Many people have heard about my parents Rabbi Avraham Dovid Heller zt”l and my mother Rebbetzin Heller, yl”a.
I would like to share with you the power of living like a real Jew in our days, something I learned from them.
There are countless stories of interesting people who came through our home on Shabbos, from the priest to the beggars at the Kotel to the American Mafia lawyer who told us how he’d hid on a boat. One night, during a storm, as the waves were getting dangerously high, he feared for his life. Thinking it was his last day, he turned to Hashem with a promise. This was what turned the lawyer into a baal teshuva.
Rabbi Meir Shuster, a”h, had no problem coming to our home on Friday nights with as many people as he needed to place. There was always room at the table and enough food to go around.
The sick and the needy, seminary girls, divorcees, tourists, religious and irreligious, all got equal attention from my parents. No one was honored more or less – everyone was a Jew after all – even the lady who came on Pesach with the falafel she picked up on the way to our home!
The Shabbos table in my parent’s home during my father’s lifetime was something we all looked forward to. The delightful aroma of fresh homemade challah, the glow of the Shabbos candles and the set tables attested to a home steeped in Yiddishkeit. But it was my father and his Shabbosdik behavior, that raised it above the ordinary.
My father always made it his business to help prepare for Shabbos. As a little girl, I recall watching him wash the kitchen floor and getting all the last things ready for Shabbos – the blech, the candles, the Shabbos clock. When we children grew up, we washed the floor but he never stopped helping. It was very important to him to take part in the Shabbos preparations.
Friday night after shul my father would come home – we all stood up for him as he entered. He greeted us with a warm “Good Shabbos” and then went to rest for a few minutes until all the guests came and were seated. He was not the type to sit around talking on the couch.
Soon, he made his royal entrance in his Shabbos robe. He would enter like a king, take his place at the head of the table with my mother next to him and start singing Shalom Aleichem. As a young child I learned in kindergarten that when a father comes home from shul he has two angels escorting him – that was no news to me, we could all feel it in the air.
After singing Eishes Chayil and making Kiddush, my father would bless each and every one of us – each one of the children and grandchildren. It was a long, long line up; guests could not control themselves; they would stare as if they were at a simcha when we were more than 50. If anyone could have taken a photo on Shabbos that picture would be a best seller; it was so beautiful, moving and inspiring. Not even the youngest of the grandchildren would give up a blessing from Saba!
No one would dare touch a thing at the table before Tatty was served. Even if we knew he was not going to eat something – maybe for health reasons or if he didn’t like it – it was passed to him and he would still find something nice to say like: “This smells good!”