I had a most wonderful year of learning and growing when I was in seminary in Eretz Yisrael, a number of years ago. We had some amazing teachers. Made deep friendships. Got to know the places and faces of Israel.
But perhaps most exciting was Shabbos. Mostly, I enjoyed the off-Shabbosim, when we got to meet new families, see new places, have interesting experiences.
It started with the phone calls to potential hosts. Some families are known to be amazing hosts or live in more exotic locales. Those had to be called way in advance. And there were some weeks that we had no place to go. We frantically made calls to random strangers from the Dapei Chabad, asking for a place to stay. Sometimes, it was Thursday night and we still had no place to go. Eventually, we figured something out. But sometimes it was awkward. Sometimes scary.
We’d show up at their homes with a gift – the bottle of wine or rugelach from Marzipan or whatever. Not that we really expected to be treated royally, we just were so self absorbed in having seminary experiences that we didn’t really think about the host and their family.
We didn’t realize that we had displaced 4 little kids so we could have their bedroom. We didn’t realize that coming an hour before Shabbos and expecting all of us sem girls to take a shower was more than a bit chutzpadik. We didn’t fully understand that they had gone beyond their budget to feed us. We were thinking about ourselves. And what we could tell the others after Shabbos.
Well, now I live in Eretz Yisrael. With my little family. And the phone calls have started. The seminary girls are back in town.
Now I do know how inconvenient it is to move kids from their bedroom. I do know that an hour before Shabbos is chaos time and bathtime, and there really isn’t time for the girls to take a shower. Now I do really appreciate how much food costs. Now I do understand that while hosting is wonderful it is also exhausting.
The girls really do gain from their Shabbos adventures. They get to meet all kinds of different inspirational people. People who deal with all sorts of challenges, come from different backgrounds. It’s part of their growth in seminary.
But somehow, we – my Anglo friends and I, and even some Israelis – feel that the burden of those experiences falls on us.