We were moving into our current apartment more than six years ago. A Rabi from the Orthodox Hasidic Jewish community passed by our door just as our furniture was being delivered. He popped his head in, offered help and walked away with a big warm smile.
A few weeks later, as I was coming back from work I was greeted by my neighbor, who also happened to be the Rabi’s wife. She asked me if I would be okay to go into their apartment and turn off the cooking range. Being the first time I was amused. Then I made an effort to get to know more about the ways of the Orthodox Jewish community. I read about Shabbat and made sense of the request my neighbor made of me.
Over the last 6 years, we have watched their family grow from 3 children to 7 and I have been asked to turn off the cooking range on countless occasions. More importantly we have become friends during this time. We have spent time chatting with them, exchanging our thoughts on life, religion, politics, travel, our families. They have prayed for us, visited us in the hospital, sent us food. As we have got to know them over the years the fact that they are very different from us in the way they live, practice their religion, raise their children, dress, eat has stopped being a though worth considering.
Last Friday we were invited to our first Shabbat dinner. I don’t know what prompted the invitation. Is it because we are going to move soon, or because we lost our second baby? Whatever their reason might be, we felt like we were with friends. As they navigated us through their rituals my husband and I wondered why didn’t we do this earlier? We have already shared so much over the last 6 years so why did we not share a meal before?
We spent a good two plus hours chatting to our hearts content, eating a sumptuous meal, listening to their children. As we said our good byes, I wondered if we had just said good bye to a family that had become our closest friends.