I love having NCSY alumni visit my home for Shabbat. I love even more hearing from others who visit the home of an alum for Shabbat. But the ultimate pleasure is when I actually get to be a guest in an NCSY home. Now, having 6 kids (thank G-d) and a pretty busy schedule, this does not happen often but when it does, WOW – what a pleasure!!!
Well, this summer I visited Israel and spent a Shabbat with family, a Shabbat with a few Birthright groups and then because I extended my trip for a friends daughter's wedding I had an extra Shabbat. So, I invited myself over to the Berman's in Givat Zev. I knew ahead of time that it would be an awesome Shabbat as I have known Avi for years and there is nothing he does half way, and boy was I correct!
We started off Friday night at his parents who live “next door.” His parents and many sisters and their families are as varied as they are fascinating and warm. It's not hard to see where Avi gets his charm from or his character but to find out from which parent comes which, you'll need to go for Shabbat yourself ;)
Avi's wife Pnina is a master juggler, chef and an emergency room nurse in the delivery ward. The entire household is run like clockwork and you would never guess!
The most moving part of Shabbat that I want to share is however not any of the above and not the great food (or Scott and Deena Shulman's company who joined me at the Bermans). The best part were the Berman children – the six boys and princess Sophia. The Berman children are normal in almost every way. They are playing ball Erev Shabbat, fooling around with each other and trying to get extra candy. Watching them play with each other and care about each other was above normal. Listening to them sing zemiros (Shabbat songs) together at the table in harmony and taking turns singing solos was sublime.
My favorite part of Shabbat was Shabbat afternoon father son learning. The Berman boys each adopted a guest or relative or someone just passing by (just kidding) and asked them to learn with them. Being instantly adopted was an amazing feeling and I enjoyed learning the Mishna in Pirche Avos about the 48 ways to wisdom immensely.
You might be getting the idea that visiting the Berman family for Shabbat is an extremely special experience, and you are right.
HOWEVER, the very same type of experience is available to everyone of us at a NCSY Alum's home near you. If you don't have an invite, invite yourself. You'll be very glad you did!
Have an Awesome Shabbat, Rabbi Dave
PS Alumni of Birthright are invited to my house in Passaic August 19-20 so just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to come!