| Personal Accounts |

Seventh-Day Wonder

A cottage near a pig farm. Disney’s magic kingdom An accidental family reunion. Wherever we are, whoever we’re with... on the seventh day we rest. Nine tales of Shabbos spent in unexpected spots



Just Us

Shoshana Itzkowitz

Post-Succos bein hazmanim, 5759/1999.

Still practically a newlywed couple ourselves, we’d just hosted dozens of displaced American expats and their roommates, cousins, brothers, and friends over the month prior.

It was time to go someplace for Shabbos that would allow the Mrs. to sleep in, not cook, not serve, not clean up, and the Mr. to just sit at a quiet table for two, not host, socialize, ask anyone where they were from or where they were learning… in short, we wanted to get as far away from civilization as we could.

I called Pyramid Tours, a company that specializes in great deals around Israel, and asked where we could go that would ensure plenty of peace, quiet, and R&R.

After weighing the pros and cons of three different options, we finally chose the most remote hotel Pyramid suggested. It was a southern locale I’d never been to, and my husband, social butterfly that he is (sooo not), was happy that he was guaranteed to know nobody: This Israeli no-man’s-land was the farthest thing from a typical American getaway destination.

Hubby was bouncing our carry-ons (that’s what we called small suitcases and oversized handbags pre-4WD wheelie days) down to the lobby of our building when the phone rang. I grabbed it. It was my sister Yehudis, also newly married, and living a bus ride away.

“Can’t schmooze,” I panted, grabbing my sheitel box and keys. “Gotta make this bus, we’re on our way to nowhere for Shabbos.”

“Okay, I’ll make it quick. Just want to know if you have a cooler I could borrow. We’re going away and there’s no food till Shabbos — we gotta bring our own. You have one?”

“Yeah, but we’re actually using it; we also have to bring food.”

“Oh, well. Have a great time! Where you guys headed? We didn’t have many options — I just called Pyramid and told them to book us at the cheapest place they had available.”

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 655)


In the Land of the Rising Sun

Ahava Ehrenpreis

What happens when your husband is a world-renowned mathematician who is invited to Kyoto, Japan, for the annual conference of the International Congress of Mathematicians?

You pack up four children, six suitcases, five boxes of food — and fly off to the other side of the world. Those family members who preferred knowing that there would be regular sources of kosher dairy, meat, and just about anything processed, opted for camp in the Catskills (definitely the safer choice for the kosher traveler). But my children, ages four, seven, twelve, and fifteen, knew they were in for an interesting and exciting trip.

I bet you think the challenge was preparing the food. Guess again. The challenge was finding out when Shabbos tranquility was going to descend on our little apartment (everything in Japan is scaled down), just off the campus of the Institute of Mathematics at Kyoto University.

Friday night, you may say, the obvious answer — unless you’ve heard of the international date line. Located halfway around the world from the prime meridian (0° longitude), the international date line is the point demarcating one day from the next. To its east, you add a day; to its west, you subtract one.

Discussions about the international date line appear throughout modern halachic literature, most famously during the World War II years when the Mirrer Yeshivah and other European Jews escaped to Kobe, Japan (and from there to Shanghai). Many prestigious poskim have dealt with the question throughout the past generations, among them Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky and the Chazon Ish. The question of whether the international date line accords with halachah is limited (baruch Hashem!) to specific geographical areas, among them Alaska, Hawaii, Pago Pago, New Zealand, and, you guessed it, Japan.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 655)



As told to Barbara Bensoussan

“I’m sorry,” the shadchan said. “She says her mind is made up. She doesn’t feel the two of you are the right fit.”

Not the right fit? How could she say that? I thought we’d been getting along great! How else could we have gotten to five dates?

I’d really thought there was potential. Oh, well. The iron curtain had slammed down. You can’t bully a girl into continuing a shidduch when she says an adamant no.

Just as I felt myself sinking into an abyss of crushed hopes, my older sister called. “How’s it going, Yanky*?” she chirped.

She was breathlessly waiting for good news, ideally that my shidduch would be sewn up in another two dates.

“Not good news,” I managed to mumble. “She called it off.”

“What?” Shaina was beside herself. “How could she do that?”

“Yeah, well, she did,” I said. “Can I talk to you later? I’m not in the mood for conversation right now.” I hung up with the small comfort of knowing someone else would be stewing about this just as much as I would.

Shaina’s one of those married people who believe everyone should be married. And she is nothing if not proactive. She called me two days later. “Listen, Yanky, when you fall off the horse, you have to get right back on it,” she said. “I just saw an ad for a singles shabbaton in the country. I signed you up for it, okay? It’s on me.”

I argued valiantly, saying the very last thing I wanted to do that Shabbos was schlep to the Catskills, but Shaina wouldn’t take no for an answer. So Friday morning found me packing a wheelie and putting gas in my car.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 655)


Paradise Lost

Faigy Peritzman

Rule #1: Never believe advertisements.

I don’t know what possessed me to ignore Rule #1, but the graphics must’ve have been very good.

I stared at the picture of a rustic log cabin nestled amid green fertile hills, gentle lambs grazing off in the distance. Spend Shabbos in our Pastoral Paradise! The words leaped out at me.

Pastoral Paradise. Doesn’t that sound poetic? Swept up in the fantasy of Shabbos in an Alps atmosphere, I forgot the logic of Rule #1: Advertisers do not have your best interests in mind. Instead, I naively made a reservation and psyched up my family for 24 hours of Peritzman Paradise.

It should’ve been the goat that gave me my first clue. The goat that stuck its huge bleating head right into my open window. This goat was not grazing far-off in some pastoral pasture. It was right there, bumping its horns against the side of our car and smelling… well… not of paradise.

“Looookie! A goatie!” My three-year-old was not fazed by the fragrance of this overly friendly face, whose goatee was threatening to graze my chin.

“Here’s the turnoff,” my husband gestured to the goat. “I kid you not.” The junior division found this pun hilarious. Personally, the humor was getting my goat.

“I think it’s a ram,” supplied my know-it-all son.

“He’ll ram us for sure!” shrieked his worrywart brother.

I held my breath (for many reasons) as my husband maneuvered the car carefully around the goat. We bumped a few feet on a graveled path and then came to an abrupt stop. Ahead of us was… a parading petting zoo? Barnum and Bailey’s Barn?

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 655)


A Shabbos Surprise

Millie Samson

The phone rang yet again. “Mum — you do know that it’s Daddy’s 70th birthday this year?”

A 70th birthday is special. A 70th birthday during Pesach is unforgettable and called for imagination.

How do you gather together children, most with families of their own, living miles apart, for Pesach? We had a small house. Months ago, a succession of our Israeli contingent had already booked in, and we had juggled rooms to accommodate them all. We were beyond full. I toyed with the idea of erecting tents in the garden. But even if I managed to find places for the others to stay, there was still no way we could fit everyone in for meals.

Our daughter in Gateshead came up with the perfect solution. “Let’s all go away Shabbos Hagadol. We’ll find a house big enough for everyone and easy to reach.  A house with a kitchen. There’ll still be a whole week before Pesach!”

In my eagerness, that week seemed like a gift of time.

Several places in the Peak District, right in the center of England, looked promising. The first seemed ideal until I read the reviews: “dirty kitchen, broken beds.”

The second had a mezzanine floor — not so compatible with our bevy of young children.

The third, Pear Tree Farm, nestled in luscious countryside, with a huge stainless-steel catering kitchen and bedrooms of every size, seemed perfect. Using subterfuge to ensure my husband knew nothing, I booked it and sent all the paperwork to Gateshead.

“Don’t worry, Mum, I’ll sort everything out!” our daughter reassured me. And she did — with military precision, designating me second-in-command, producing lists for everything we would need, and allocating tasks.

Everyone was galvanized in “Operation 70.”

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 655)


Caught in Time

Avigail Rabinowitz

We were in shanah rishonah, and wanted to make the most of our very first vacation together. But we were close to broke, and if we wanted to make our time in Yerushalayim last, which we did, we had to be really careful with our spending.

Not one to be easily deterred, I was determined to make this work, even if we had to pitch a tent on a Bedouin mountain.

I called a well-advertised agency that dealt with hotels and car rentals and promised rock-bottom prices, and asked for the absolute cheapest mehadrin hotel arrangements in the country, no matter where. It was in the days between the two intifadas, and they gave me a great price on a hotel in Neve Dekalim in Gush Katif.

“If you’re interested,” added the woman in a Hebrew-accented English, “no dinner Thursday night, no breakfast Friday, and I give you Thursday night for next to nothing.”

Yes — Hashem loved us! Doing a mental fist pump, I grabbed the offer. Sold to the kollel couple for a song and a dance!

We set out that Thursday, taking an Egged bus to a bus to another bus… which unexpectedly stopped in the middle of a desert. The driver instructed us to get off and wait for the connecting bus to Gaza, explaining that this was as far as unarmored vehicles traveled.

There we stood, surrounded by suitcases, wheelies, overnight bags, a cooler, sheitel box, and my husband’s omnipresent guitar. Had there not been a few mitnachalim and a couple of soldiers with us, the scene would have been all the more surreal.

It being a decade before “selfie” became a word, I embarrassed my husband and asked a friendly looking chayal to take a picture of us for posterity. That is how I know I didn’t dream this. We stood in the baking desert sun, drinking liters of water, until an armored old hunk of a bus pulled up and transported us to the hotel.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 655)


A Lemon Tree and a Jasmine Bush

Esther S. Leshkowitz

This was the trip we had been planning since our sheva brachos.

We were going to fly to California to take a road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The only thing we needed was a place to spend Shabbos. My friend Orly lives in L.A., and she was always inviting us to visit.

I got to know Orly when she stayed at my parents’ house while she was waiting for her parents to leave Iran. She was able to get out in 1996, when she flew to Austria and applied to the International Organization for Migration as a refugee. Her parents and sisters were less lucky. In 1998, they tried leaving. They were sitting on the plane, seatbelts fastened, when soldiers boarded and escorted them off. Their passports were confiscated, and they were barred from leaving the country. They finally managed to leave a year and a half later, and then they all moved to Los Angeles.

It had been about 20 years since I last saw Orly, at my sister’s wedding.

“You’re coming Thursday? You must stay with us the entire time you’re in L.A. Call me as soon as you land,” Orly told me.

We did, and drove to her home in Pico-Robertson, where she was waiting to help us with our luggage.

Friday morning, thinking we were getting an early start to the Reagan Library, we went from the guesthouse to the kitchen for a quick breakfast. Any early-bird illusions were shattered as we crossed the threshold. There was too much going on in Orly’s kitchen.Pound cake and chocolate chip cookies adorned the counter. Challah, painted with egg, waited to bake. I eyed a side of salmon brushed with green herbs.

I couldn’t quite place the scent in the air. A mix of paprika, turmeric, dried parsley, dried mint, and dried basil, I learned.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 655)


Unexpected Hosts

Devorah Grant

“We’re going on a shabbaton,” my father informed my siblings and me, midweek one June.

It was a kiruv seminar that was to take place in the rolling hills of Norfolk, England, and although we weren’t in need of kiruv, the organizer liked my dad and invited us along. Over the next couple of days, we enthused about the classy hotel with expansive, sweeping grounds, and while packing we imagined the beautiful, spacious rooms.

Finally, with our huge green car filled both in and out (roof-rack attached, of course), we were off. It was a long, tiring drive with too many Haribos and a lengthy playlist where Uncle Moishy, Shwekey, and Avraham Fried vied for attention in sometimes alarming frequency. We were a hot and bedraggled bunch when we piled out of the car outside the hotel, staring in wonder at the sheer amount of space around it.

The receptionists seemed busy when we arrived, what with 200 guests to settle, kids knocking over ornaments, and a general atmosphere of chaos. But eventually we found someone to ask about our rooms… which unfortunately didn’t exist, or not in that particular hotel anyway.

It appeared that the shabbaton had become overbooked at the last minute and since we weren’t exactly the intended audience, we’d been provided a cottage a short distance away. For us kids this was a blow — the fun was happening at the hotel! And my parents, well, they were slightly frazzled at the prospect of having to try to find another countryside address with only a gargantuan map to help them. But with little choice in the matter, back into the car we went, and we drove off to find our lodgings.

The cottage (when found), was a lovely, quaint little place with a winding wooden staircase and a fireplace in each room. It was also outside techum Shabbos,  with the only footpath to the hotel being through a pig farm.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 655)


Light and Magic

Rivka Streicher

We’re not the penciled-in-half-a-year-before type. But this was taking spontaneous far. A weeklong, “fly by the seat of your pants” vacation following a transatlantic Pesach trip to the in-laws. Not recommended.

Itinerary, where, what, when. Who knows?

All we did was book flights. Plattsburgh, New York, to Orlando, Florida. Tickets for $47 per person. A steal.

But why is everyone around us strapped to huge backpacks?

The sign is straight ahead and nonnegotiable: $50 hand luggage, $75 hold luggage.

And we have quite a bit. We’re schlepping our Pesach stuff, for Heaven’s sake. So much for under-$100 travel. Breathe, close eyes. Part of the fun.

In line for security, we book our first night’s hotel. At least we have something to put into Waze when we get out of the airport.

It’s Wednesday. There’s time aplenty till Shabbos. We have a sketchy plan — Wednesday, Thursday in Orlando, drive down to Miami Friday and spend Shabbos there.

We are beguiled by the brilliant heat, everything shimmering. In the colorful haze of the parks, who has headspace for timetables and Shabbos reservations? Who has time to eat properly?

Friday morning, still in Orlando, we arrive at shul, starved. Food’s run out. We’d tried to get kosher food at Winn-Dixie, but, with shelves of matzah and kosher l’Pesach gummy bears, it seems they haven’t realized Pesach is over.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 655)

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