We were honored at our shul dinner Saturday night - us, another couple and a single man. The other couple, who do a lot of little things (the sort of things that no one makes a big deal about, but which makes everything run smoother, like making sure things are set up right on the bimah), are moving back to Baltimore in a few months. They only came up here because their youngest son needed to go to a special needs yeshiva that wasn't available where they lived. Morde is finishing the program this year, so they're moving back home.
(My strongest memory of Tzirel is last Yom Kippur. My seat was in front of hers. By the end of the fast, I'd been checking my blood sugar every hour or so, but I'd been doing fine until the last twenty minutes, when I felt dizzy. And she got very worried when I sat down very suddenly at a time when everyone was standing, and was ready, I think, to get Jonathan or one of the medical people davening there, but I recovered. She's very, very kind.)
The single man, who is about to turn 40, is one of the synagogue ba'alei tefillah - amateur cantors. We don't have professional ones. He has a sweet tenor and he knows many tunes, but most importantly - when he's up there, he's not performing. He's praying and taking his job as representative of the community seriously.
And then there is us. Mostly, of course, it's Jonathan. He's on the board, and has been almost since we moved there. He ran the dinner last year, and did the journal for the two previous years. He's run two successful shabbatons (retreats). He's a very visible force for action in the synagogue. Plus, he's also led services.
As for me - I gave a couple of talks, I helped him with the shabbatons and I did the journal last year. Not on the same level, as you can see.
We did not expect to be honored this time - we thought it would be more likely two years hence, with the rabbi being honored in between. Frankly, in terms of service and time there, it was too soon. And we did turn it down. Twice. And then Stu, the president, brought in two big guns. 1. The rabbi thought it was appropriate. 2. Jonathan's father is in his mid-eighties. See, we've been honored before, in a previous shul, in May, 1999. My parents, of course, were there. My father died in October, 1999. It means more than I can say that he was at that dinner. My mother tells me he was very proud of us. And, well. Giving my father-in-law a second chance to shep nachas is very important.
And we have wonderful friends and relatives. Not everyone could come - Saturday night is an awkward time for a dinner - but those who could, did. And many of those who couldn't sent an ad. So we had more guests and more ads - enough for several free seats - than the others. Of course, we also sent invitations far and wide.
Because we had the free seats, we were able to comp a number of friends, which was nice.
And there at our table were Jonathan's parents and brother (his sister-in-law had a class - midwife training is intense), my brother, my mother and her fiancé, and friends of ours whom we haven't seen in five years. We had another table with otherdeb, fringefan, boroparkpyro, zsero and R'Micha Berger. And then there were the ladies.
"The ladies" are the Shabbos afternoon parasha (Torah portion) group. We meet in someone's house every Saturday afternoon and take it in turns to teach. We've become very close, attending each other's simchas. Not only did they come, they also bought a group ad. And they all sat on the same table. One is a member of this shul, and her husband was also there, but Bernie sat at a different table. (As you can see, in our shul, we don't believe in separate seating at simchas, but this was a special case.) This actually made life easier for me - it gave me a place to put my two neighbors and my landlady so they wouldn't have to sit with men. But it was also just wonderful to see them all there.
And then - the rabbi came up and gave his d'var torah, and then talked about the honorees, and while he heaped praise on all of us, what he said about us - how bright we are, how much we know about, well, things, Jonathan's book collection, our learning, our dedication, our *ethics* - it was. Wow. And then Stu, when he introduced us, said about the same thing. In fact, he said he forgot stuff - but he said so much.
Yeah, we felt loved. Although, he said I *ran* the group, which is, of course, not true.
Honorees give speeches. We were introduced in reverse alphabetical order, so we went last. The other couple - she did the talking, reading a lovely speech she'd written. Alan came next, and he also read a short speech. Then it was our turn, and we both spoke. Jonathan insisted that I speak, that I give a d'var because of the ladies and that I go first. So, I gave a short speech (without notes because I'm lazy) about how this week's parasha was about responsibility to the group and each other, after setting the record straight about who ran the group. And thanking everyone, especially the woman who ran the dinner and the woman who did the journal. And then how the other honorees showed this sense and then what we all could do.
And then Jonathan gave his call to arms - we all should work for the shul - we all have something to contribute. He talked about friends of ours who have run major programs because they wanted to. And then he finished by saying some things about me that made me blush.
And then. He sang to me. My husband stood up there and sang the chorus to Duane Elms' "Come My Lady" to me.
I cried. Right there in front of everyone, I cried. And then, decorum be darned, I kissed him. On the cheek, of course, but still.
Now I know why he insisted I go first.
It was a wonderful dinner.
In fact, there was only one sore point, which was the meal itself - they served *me* the last of everyone in the hall. Seriously - instead of getting the quarter I would have wanted or the grilled breast I'd have preferred, I got a slab of fried schnitzel. And a couple of cauliflower and a couple of potatoes (everyone else got carrots and zucchini and rice, too.) Because that's what they had left. We got somewhat upset over that, as you can imagine. I mean, you'd think I'd rate actually having a choice!
They did end up finding more (cold) vegetables for me, but I only managed a part of the dry chicken. Since I'd only eaten half the appetizer, and half the soup - well, fortuantely it was late and I wasn't all that hungry. Given that I had to skip dessert and all.
But that was the least of it. The very least of it. It was a wonderful night we're not going to forget for a long, long time.
Especially on Shabbat, when we use the challah board that we bought with the gift they gave us.