Feeding your Neshama…Find for Yourself a Family…or Two…or Three…or More

Many years ago, on my way to work I stopped by a local kosher establishment to pick up a bagel to take to work for lunch. I began chatting with the owner. He didn’t recognize my face and we began to schmooze. I told him I had just returned from Eretz Yisrael and how much I missed bagels…it is so hard to find a good, real, bagel in Jerusalem. His daughter was in seminary there…where did I learn? All the regular stuff. He then asked me where I went for Shabbos.

Tears welled up in my eyes and began to spill down my face.

You see, I was living in my father’s house which was just too far to walk on Shabbos. I love my family but they were not the least bit interested in frumkite. I did teshuvah in Israel for the most part and even though I lived less than a mile from this warm, strong, and family community…I knew no one. For about two months I had been making a quiet Shabbos alone. Sitting in a quiet house alone. Watching the sun set and waiting for it to set again…alone. I was wishing Shabbos away because it was lonely and sad. Can you imagine WISHING Shabbos away?

This man just said this was IT. He said you are coming to us for Shabbos, I am calling my wife RIGHT NOW. He did. AND she called me back as soon as I walked in the door at work.

It was a rainy icky day on Friday and I really wasn’t up to meeting new people. I called to cancel my Shabbos plans. I will never forget these words…the Mrs. said…You can sleep and stay in your pajamas the entire Shabbos. You don’t even have to come to the table if you don’t want. BUT you can’t stay alone on Shabbos. It just isn’t good for your neshama.

How could I say no?

I think that one of the most difficult challenges for BTs is when you are living in a Kehillah and you haven’t become part of it yet. For men it might be easier because you meet other men in Shul. For a woman, if she doesn’t daven in Shul it can be much more difficult. I felt like a burden. Why would a family with 6 kids want ANOTHER person at their table? Why would they want ME sleeping over? How can I call them and ASK to be a Shabbos Guest AGAIN when I was just there last week? How could I not realize that this is Shabbos. Opening our doors, adding a chair to our table, making a bed for someone who doesn’t have one.

Now, I just laugh at it all. I don’t know how long it took for it all to click in my head. It might have been after living another stretch of time in Jerusalem and helping to serve meals at the Machlis’ house in Maalot Dafna (the Machlis family host close to, if not often more than 100 people, for every Shabbos meal in their home at their own expense). Some of the people were homeless but many more were people who just didn’t have any place else to go. Guests don’t always realize that THEY give the host an opportunity to do a mitzvah. Many times families who are used to having a full table of children feel empty and lost when children grow up and move away. Many young families can use an extra hand playing with the children or just want to chat in a language other than “baby talk”.

It is so essential to become part of a community. When you are single it is a great way to network for Shidduchim, to hear about Shiurim in the community, and to just meet other people. They become your family. And while you are feeding your Neshama you are truly giving them an opportunity to do a Mitzvah.

6 comments on “Feeding your Neshama…Find for Yourself a Family…or Two…or Three…or More

  1. Rivkah,
    Thank you for writing this article. As I read, I saw myself, “…For about two months I had been making a quiet Shabbos alone. Sitting in a quiet house alone. Watching the sun set and waiting for it to set again…alone. I was wishing Shabbos away because it was lonely and sad. Can you imagine WISHING Shabbos away?…”
    Yeah, that’s me. Exactly. I am looking foward to next week because I will be able to experience a real Shabbos for the first time. I relate to feeling extremely awkward about asking to come for Shabbos, and to feeling like a burden. The kindness of these people, who hardly know me, is still quite overwhelming. I look foward to the day when I can return the favor!

  2. Hi Rivkah,

    I am a BT who often goes with my husband and kids to Baltimore to visit my (non-frum) family. We are always looking for places to stay for Shabbos…Do you know of families who would like to host a young family with 3 small children? Please e-mail me or call me at 973-594-1919. Thanks.

  3. Ditto, ditto, and ditto. One of the things that made this community so nice for me was the Thursday night phone calls to verify that I had a place to go for Shabbos meals, esp. Friday night.

    And one of my strongest memories of trying to keep Shabbos at home while in HS sound like Rivkah’s. BIG incentive to try to invite guests, but with small children, a P/T job, and a small shul that does NOT generally attract the local singles, it’s hard to even know who they are! (the couples don’t *need* it to quite the same degree)

  4. It’s great that you found the strength to go to the family for Shabbos. These things open up new experiences and relationships. As Mark said, finding a shul for peers and hosts is very important. I would imagine that would go for married couples in a new place as well. Something I often think about while contemplating a move to another community. It must be easier for men to meet due to minyan, but still not easy to start up a conversation or relationship with someone. There are also shiurim, chesed organizations, and other creative ways of networking and meeting people. From the other end of the table, having guests enhances a couple’s or family’s own seudah. We all behave better in front of others, our children and ourselves included. We get to talk about interesting and timely issues which help everyone to think openly. We may prepare extra-special delicacies with further enhance the Shabbos Kodesh or Yom Tov experience for all. Our children learn that we are able to relate to all kinds of people from all backgrounds and we jewish people are all one big family, caring for each others needs.I’ve also had an elderly guest who came with a home health aide and the aide was not Jewish. My children learned that we also treated that person with complete respect and provided a meal for him as well as kindness and gratitude for his care of our guest. Being in a teaching mode helps us to come out of ourselves. Some guests may be talented in singing zmiros or comedy or knowledgable in fascinating areas, or we may be and they will be a willing audience. It is a win-win situation hosting guests and giving back to the community. It is even better when guests sleep over and we get to do the further mitzvah of providing for a comfortable and quiet sleeping area. I always enjoy setting up a bed or bedroom for someone, thinking about what they may need and trying to provide it. How this helps my children realize the importance of hachnosos orchim and they are all too happy to offer to give up their bed or their room if need be. Actually at this stage, since my big ones are 13 and 16, I get to see them practice live hachnosos orchim in action of their own initiative and it is gratifying to see that at least that was successfully implanted. Hope all else will be too.

  5. There are often overlapping communities in a given location and it sometimes takes some thought and mazal to become a part of one or more. Where we live there is the community of Kew Gardens Hills, the community of the Shul, the community of the block you live on, the community of Baalei Teshuva as well as other communities.

    From a pro-active point of view I think it makes most sense for single BTs to find a Shul (ie Shabbos davening place) that has a number of members that regularly host singles.

  6. That’s precisely why I wrote the article The Kindness of Strangers. Spending Shabbosim with frum families is essential to any BT’s growth, and so many newcomers would be blown away at how easy it is to find places to stay. Baruch Hashem, so many Yidden really do excel at hachnossas orchim.

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