said my guest last Friday night. We were housing some people for a bat mitzvah celebration and one of the couples didn’t remember that we start Shabbos early around here. Actually, they did, but there was a lot of traffic and they were just sitting in the car most of the time, crawling for some more. They had notified their family, but not us. They got here 15 minutes before actual Shabbos, but that was an hour after I lit candles. And I was, for once, ready to go to shul.
I didn’t. I waited for my guests.
That was fine; I read some Nechama Leibowitz on the parashah, and I actually disagreed with her for I think the first time ever. She comes in very strong about how Bilam was so selfish and unworthy as a prophet, as she compares them to the big names of our Jewish prophets and how they were first called upon to prophesize, full of humility and hesitation. But wait a minute! We don’t have any idea how Bilam first got called up to be a prophet; we don’t have any record of his first encounter with G-d; we just have a pre-existing condition of his prophetic/wizard nature. So it’s not fair to say that this was how he started. You could more easily make a case that Bilam was in nature very similar to Eliyahu, who was certainly full of fire and brimstone against them sinners.
But I digress.
My guests arrive, the husband and wife. They were staying overnight. They came with
and I don’t exaggerate
two large suitcases, a backpack, two bags of meat, cooked (that didn’t go upstairs), a sheitel bag (not a box), two bags of books for gifts, a toy train, two satchels of I don’t know what, pillows, and I think there was a partridge somewhere, if I am not mistaken.
Oh, and a hanging garment bag, of course.
Could I help them bring them upstairs? No, it’s fine, we’ll manage.
I helped them. We shlepped back and forth until everything was all set.
“Oh I’ll let you get dressed now”, my guest said at that point.
“Um, I am dressed.”
You see, we believe in comfort over style here in our little shtetl. But these guests would outshine all of us, even if we tried to dress like adults. Yes, they were born in Europe, so let’s say they have that savoir-faire that is native to those of a certain class and doesn’t export to other parts of the world. But oh my! Did she out-do herself! For dinner (which took them another hour to get dressed), she had on a black and gold outfit, with matching headband and oh I wish I had a Shabbos camera for that one. For shul the next morning, she wore a gorgeous muted gold outfit, with an aqua trim on her dress. For the afternoon, she went back to basic black. Mind you, she was dressed more elegantly when she arrived than I was only to change momentarily.
But that moment, to me, is better spent learning Nechama, even if I disagree with her, because really, that’s what my Shabbos is about.
I dressed up for Shabbos morning. No need not to try a little to impress, or to do a little tikkun.