Every couch at Shabbos House has a story: it’s history, associated memories, and particular usefulness.  Let me tell you the story of a couch, let’s call it the “Yom HaShoah Couch”. 

Years ago there was this fine well-designed fabric couch in the library at Chapel House (now Interfaith Center serving UAlbany) that fits snugly into that library space. Then the powers that be at Chapel House decided it was time for a new couch, so Hillel gave it a new home in the Hillel Student Office and Lounge on campus (up in Room 32o). That worked for a while, until Campus Center officials ordered its removal since it didn’t meet commercial fire-retardant codes so the Hillel student board was scrambling to find it a home. After all, this couch still had lots of life in it, and they were eager to hold on to it because it was easy to transport (i.e. schlep) piece by piece onto the Podium for Yom HaShoah’s 24-hour Holocaust Vigil (a long-standing consistent tradition at UAlbany). 

A bigger couch, even a sectional, is hard to schlep. Those couch schleppers every week in the old Shabbos House know their couch-shlepping and how couches vary: by size and bulk, by hard-to-grip, and by weight. But this couch, while nothing is easy, is much easier. It’s basically one seat at a time, so its much more manageable.

So someone at Hillel came up with the idea to give the couch to Shabbos House, to add to the growing and eclectic couch collection in the basement, in order that it be available for that one day a year that Hillel schleps couches onto the Podium for the 24-hour Holocaust Vigil. And so it was – and indeed, this year again, this couch will piece-by-piece make its annual pilgrimage onto the Podium, thanks to the dedication of student volunteers…

One more story from today. I (Mendel) was at the Maimonides School working on a the weekly 4-page newsletter, which ordinarily is a considerable amount of work, but especially challenging this week when we only had two days of school and much less material with which to fill up the 4 pages. It felt like a crawl, didn’t know how I’d finish in time, especially with Shabbos ahead and help needed back at Shabbos House… then I realized I didn’t have my phone. I went out to the car, and found it just as someone was calling… it was an alumni calling from the library at his grad-school. He was behind in his reading, it seemed endless and forever with no end in sight. I was feeling the same! But  I told him some advice that I took to heart as well: Chop down your goal into bite-size pieces. Instead of the hundreds of pages you need to read, think of it in sets of dozens. Each set is a separate accomplishment… make it more within reach! 

Why do I tell these stories of the couch and the alumni phone-call? First of all, it’s good to know your history! Secondly, we’re now in the period between Passover and Shavuot, when Jews count the Omer, one day (or actually, one night) at a time. The transition from slavery to Sinai was a huge unimaginable jump and needed proper emotional, mental and spiritual preparation to get there. Such drastic change may feel daunting or overwhelming, so the Omer count-up is broken down into pieces, manageable goals, one day at a time.  

Like this couch made of parts.