An attorney from the Five Towns was up in Albany for a trial all week and could not get home in time for Shabbos. In addition, he is within the year of saying Kaddish for his father and remarkably has not yet missed a Kaddish in nine months! So although we do not ordinarily have a Minyan for Mincha on these early Fridays, students did come out to Shabbos House to make a nice Minyan after candlelighting before we walked over to the Hillel Dinner at Campus Center. We actually had strong Minyans for all the prayers of Shabbos including the Mincha prior and Maariv following.

Hillel dinner was especially delicious on Friday Night. Andrew and the crew at Dutch Kosher made a very soft and tasty brisket, served over couscous. There was some argument if the Mont Pleasant Bakery cookies were oatmeal or sugar cookies, or a hybrid – but they were quite good. In anticipation of the Shabbaton next week, Rabbi Mendel spoke about this week’s Haftorah switcharoo and making room for guests.

On Shabbos morning we had a full line-up with Moishy Kudan (visiting from the community) getting the Kohain Aliyah, the visiting attorney getting the aliyah about reinforcing the hem of the Kohain’s robe (representing clients on the fringe of society), Lee S. got an aliyah about Moshe’s delegating tasks of Mishkan construction a good example of empowering leadership style,  Aharon W. got Chazak! (the final aliyah of the Book of Exodus), Dr. Herman Prins Salomon read the Maftir and Haftorah of Shekalim. Ben Z. sang the blessing for the new month, and Zach G. led the Musaf.

At Shabbos Lunch Rabbi Mendel shared some stories about his grandfather “Zeide Moshe’s” love of prayer and how he would meander and detour to visit neighboring synagogues on the way home. This Shabbos was the 18th yartzeit of Reb Moshe Rubin, he passed away in 1996 between Mendel and Raizy’s engagement and wedding. Michelle F. visiting from her semester in Washington “on loan from the Smithsonian” spoke of how her involvement in DC Jewish campus life makes her appreciate all the more our unique Jewish campus community at UAlbany. Other special guests at Shabbos Lunch included Ben M. (back from chaperoning a local teen trip to Israel organized by the Jewish Federation) and Liz L. (visiting her two sisters Amanda and Rachel), Ariel and Kim (sister of Grant H. and friend).

The highlight of Shabbos Lunch this week was the tasting and voting of the annual Dessert Bake-Off. There were five entries: “Chocolate Pizza” (with marshmallow and banana and a pizza-type crust) by Liel O., “Beshert Brownies” (with brownies & blondies sandwiching cookies and a layer of peanut butter in between) by Michelle F., “Rice Krispy Treats” (no fancy name or design, but superb texture) by Ben I., “Smores Cookies” (rich, soft choco-chip cookie with a hidden marshmallow inside) by Eliot H., and “Magnificent Meringues” (they came out perfect with that surprising airy hollow within, and crispy outside covered by a chocolate ganache) by Zach G.

Each voter got two tickets, one for best tasting and the other for best presentation. First place winner with most votes was Michelle’s Beshert Brownies and Eliot’s Smores Cookies came in second. We were all winners, relishing a smorgasbord of delectable desserts on a Shabbos afternoon…

One week now to the Shabbaton!