This Winter 5778 (2017-2018) we were home hosting Cozy Shabbat only 2 of the 5 weekends. On the first weekend of break we were away in Michigan for a family Bar-Mitzvah road trip, another weekend we spent visiting alumni on Long Island (with a reunion there on Sat night) and one more weekend away (just Raizy and Mendel) visiting Moishe and Mushky in their home in Coral Springs Florida.

So this past weekend (1/19/2018) was our second and last Cozy Shabbat for winter break.

As is our tradition on the smaller Cozy Shabbat weekends over academic break, we “go around the table” at each of the 3 dinner courses asking each student/alumni/guest to share a highlight from their past week, something meaningful, funny, interesting or whatever. It’s just a way to get to know each other and share with one another, in a way that we can’t do the same way on a regular-season larger scale Shabbat dinners.

Among the interesting and beautiful things students shared, these few stand out in particular:

E.S. was visiting with an alumna for Shabbat. He said that the prior Sunday, he was studying “Chayenu” (a Hebrew-English weekly study publication – subscription available at discount for students) with her and while its new to him, and not something he was raised with, he very much enjoyed “getting lost in it”. Indeed, such is an objective for the highest levels of Torah study! Yes, a big objective of study is to apply and internalize and relate to one’s self, but there’s also that noble ideal of “Bittul” surrender, to lose oneself in learning, to become selflessly one with it. 

J.A. said that its a few months now that he’s been trying to keep Shabbat, and one thing he’s realized that he never expected was how much he’d enjoy having his phone off and away for the 24 hours of Shabbat. It’s one of those things you might read, study or hear about, but until you experience it yourself you just don’t see it that way. It shows the power and effect of immersion and experience. Very impressive commitment, and indeed, true – somethings you just can’t explain without personally experiencing it. 

D.C. enjoyed a trip to Israel this winter, her first time back since her Gap Year there, that went beyond the usual birthright track. The trip took them to Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs and  Kever Rachel in Bethlehem. She said, wow, I already know a lot about these places thanks to all I learned about them this Fall with Rabbi Mendel at two Torah Tuesdays! Wow, we love applied learning, and students recall of things we’ve learned is one of the great joys. 

J.S. was studying a legal case in her Albany Law class that is of particular interest to her in the field of entertainment law and creative copyright. After asking her professor about it, she learned that the judge on the case also went to Albany Law and just like J. herself worked for the NYS Assembly Pro Tempora. So J. looked her up, found out that she was now in private practice, and set up a meeting to speak with her! Love the initiative! Seizing the opportunity, making it happen… 

R.F. is doing a thesis paper that dates back to Jewish American (and Albany) history of the 19th century and got a grant from the history department to travel to Cincinnati to look up archives there. So he and a few friends drove the 700 miles out there, on some of the coldest winter days of the year. He got settled into a largely empty building, got to work finding the books and documents he needed, and expected to spend a good 8-10 hours at work. But 3 hours in, a woman approached saying that the water burst or boiler broke and they had to close the building. She asked if he was from the area or how far he traveled to get here, and he said: “I only drove about 700 miles… and all I have is this one day.” She apologized profusely and offered to scan and fax whatever documents needed. But the good thing was that in those first 3 hours he managed to get most of what he needed. This is a valuable lesson in making the most of opportunities, don’t wait around, ’cause those first three hours might be all you get.