So there I was, reciting Kiddush in a woman’s apartment on a Friday night, a woman I’d known for all of 10 minutes. Just the two of us, making Shabbat.
First, understand this: one of the blessings of my aliyah has been my kehillah. I have no family here. I came alone in my mid-fifties. When I arrived, I knew almost no one in Israel. At times I’ve struggled with loneliness. The people of my kehillah are amazing. I simply never, ever have to spend Shabbat alone. After 15 months, the invitations are still flowing. I am deeply touched by their generosity.
Once in a while I need a Shabbat alone. There’s a catch. Sometimes when I turn down invitations, it turns out that I needed the companionship. Occasionally, when I’ve accepted them, it turns out that I really needed solitude.
One evening after another lovely moment bringing in Shabbat with my kehillah, I headed home alone. Earlier in the week, I’d turned down several invitations for Shabbat meals. I needed that solitude. Or so I thought. I was wrong.
Heading up a street through the Jerusalem neighborhood of Baka, I began feeling that sense of loneliness. It was another misjudgment about solitude versus companionship. I hadn’t even planned a particularly nice meal for myself.
Alone, at the top of the street, stood a woman, beautifully dressed for Shabbat. She asked me if I spoke French. I said no. I asked her if she spoke English. She shook her head. So, in Hebrew, she asked me for directions to a nearby street, Emek Refaim. Walking through Baka can be a bit of a maze and I didn’t feel confident enough with my Hebrew to give clear directions. I offered to walk her there.
“No,” she said. “Go be with your family. It’s Shabbat. I’ll find it.” I have no family here, I responded. I told her that I was alone for the evening, that my wife had passed away a few years ago and that I had no Shabbat plans. It would be nice, I said, to have a bit of a walk.
We walked through the streets of Baka. She was a visitor from France, at the time working in London. She had family living in a nearby yishuv, but for her last Shabbat in Israel, she wanted to be in Jerusalem. A friend was allowing her use of a flat in the German Colony.
“Here we are,” I said.
She turned to look at me. I got the sense that she was making up her mind about something. I smiled and said, “Shabbat shalom.”
“I’m also alone,” she said. “My friend was not able to join me tonight. I have plenty of food. Would you like to make Shabbat together?”
So there I was, reciting Kiddush in a woman’s apartment on a Friday night, a woman I’d known for all of 10 minutes. We talked. We laughed. We ate. We sang Shabbat songs. We cleared the dishes. We said Birkat Hamazon. And then… we said good night.
Jerusalem gave me the Shabbat I needed, after all.
Here’s a meditation on how the music around us changes as people move in and out of our lives:
We Are Music
You are music.
Your breath and hands,
Your smile and tears,
Your eyes and pulse,
Are notes that dance
In the space between us.
We are music.
A symphony conducted
By the rhythm of life,
By God’s hand,
By our choices, day-by-day.
Our notes play on,
The sacred sound of living.
Our music waltzes,
Making melodies fresh and new,
Never heard again,
Bass lines that pulse from our hearts
To the Soul of the Universe.
Joy bends sorrow.
Sorrow bends hope.
Hope bends grief.
Grief bends love.
Love bends joy.
The silence is your longing.
The silence is your yearning for a different song.
The music of your own will
Blocks your heart to the harmonies
Already dancing around you,
To the chorus already singing around you.
Oh, you hidden delight of heaven.
Oh, you secret gift of God.
We are music.
We are music.
The music plays
“We Are Music” is © 2013 Alden Solovy and www.tobendlight.com. All rights reserved.