If you remember, I had called Chabad as a possible avenue to learn about my new fascination with Jewish spirituality. I spoke right away with the Rebbetzin (the Rabbi’s wife Chanie) and told her I had very limited interaction with Judaism. I did have experiences in other spiritual settings and detailed my sundry explorations including meditation, eastern teachings, non-denominational groups, self help books, interpretive dance, the list keeps going, et al, and so forth. Many of these experiences were lovely, but I had not found home.
After listening to my monologue, the Rebbetzin asked, “why not try us?”
It felt bold and direct. I questioned what might they offer that is different?
She invited and we attended what turned out to be a disarming and delightful Shavuot family day event. I left very open to discovering more and when Chanie invited us to a Shabbat dinner at their home…
Yes. We accepted.
Mind you, we had never been to an observant Shabbat dinner. For that matter, we hadn’t ever been to a Shabbat dinner period. Prayers or no prayers, candle lighting or no candle lighting, kosher or no kosher.
No Shabbat meal ever.
I don’t remember a lot of details but I remember this. We were sitting around their festive table with their children, babies to pre-teen. My children were four and one years old at the time. The Rabbi led us in a bunch of songs and prayers in Hebrew. We politely smiled and listened as we did not know any prayers or Jewish music. Though we didn’t know the words, I felt a stirring and familiarity. A joy really, a little longing too, a happy longing.
After the prayers, a lovely meal was served and the Rabbi engaged us in spirited conversation. He asked my (then) husband and I questions about ourselves. Nice casual conversation. I remembered thinking he seemed very impressed with us. While we are of course very interesting people (Lol), I now realize the Rabbi and his family were simply being attentive and kind hosts. Of course this is what the Torah teaches; Abraham and Sarah were the models of generosity and kindness to guests and strangers.
Thoroughly enjoying the evening, I asked at one point with piqued interest, are you Hasidic? I fully expected the answer to be no, of course not.
Yes? Hasidic?? Those odd people who I’d seen in Manhattan in long black coats, black hats, beards and curly sideburns? Who always seemed worlds apart from me?
Baffled…How could this be?
I looked again and laughed at myself. Of course they are! How could it not be?
The Rabbi had on a long black coat, a big black hat, and a long beard. No curly sideburns, but I’ve since found out that not all Hasidic men wear their sideburns that way.
Of course they were Hasidic. And there it was.
This family had the outside “trappings” of things I had up to this moment in time judged and dismissed. But I found the family so likable and relatable that I hadn’t even believed what I had been seeing with my own eyes.
A mind opened. A heart opened a little too.
The love and spirit emanating from this family broke down my preconceptions.
More was to be revealed over the next days and months. My cold Jewish heart was melting open. ©