Normally, we spend Shabbat at home. My best friend and I spend the day together, do the shopping, cook Shabbat dinner, and when my husband gets off work he stops at the gluten-free bakery to pick up challah. My friend always sings the bracha over the candles, I sing the one for the wine (grape juice, in our house) and my husband has almost mastered the one for the bread. Then we have Shabbat dinner. It’s fun, and it’s really special.
Well, two weeks ago the husband and I started not just our second class towards conversion, but our beginning Hebrew class. I’ve been studying Hebrew for more than a year, but the husband was brand-new to it. So we took it together.
Turns out the teacher has been teaching Torah Center and Hebrew and all kinds of classes for over 40 years, and this past Friday was a service recognizing everything she’s done for the community and the shul. So we decided to go to the shul on Friday, for the first time since we’ve started attending this shul.
We will definitely be going back on Friday nights!
My best friend came over and spent Friday with me, as she usually does. But this time she brought things to go to the shul with and in (dressier clothes), and we didn’t shop for dinner as we planned to go somewhere afterwards for it. We did, however, have the husband pick up the challah, which we took with us.
Folks, it was great. It felt like coming home. My husband got weepy a lot, and so did I, but it was so neat to be able to be with so many other Jews, celebrating one of our teachers. The women in front of us said we spoke Hebrew very well (we read the transliterations in the siddur) and that they were happy we were joining the congregation. My friend just beamed her head off.
Our teacher’s students spoke, as did people who’d worked with her in the Religious Education group, and her daughter (a rabbi) spoke as well. Then our rabbi and one of the cantors gave our teacher the same blessing given to new b’nei mitzvot, and everyone got weepy.
It was sweet and powerful and wonderful and amazing. I don’t have words for it, as you can see.
Near the end of the service, Rabbi called up one of our classmates from the Intro class, who had had her mikveh and beit din just the day before, and the entire synagogue erupted in applause, “Mazel Tov!” and “Welcome!” She was quite overwhelmed, and it was just so amazing to see that community response.
It was great. And I just needed to write about it, because it decided all three of us: every other week, we’ll try to go to the shul for Shabbat services on Friday nights. That’s a new thing for all three of us, as my friend wasn’t raised going to Shabbat every single week either.
I can’t wait for the next time we go.
I will be addressing what happened in Charleston and Philadelphia, but I can’t right now. I have to really think through what I want to say before I post it. Suffice to say that it’s horrific what happened, and it’s even more horrific that we, as a nation, are grasping for any explanation possible to avoid the truth of the matter.