One gift of Shabbot is the ability to view life via additional perspectives. Those points-of-view can come with guests whose demographics, psychographics, or simple texture of faith, differ from one’s own or from the enhancement lent to each of our neshemot during those holy twenty-five hours, which we receive each week.
For me to appreciate the blessings I have, sometimes I have to interact with Jews who have been “in the life” longer, or who have been “in the life” for less time than myself. In the former case, those others often possess a depth of knowledge from which I can learn. In the latter case, those others often possess a fresh intensity in their observance of the mitzvot, from which I can learn.
Instructive differences, which I benefit, come in more mundane flavors, too. At times, my family is fortunate to have elders in our home. Other times, we experience a Shabbot that is made propitious by the addition of dear ones’ small children.
This past Shabbot, for example, when Computer Cowboy and Missy Younger were in Hutz l’Aretz, but when Older Dude was enjoying an “Out Shabbot,” i.e. a Shabbot at home, instead of at his hesder yeshiva, our family was graced with the company of a young mom and her three little girls. That my family adores these visitors made their stay with us that much more delightful.
We were graced with their presence because the abba of that family, too, was traveling and would be spending Shabbot abroad. Accordingly, we moms had planned to bring our families together for our holy day.
The other mom’s a Sabra, not in the sense of being an original dweller of our modern State of Israel (she’s far too young), but in the sense of being among a first generation of fruit; her parents were immigrants, while she, her husband, and her children are not. Talking to her late at night, when her wee ones and my teens and twenty were asleep, reminded me that I still take a lot for granted.
I thought I had shed much of my materialism, first in my organic-style of parenting, and latter, upon making aliyah, in my practice of lightening the amount of my commodities I kept. I was caused, to realize, however, when speaking with this exceptional young lady, that relative to local-born folk, I’m still very Anglo, i.e. still very materialistically spoiled.
To wit, I take for granted basics like: soft toilet paper, a variety of mostly affordable foodstuffs, access to regular transportation, a choice of doctors and of medical kupot for myself and for my family, comfortable furniture, and, b’ayin tova, a standard amount of safety in my neighborhood, specifically, and in my city, more generally. I also was made aware that I undervalue my ability to: join women’s gyms, select among shoes, and buy whatever per cent of a kilo of grains or beans I choose, with a hecsher that suits me.
Grateful for the erudition I was receiving, I stayed up much too late talking with my younger friend. I benefitted from the special union that occurred when we women of different generations relaxed and shared stories. The next morning, though, it was her small girls who were my teachers.
I awoke to the lovely sound of high voices singing snippets of Shabbot melodies. Very rarely have I heard “Leha Dodi” or “Veshamru” in such charming renditions (albeit the times that my family has merited to host a minyon or more of men at our Shabbot table, too, have been enchanting, although for entirely different reasons). Once everyone had gathered again, following shacharit, these little lovelies continued to expound on the sacredness of the day. We had question and answer time about the parsha and a rudimentary discussion of melachahot.
Following our meal and mincha, some of us, i.e. Yours Truly, dozed. Others built pillow forts, made blessings over fresh fruit snacks and previewed illustrated books about Chanukah. It takes children to remind me that light, music, fruit, prayer and other essential, parsimonious, factors of life, all of which are created by Hashem, are the highest good.
While it is meritorious to read Tehillim, to study Gemara and to engage in similar pursuits on the Holy Day, it is likewise, as my short guests reminded me through their active lessons, vital to embrace Shabbot as another opportunity to offer up thanks for the good that surely constitutes life. I hope those pure souls will return, with their parents, to my family soon, to teach me more.
In brief, this past Shabbot yielded wonderful schooling for me. I was caused to become more intimate with realizations about my life’s abundance. I was caused to inhale appreciation.
Thus, I hope I go into future Shabbatot not with a concern about the color and texture of my garments, although I plan to look suitable for the occasion, not with concern about the type and variety of food on my table, although I plan to try to elevate eating for the Day of Rest, and not with concern with how many pages of Tanach I read and wrestle with, though I plan to continue to use Shabbot as a special opportunity for spiritual growth. Rather, I hope to make my next Shabbot a time when I recognize the value of all of the immediate chesed Hashem has rained down upon me and when I recognize the value of all of the long-term goodness which He has bestowed upon me.
Perhaps, as well, next Shabbot, I will be able to take other lessons from other guests. I believe we will be hosting olim originating from a different part of the world than my family. I can’t wait to meet those teachers.