Weekly Chasidic Story #788 (s5773-17 / 18 Tevet 5773)
Just One Shabbat Meal
Unlike others of the group who had to walk up a steep hill, I was directed to a location in the charming Old City of Tsfat right around the corner from the Ascent complex. The family greeted me with warm, smiling faces.
Connection:Weekly Reading–Exodus 2:1 with Rashi‘s explanation
Nadav Cohen and Gil Shushan of Ascent in Tsfat make a great team. Nadav is the author of “Muda’ut Yehudit”(English translation nearly completed), explaining the concepts of Tanya in simple, user-friendly language, chapter by chapter (with more books on the way). When he decided to put the lessons on YouTube, he enlisted the talents of Gili, a veteran actor and comedian, popular in Israeli circles. Nadav is the straight man; he reads his texts with a serious face – but just a few paragraphs at a time. In the intervals Gili takes over, and in highly entertaining fashion dramatizes the lesson.
This past year they decided to take the act on the road, to various locations throughout Israel, and soon that will happen G-d willing. Gili was invited to give a performance in Zichron Yaakov. Nadav, who drove him there, recognized in the audience a man who several times in the past had visited Ascent to participate in a 3-day seminar retreat and Shabbat weekend. Indeed, after the lecture, the man, whose name was Kobi, came up to Nadav.
In a secretive voice, he murmured a request to speak with Nadav privately. The two retreated to a quiet corner in an adjacent, empty room, where the man began to recount events in his life.
He had been married with three children, all under ten years old, when he and his wife decided to part ways. They separated, and then a year later, divorced. A while after that she started becoming mitzvah-observant.
Then, “I also became a bit interested in looking into Judaism. Anyway, my ex and I were sporadically in contact about family matters, and in one of those conversations she recommended to me that I take a tour to Tsfat and spend a Shabbat at Ascent.
“I decided to take her advice, called in a reservation, and journeyed north. I found myself part of a group of 40 Israelis, men and women. There was also a group of IDF soldiers there for the Shabbat experience as part of their officer-training course, and about 20 visitors from abroad, mostly English speakers who didn’t know Hebrew.
“On Friday might Ascent arranged for us to eat the first Shabbat meal with religious families in different locations all over Tsfat. Unlike others of the group who had to walk half an hour, mostly up a steep hill, I was directed to a location in the charming Old City of Tsfat just right around the corner from the Ascent complex. The Peled family greeted me with warm, smiling faces, and then, after but a minute or two of introduction, they all burst into a merry, upbeat version of the “Shalom Aleichem” song, preliminary to the Kiddush of the father [Eyal, an accomplished Torah scholar, and the sometimes electric bass player for a popular Tsfat band -YT].
“Throughout the meal they continued to sing songs composed in honor of Shabbat, interspersed with the father encouraging each child in turn to repeat something about the weekly Torah reading or some other topic they had studied in school that week.
“To tell you the truth, it was the most shocking experience of my life. Here I was, financially successful in a rewarding career, the comptroller for a large firm, and suddenly I felt that I was a failure in life. I said to myself, ‘Thank G-d for this experience! See what your life is lacking; see what your children are missing!’
“That same evening I resolved to make drastic changes. I began to live a religious lifestyle and little by little accepted upon myself more mitzvahs to observe. Then…my ex-wife and I remarried! Today she is a Chabadnik in every detail, I am fully mitzvah-observant, and our children go to Chabad schools.
“See how powerful Shabbat is – from just one Shabbat meal my entire life changed!”
Source: Translated, adapted and expanded by Yerachmiel Tilles from a brief article in the Tsfat-Chabad weekly newsletter (#52), produced by Rabbi Menachem Kratz and from background details supplied by Nadav Cohen.
Connection: Weekly Torah Reading – Exodus 2:1 with Rashi (the parents of Moses divorced and remarried before his conception.)
Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.