the foyer….everyone had come to Chabad.  Candles were lit, wine was served, pieces of Challah were broken, and I realized that without this night, the snow storms and the lockdowns and the shootings and the craziness would dwell in our minds without end and without purpose. Shabbat is there to remind us that there are focuses in life more important than who’s running from police and who’s stuck inside. It reminds us that in the end, the people around you are the things that matter and that Challah, kugel, and a little wine can fix just about anything.

When Two Worlds Collide:Yom Hazikaron and the Boston Marathon

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It’s always something to talk about when the Jewish world and the secular world intersect.

Today is Yom Hazikaron. On this day, we not only recognize and honor those soldiers who have fallen to defend the state of Israel, we also recognize and honor those who have perished from terrorist attacks in Israel.

Today is the Boston Marathon.  On a day when the entire city comes outside to celebrate with the runners, 2 explosions have occurred at the finish line.

I have received text after text from loved ones in other cities asking about my status. Answering their texts sends chills down my spine. I never thought I would feel so appreciative to have been assigned two exams tomorrow.  My all day study prison has become a haven.  What I thought to be a curse of work has become a blessing.

The tragedy today is a reminder that these check ups should not only come when events such as these occur, but that it is important to remind those that you love that you care about them whenever you have the chance. Luckily, I can reply to these text messages. Many who met tragedy today can not.

While the hundreds of news alerts on my facebook wall of the events at the Boston Marathon may be informative, they are not what  your loved ones need right now.

If you have friends or loved ones in Boston, don’t hesitate to call them.

And while all of the facebook statuses and pictures about Yom Hazikaron may show support, there are more ways to recognize these people.

Pay attention to those you love. Appreciate that you can read this post right now.  Tell your family you are ok. And relax, you have survived another day.

Our prayers go out to those victims and families of those affected by the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon today.