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Isn't it pretty?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Transcending Language

This past Shabbos was such an experience. I spent Shabbos with my friend and her family in Queens. First off, I have been to Queens exactly once in my life, and it was almost seven years ago, for one night. So I was definitely not sure what to expect. What I found of Queens was that it really was nice - it was residential, and pretty and quite unlike Manhattan. I decided I would be able to drive there, and hang out there without feeling the pressure of the city - the only problem would be getting there, since I have not yet shaken my fear of driving through Manhattan. The friend whose family I was staying with is someone that I met in Baltimore, and I had never met any members of her family before. I knew my friend was Sephardi; what I didn't know was that her family spoke, almost exclusively, Hebrew. And guess whose Hebrew isn't very good at all? Oh yeah, mine. In addition to my friend's parents and siblings being there, who probably would have spoken English to me on a more regular basis, my friend's two aunts and grandparents (who didn't speak English at all) were there for Shabbos. I had thought my Hebrew was decent enough that I would be able to pick up a few words here and there, maybe have some clue about what people were saying. Not really. But as much as I would have expected to feel completely out of place and uncomfortable in such a setting, I didn't. Because the hospitality, warmth and friendliness that exuded from my friend and her family transcended the language barrier. I felt at home there, even though I had only met my friend's family that day. It was just the little things that made such a difference and exemplified this family's hospitality. The fact that my friend's grandmother, having no idea who I was, came up and gave me a hug and kiss on the cheek and wished me a "shabbat shalom." The act that almost moved me to tears was when my friend's father gave me a bracha, in English, after he had give each of his children one. That is always the point in Shabbos where I feel the most left out, and he made me feel a part of the family. I've only experienced that once before. So even though I couldn't take part in the conversation, I really felt a part of the group anyway. The warm feeling that hovered above the table encompassed me as well. I wasn't surprised to find this hospitality, because my friend herself is a wonderful person and always takes care of her guests and makes you feel at home. She apologized to me several times, but she didn't need to - I was made to feel at home like I haven't been in many places where I could speak the language.

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