| Words Unspoken |

Dear Seminary Girls

 There’s a reason why it’s worth hosting you even though I find myself exhausted after Shabbos


Dear Seminary Girls,

I spot you on a Friday afternoon as you get off the bus, pull out your maps, and start debating how to get to Rechov Hagufen. I’m waiting at the same bus stop with my husband and children. We’re going away for Shabbos.

You don’t notice me. You think no one around understands your English. My little son is smirking because there is no Rechov Hagufen. There is a Rechov Hagefen. I can’t help but wonder which lucky family on Rechov Hagefen is putting the last-minute touches on the guest room. And which lucky children are resettling in a sibling’s room so they can give you the “guest room.”

As you debate, there’s a part of me that wants to strike up a conversation with you. It’s the same part of me that gulps when I have to call you back on a Wednesday and tell you this won’t be a good Shabbos to have you, but please do call back a different week. The part of me that has to draw on my reserves of self-control to call you back the second time you try and tell you that this week also won’t be a good week, but please, I do mean it, try back a different week.

It’s the part of me that’s relieved when you do believe me enough to try back again, and it’s still the same part of me that calls you back happily to say that yes, finally, this week is a good one.

There’s a reason why I’ll give away the part of my Friday morning reserved for self-care to make an extra salad and dessert, even though I know my own family will be done after the soup.

There’s a reason I’m relieved when the Corona restrictions cleared up enough for you to all show up at the beginning of the year. Geula feels a whole lot cozier once you descend, and it feels like something is missing in July and August when you’re all back in America.

There’s a reason I teach a few classes in your seminary, arranging a babysitter, taking two buses in each direction, and preparing for hours even though the pay doesn’t make it worth it.

There’s a reason why it’s worth hosting you even though I find myself exhausted after Shabbos, and I’m scared to see what you’ll write in your Shabbos journal, what score we’ll get on our “report card,” especially after my son acts up at Shalosh Seudos in a way that mortifies me.

It’s all worth it to me — and I’ll tell you why.

I do love chatting in English, but I can find other local people to speak English to.

I do love playing Jewish geography and feeling how much closer it brings me to the ones I miss back over the ocean.

I love long meals, schmoozing over cholent about our favorite department stores and ice cream stores back home.

But honestly, I prefer short meals and curling up with my magazine pile for the whole afternoon, so that’s still not the real reason.

Yes, you do take me back to a world I love and miss.

But really, where you take me is back to this world, to this side of the ocean.

It’s the awe in your eyes as you take in this country for the first time, as you gaze at the “only in Israel” view, as you listen to the comment my child makes that reflects an “only in Israel” purity. It’s the way you express your awe, so authentically and so unabashedly (“Ma, it’s AH-MAZING here!”).

The awe in your eyes is a mirror to me, reflecting back the life I’m living, showing me what’s always there, but often blurred out by laundry and bills.

Really, my heart goes out to you, and I often tell my husband how grateful I am that I don’t have to risk rejection on a weekly basis just to have a bed to sleep in and some toasty challah to eat. I don’t envy the phone calls you need to cringe through all week long. (Is this a good week? We found a lunch meal. Of course we’ll bring linen. We forgot to get your address. We got off at the wrong bus stop….)

I know you miss spending Shabbos digging your toes into your parents’ thick carpet. Thank you for coming anyway. And I don’t just mean for coming to my house. Thank you for coming to this country.

Because when I see you, it makes me want to look at my home and life through your eyes. To thank Hashem I’m no longer one of you, that I’m already deep into the process of becoming the person I dreamed of being when I was you.

You remind me not only of who I was, but who I am and why I am.

Thank you,

The Young Mother Who Hosts You (and sometimes doesn't)


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 792)

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