A thought occurred to me this Shabbat as I sat on the couch reading ‘The Glass Castle,’ wearing my ‘Little Miss Chatterbox pajamas,’ pausing intermittently to play some kind of a version of ‘Go Fish’ with my three-year-old. At this scene I started thinking, there are so many different types of family – even under the umbrella of modern orthodox living in Efrat – ‘settler-lite’ as my husband likes to call it. One is not necessarily better or worse than the other, they’re just different and it is those differences that make our world go round.
For many of my dating years, I had a goal. I wanted to marry a ‘good Gush guy.’ I had even created an image in my head of how he would look: somewhat yeshivish, short dark hair, tall, white shirt, jeans, kippa sruga purposely slanting to one side and maybe even a pair of little metal-framed glasses. I kept looking for that, trying to dress and act the part to make it happen. But one day, as I stood waiting at the end of my street in Jerusalem for the 31 bus to take me to work, my long denim skirt flowing in the wind (which was probably dust actually, come to think of it), I suddenly smiled. I realized that I actually never was going to marry that type of guy because I simply didn’t strive to be that kind of girl – at least, not really, not deep down.
And so, the very next day I went into town to buy my first pair of jeans in a long time. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t like I was suddenly going to be dressing immodestly. Indeed, the jeans I found and wore for many years (and still wear today), were big, black, baggy, hipster, gang-style X-boy jeans. And while they weren’t in keeping with the prohibition against “begged ish” (although that’s a discussion for another time), they were certainly not seductively showing off any part of my body either.
That evening I had a conversation with a very good, wise friend of mine. “Emma,” she said, “just because you may not be ‘marriage material’ to one type of guy, doesn’t mean you’re not marriage material bichlal. It just means you’re not going to live in a house with yellow curtains.” That image stuck with me for a long time and last night, as I set the Shabbat table for my beautiful, blessed family, using the challah-cover my son made in gan, and inviting a new friend into our home, I knew that I actually did have yellow curtains.
You see, what I realized over Shabbat (and I guess has been an evolving thought for some time now), was that my friend Gila wasn’t talking about yellow curtains per se, but the concept in a philosophical way. What she meant was, everyone has their own way of making a marriage, a family, a home, and just because one type of person/lifestyle isn’t for you, doesn’t mean you won’t be zocheh to build a true bayit ne’eman b’yisrael.
As I sat there last night and today, honouring Shabbat the way we have chosen to do within the confines of halacha, I realized more than ever that finding your own yellow curtains is almost a commandment. Indeed, in parshat Beshalach, it talks about the shira. The pasuk begins “Uz Yashir Moshe Uvenei Yisrael,” meaning “and so Moses and Benei Yisrael sang.” I firmly believe that this comes to tell us that yes we are a part of one community – the Jewish people – but everyone must find their very own way of singing the song and hanging up their own yellow curtains.
You don’t get there overnight. And we haven’t either. But we’re on the way I believe. And I hope and pray that Hashem gives us the opportunity to continue this work-in-progress and that my family (my incredible husband, cute dog, fantastic boys and fascinating 5 tortoises that live in our garden eating from our very Israeli olive-tree) finds its own special way to thrive.