I always look forward to the Sabbath – it is a respite, an oasis of calm in an otherwise hectic life. It is a time for family, good food, rest, and learning. I truly love the Sabbath day. However, this past Sabbath was particularly special. It was one of those times where we get reminded of the good that we have.
This past Sabbath, the synagogue I attend hosted an event which brings together 8th grade students from a local day school and members (along with their advisors) of an organization, Yachad, that works with disabled people. The disabilities could be physical or mental and differ in terms of severity. The purpose of the retreat seems to be to give parents of the disabled children some assistance and even more importantly to give the kids a chance to socialize with others while the day school students are inculcated with an understanding and appreciation for those with challenges.
My family and I hosted a Yachad member and his advisor. A few moments before the Sabbath began, a short 13-year-old boy with some sort of mental challenges and his advisor, a soft spoken college student came into our home. After quick introductions, the two – boy and advisor – proceeded to ready for the Sabbath. The boy had a propensity for kissing and did it almost indiscriminately. In fact, the advisor said, “Sometimes he just kisses people. I’ll try and control him, but it is probably going to happen.” I reassured him that it was fine. We could deal with affection just fine, thank you.
In the approximately 15 minutes from the time the boy and his advisor arrived till we drove to Synagogue, my 8-year-old came up the stairs and said “the boy keeps kissing me. He really likes me. I think he loves me.” My 5-year-old actually shared his trains and any other toy that the boy was interested in playing with. The boy’s displays of affection and interest in my younger son’s toys had not bothered my children at all. I could not have been prouder.
Our close contact with the guests was limited as over the next 25 hours or so, they spent most of their time at the synagogue as part of the retreat. They had meals, singing, and dancing together with the 8th graders. However, during the limited time I did have some opportunities to observe and speak to the advisor. The explained that he knew the boy as he had served as his advisor at a summer camp specifically for the Yachad kids. His patience and diligence served him well and the bond between the two was clear. The advisor who was exhausted by the end of Sabbath mentioned how he would like to go into Social Work. He clearly has the temperament and makeup for this type of work. I tried talking to the boy but had limited success. One thing, however, was clear – he enjoyed himself immensely.
So, this Sabbath was special for all the usual reasons and for many more. The special feelings generated during prayer were palpable. The willingness and desire for everyone to be united together — the Yachad — was touching for us all.