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one night

By , Flushing, NY
Everyone has that one experience in life that changed them for the better and for me it was a cold, snowy Friday evening and the sun has just set in East Brunswick, New Jersey. I’m in the Hilton hotel for my very first shabbaton; a weekend retreat that celebrates Shabbat a day of rest which means no electricity!

The women of the shabbaton were invited to the candle lighting where I said my first prayer of lights and my two candles added more light to the 300 lit candles in the café of the Hilton hotel. It was my first candle lighting and after saying the prayer I had that feeling one gets when they’ve done something so small yet felt so big. I know it sounds cheesy but that’s the truth. A woman hugged me and said, “Shabbat shalom,” which means good shabbos and is usually said to others when welcoming Shabbat.

The evening was followed by the Shabbat meal in the grand dining hall where I was seated with Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein and his wife and their five children. I remember how astonished I was by what I saw in the room that was filled with about 100 beautifully decorated tables. The room was crowded with about 300 Jews from all parts of the world consisting of Ethiopian Jews, Canadian Jews and Chinese Jews. I’ve never seen so many people come together for one night of celebration.

The Rabbi began our meal by saying a blessing over a cup of wine and then we proceeded by washing our hands for bread which is customary before eating the Shabbat meal. As I ate the traditional fish meal that was served to us, I observed the room around me and listened to the conversations about Shabbat and the stories of our ancestors. Usually at the dinner table my father would bring in the laptop and we would watch that night’s news.
After the third meal was done, we said another prayer to thank g-d for the meal we had whereas normally back home I would turn on the television after the meal was over.
The Shabbat meal was followed by a lecture about the choices we make in life and why it’s important to dress modestly for women. The speaker was the same woman I sat with for the Shabbat meal and I would have never guessed her life story by looking at her today. She described to the audience how difficult it was growing up and that she had no opportunity to keep Shabbat when she was young. Her story brought me tears as well as many others in the room. I remembered thinking back to how I made so many excuses as to how hard it was to keep Shabbat and how I would never be able to go through with it. All of a sudden those excuses didn’t matter anymore.

The next evening Shabbat came to an end with a candle and wine ceremony called Havdalah. Back home when Shabbat was over I always felt relieved, but after that Friday night, I didn’t want it to end.
Seven months later it’s Friday night in New York and I’m lighting the candles with mother and reciting the same prayer I did that night in the shabbaton. My families Shabbat is now welcomed with candle lighting and comes to an end with Havdalah.
My perspective on life has changed and I’ve found my place to grow and be inspired. If I never went to that shabbaton seven months ago, I would’ve seen myself in a completely different environment ten years from now. Experiences have the power to shape us and as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr once said, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”





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Inna G. said...
Sept. 2, 2011 at 1:30 pm

I'd really appreciate some comments. 

thank you :)

 
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