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Table Talk

My very special and rare solo guest


rav's Shabbos table is often comprised of an eclectic crowd.

Singles, divorcées, and people who’d otherwise be left in the cold are our precious table companions.

My children learned from an early age never to ask questions when guests showed up unexpectedly. They knew, instinctively, never to inquire why a husband is knocking on our door mid-meal needing warm cholent. They knew never to ask, “Where are your kids?” if a mother showed up without her children.

My children had the routine down to a science.

Seamlessly, without my wife saying a word, the children automatically switched gears into “guest-mode” whenever a surprise caller knocked.

One child covertly went to fetch a plate, another surreptitiously scampered for silverware, a third clandestinely brought a chair. In a matter of seconds, the guest was seated and the conversation continued uninterrupted as if we we’d all been sitting and schmoozing for hours.

My children rarely have a family-only Shabbos meal, and our seudos are often interrupted by someone’s cholent that was moved off the blech, or for a shalom bayis dilemma that has to be dealt with now.

My children appreciate the fact that one of the perks of being the progenies of the rabbi is a guaranteed animated and spirited — never humdrum or tedious — Shabbos meal.

They have even acquired the talent of being able to tune out when a barrage of incredulously expressed insults erupts, in an occasional squabble between a couple.

We all appreciate the opportunity of hosting the “unhostables” and to cherish those who have no one else to make them feel cherished.

Surprisingly, in the dead of winter, I had the privilege to host a very special and rare solo guest.

My son in Eretz Yisrael was blessed with the birth of a baby boy.

My oldest daughter had already long before planned a trip to be there.

And as the baby was born on Sunday, my wife decided to spend Shabbos in Yerushalayim and be present for the bris.

This meant that for Shabbos Parshas Vayechi, I would be home with only my youngest daughter, Aviva, a rare and privileged occurrence.

While others would take advantage of their solo Shabbos to sleep and rest, I straightaway realized the unique and precious opportunity Hashem had blessed me with. I kept my wife’s trip hush-hush, as I knew if word got out that I was “alone” with “only” my daughter, the invitations would arrive incessantly. My wife flew out Wednesday night, and as Thursday was Asarah B’Teves, the town was quiet and sedate.

Friday arrived. Because of the bitter cold temperatures, people stayed in and had little desire to go out and schmooze, so few even realized my wife wasn’t in the country. Only after I made sure there were no stragglers left in shul on Friday night and the coast was clear did I actually begin to believe I was about to pull off something special and extraordinary.

I was about to experience an almost unimaginable delightful pleasure; I was going to spend Shabbos alone and exclusively with my daughter.

The palpable euphoria of being able to bond, connect, and totally and singularly focus the Shabbos meal on my daughter was absolute bliss, a rare opportunity to truly appreciate each other without any distractions or disruptions.

We were able to laugh and schmooze; I was able to be just Tatty and not Rabbi Eisenman, and she was able to be Aviva, Ta’s buddy and not “the rabbi’s daughter.”

As my family in Yerushalayim was celebrating 6,000 miles away, I was savoring and relishing the special relationship that exists between father and daughter.

Only Hashem in His kindness could orchestrate this heavenly experience. It will endure as a memorable Shabbos etched upon my heart forever.

 (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 703)


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