Everything really does exist on the internet. This week’s discovery is Shabbat.com.
On this site, you can sign up, create a profile for yourself as either a potential host or guest, and seek out other people who are also looking to share in some local company for the holiday of Shabbat.
Also, there’s a dating option? Huh. And that’s about all I have to say about that.
So, a site where you offer yourself as a host or guest (or potential date, I guess) to complete strangers. There’s no way this thing actually works, I thought to myself, especially in a small city like Ashdod. How many people know that this site even exists, and then would really invite strangers into their home for a Shabbat meal?
Well, I was right about one thing: there are not many hosts currently signed up in Ashdod – about three total, and just a handful more, over in places like Ashkelon (which is a bit too far, when no public transportation is running). Yet, I had no other plans in Ashdod, so I decided to give it a shot. On Thursday morning, I sent out a message to one of the hosts that was still listed as “available for hosting.” She had listed herself as part of The Shabbos Project, which I recommend that everyone check out. I didn’t even know until then that this particular Shabbos was to be such a special and global celebration, but it made me hope even more so that someone might respond…
And it turns out that last minute wishes do come true! A very kind woman, Michal, invited me and and my friend Todd over to her home for a Shabbat dinner with her family.
We arrived by bike just in time for candle lighting, after which Michal’s husband and father left for Shul. Todd and I then had a long time before the meal to get to chat with Michal and her mother, who are both native English speakers. They were so excited that we had come, as Michal had only registered for Shabbat.com recently, and had been checking every day for any guest requests, to no avail. It was “that one last look” that her mother took on Thursdsay, to see if “just maybe” someone had written back, so they were very excited to see my message. They couldn’t stop thanking us for being their guests! It was so funny. Michal’s mother is also a teacher, so we had a lot to share with each other. Michal has four kids, ages 2,4,6, and 8… the youngest ones were all so active! They were all very sweet and funny, too, if a little shy with us at times. Which is understandable, since we were speaking mostly in English, though they did open up to us as the night went on. They presented me with some of their drawings and work from school, which was very special to see.
The meal started a while later, when the men returned, and we ate amazing food. Michal’s mother had baked a delicious eggless challah, and Michal had color-coded the salad plates to show me which ones I could eat, all of which was above and beyond. Todd and I stayed for the entirety of the meal, and shared in some interesting and engaging conversation with Michal’s family (the grandfather was also very funny, and had a lot to share with us). It was a more intimate and spiritual experience to dine in their apartment, witnessing the prayers and taking part in the meal’s rituals (like hand washing). Definitely very different from the casual dinners I’ve had with friends in Tel Aviv, and in Ashdod with my flatmates.
So, for those of you reading this, I hope that some of you feel inspired to at least check out Shabbat.com and/or TheShabbosProject.org, and to consider signing up as a guest or a host in your area. Hey, it worked for me, and I think it’s a really cool thing to participate in and a great way to meet new people. Even if (or especially if) you have little knowledge or experience with Shabbat, it’s a very special thing to try.