We still cannot be totally certain that they were in their right minds when they extended their magnanimous invitation; even if they had been, it was unlikely that they would remain so after four-plus weeks with seven lively youngsters invading home and hearth.
Despite our justifiable apprehensions, our month’s stay flew by like a dream. But in subsequent retellings over the years, our delightful host, z”l, often stretched the number to two or three months, with his trademark wink and incomparable sense of humor.
Homeowners and invited guests survived unscathed, which in itself exceeded our wildest expectations and conceivably qualified as a nes nigleh. Remarkably, when our new home was ready and moving day arrived, instead of rejoicing and fervently reciting “birkas ha’gomel” and “baruch shepetarani” there were sincere heartfelt wishes on both sides that we could extend our stay.
A month earlier, we had entered their home and their lives as complete strangers. A few short weeks later, we had succeeded in forging an enduring and infinitely precious lifelong friendship.
Now, 18 years since that fateful initial encounter, we bless the seeming misfortunes that ultimately rewarded us with that priceless gift. And we marvel at our eternally regal and extremely beloved hostess who finds time for us on virtually every one of her frequent visits to the Holy Land. Those brief reunions are like rare and valuable gems, and are eagerly awaited and savored.
We consider ourselves truly blessed that we can call this remarkable woman one of our all-time favorite people and a genuine friend. May we, and all who are fortunate enough to know and love her, continue to learn from and emulate her incomparable example. May she see nachas and berachah from her wonderful mishpacha until 120 – and beyond.