It was a beautiful Friday night and I was in Hillel, enjoying a wonderful shabbat dinner. I believe this was the night I went over to this pair of people standing alone by the front door and welcomed them in. In turns out they were brother and sister visiting Penn, who were originally from Colombia – where my grandmother is from! The guy had been in Israel for the past few years and while not religious, they decided to stop by Hillel for a taste of Shabbat. I had them come and sit with me and we had a marvelous time. As I was getting ready to head out, a friend slipped a bottle of Kedem wine into my pocket, presumably as some sort or playful joke. I don’t remember if I forgot about it or decided to play along, but I soon found myself walking outside with a bottle of wine sticking out of my pocket. My first stop was a friend’s apartment, where he was hosting a meal for some of the kids from his Hebrew class (more about these Shabbat Dinners later, be”H). I made it for the tail-end, just in time to meet some of the new faces and get some leftover dessert. After a while, I exited his apartment as well, this time with two friends in tow and the aforementioned leftover desserts in my hands – a bag of cinnamon rugelach and a chocolate bobka. We next headed over to Chabad, for any post-meal words of wisdom or inspiration the Chabad rabbi would have to share with us. He didn’t let us down – we stayed there for a bit, exchanging ideas, sharing l’chaims and meeting the eclectic bunch of new faces that had congregated there. After our fair share of physical and spiritual sustenance, we finally left and headed back towards our dorm building.
But the excitements wasn’t about to end just yet…
On the 5-minute walk home, there were streams of people traversing the streets, going to and from various parties of the non-Shabbat variety. One particular group of guys coming towards us caught my eye, as there were 3 guys walking and one of them being pushed in a shopping cart. Not wanting to start any trouble, we kinduv ignored them as they passed, fearing they were intoxicated to the point of belligerent behavior. It was then much to our surprise when they greeted us with a jovial “Shabbat Shalom!” as they passed! So of course, we turned to them with greeting of Shabbat Shalom in return and after introducing ourselves (they all had clearly Jewish names), we started speaking. One of them asked if we had chocolate bobka – and I answered that while we couldn’t offer them that, we did have chocolate rugelach and a sumptuous cinnamon bobka. After their affirmative responses, we passed out the desserts and ate them together. One of them then proceeded to ask if we had any Manischewitz wine! Much to their surprise, I pulled out the bottle of Kedem from my pocket and offered it to them. Much to all of our chagrin, we didn’t have any cups and couldn’t share Kiddush with them.
As we stood there, some woman who was clearly intoxicated walked by, yelling behind her at someone. Just as she passed us, she turned to us and started yelling at us. She said we had yelled something at her, but I think she was just jealous or of oneg Shabbat. Luckily, before she could spray us with her mace like she had threatened, some policeman showed up and she ran away. When we were explaining to the police what had happened and her intoxicated state, I could see them eyeing the bag of rugelach, and they gladly accepted our tasty offer as well.
As the policemen went on their way, the four guys said they had to get going as well, and started to leave. Interestingly, of of the guys, who supposedly is a famous DJ on campus, stayed around for a few minutes. It seemed like he just wanted to stay and chat with us, which we did until his friends pulled him along. Then, as they were all leaving, another two guys passed us by and, noting our Jewish attire and maybe seeing that we had been giving out something, asked us if we had any kugel. While we unfortunately couldn’t fulfill their desires, we did offer them some rugelach and told them that they could get some good noodle kugel next week every Friday night at Hillel. With that, we finally made our way back to our rooms and, after a quick tisch, called it a night.
Some lessons learned:
- Carry around rugelach and/or bobka on Friday night
- Carry around Kedem/Manischewitz (I prefer kedem) wine on Friday night
- …and don’t forget kiddish cups
- When people say “Shabbat Shalom” to you, even as a joke, they often mean it, and would love if you stopped and spoke to them for a while. Btw, according to some opinions, simply saying “Shabbat Shalom” is enough to accept upon one’s self the sanctity of Shabbat.
- If you really want to make kiddush for people, they’ll find you. Although sometimes you have to go walking around outside so they can find you. And sometimes you have to go to their door so they can find you. But it’s them finding you.
- Sharing the gift of Shabbat with people is one the greatest gifts you can give them. People are hungry for it – and not just for its rugelach, wine, or kugel (although those mediums can help too).