My daughter met Rutie on her first day of studies at Hebrew University. The classroom was full, mostly with female students, many of them religious. As the weeks went by, Shani got to know some of Rutie’s personal history. Her mother was European- born, from an Orthodox Jewish family. Her father was born in Israel, and had a secular upbringing. Rutie’s family did not lead a religious life, but there were elements of her mother’s past in some of the things they did. Rutie and her mother lit candles every erev Shabbat and chag, and kept a kosher home.
After graduating high school, Rutie traveled to India with some friends. She spent a few Shabbatot at the Chabad centers there and developed more of an interest in keeping Shabbat. Now, in university, she was getting acquainted with a group of young women from backgrounds very different from hers, and she started to ask questions about their way of life.
This past Friday, with all my Shabbat preparations done, we went on a short family trip. While walking along a wild-flower strewn field, my son commented that we had not had guests for Shabbat in a while.
Suddenly, Shani’s cell phone rang. It was Rutie. She had not gone home to Tel Aviv for the weekend, but was staying at the university dorms in order to do some studying. She had a sudden thought that she would rather spend Shabbat with Shani and our family. We cut short our trip and ran home to prepare a few more things for our Shabbat meal, and to set an extra setting for our unexpected guest.
Israeli-born Rutie had no trouble following along as we sang Shalom Aleichem and Aishet Chayil. Our family has a tradition of blessing our children on Friday night right before Kiddush. I placed my hands first on my son’s head and then on my daughter’s head as I blessed them. I ended my words by giving them a gentle kiss on their foreheads. I noticed Rutie watching me with a wistful look, and asked her if she would like me to bless her as well.
I placed my hands on her head and said the words so familiar to Jewish parents, “Ye’simcha Elokim K’Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, v’Leah ” I then gave her a kiss and went back to my seat. Rutie had tears in her eyes and a smile on her face. She spent the rest of Shabbat asking questions and listening intently to the answers.
I don’t know which road Rutie will follow from here on. I can only pray that my blessing for her comes true.