Leah Wax checked her hand luggage one last time – passport, boarding pass, chocolate? Yes, it was all there. She was ready to board her flight back to New York.
She got on to the plane and sitting back in her seat, with her eyes closed, she relived her last eight days in Israel.
A noise caught her attention and turning slightly to the left, she was greeted by a slender looking girl. Her wavy brown hair reached her hips, and her larger Star of David necklace hung over her t-shirt, the red one which reads “I Love Israel.”
Should I make conversation with her? How should I start? A million questions zoomed through Leah’s mind until she finally said,
“Shalom, do you speak English?” Leah questioned.
“Yes, hi, I do know quite a bit, I learned it in school,” the young Israeli girl answered without a tinge of shyness.
“What’s your name?”
“Talya Yarden. I am 17 and hope to be a graphologist and an actress. That is why I am going to New York, to attend a conference on graphology. What about you?”
“I hope to be a high school teacher,” Leah responded hesitantly.
They talked for most of the flight; they seemed to get along well.
“Leah?” Talya began as the flight was coming to an end. “I really don’t know many Orthodox Jews, but it really was fascinating hearing about your way of life. Can we keep in touch?”
“Sure, here is my number,” Leah said.
Later that week, Leah’s cell phone rang. It was Talya.
“Hi, Leah. It’s Talya from the airplane. How are you? I had a great few days and even met some other Orthodox people and it got me thinking.”
Leah noticed a hesitancy in Talya’s voice.
“I decided to ask if there was any chance I could stay with you and your family for Shabbat. I so enjoyed the time we spent together and would love to learn more about being Dati.”
Leah clutched the receiver tightly.
What should I say? It could be a great chance to bring her closer to Yiddishkeit, but what if Chaya acts up?
“Talya, let me ask my parents and I’ll call you back.”
Leah and her mother discussed the pros and cons and decided to call Talya and invite her.
Leah gave her directions and some information on the best way to dress; she didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable.
Talya arrived on Erev Shabbos, shortly before the zman. She was amazed at how beautiful the table was set – and a little confused at the girl laying stretched out on the couch so engrossed in her book that she didn’t even respond to her hello.
“Well, I assume that is your younger sister? Are you a bookworm as well?” Talya asked. Leah nodded, but was clearly uncomfortable.
The girls unpacked Talya’s clothes and Leah explained the seder of the night. When they came downstairs, Talya was wearing a beautiful robe from Leah’s closet. She watched the candle lighting with a sense of wonder and awe in her eyes.
“That was so moving. Does that mean that Shabbat is here now?”
“Yes, Talya, come let’s sit on the sofa and talk. Leah will show you what prayers we say tonight,” Mrs. Wax said.
“Chaya? Chaya! Sit up please and let Leah’s friend sit down. Did you say hello and introduce yourself?” Mrs. Wax asked.
Chaya shrugged and kept her eyes focused somewhere in the direction of Talya’s feet. .“Hi,” Chaya said, and then went back to her book.
Talya paid attention to what Mrs. Wax was explaining, but tried to concentrate at what Mrs Wax was explaining but found her gaze drawn to where Chaya was sitting, and wondering exactly what was wrong.