Even while we felt she was quite eccentric, we enjoyed staying at Edna’s. We brought her the lion’s share of our earnings from busking to contribute to our room and board. Everything was going well. Christmas Day was only a few days away as it fell after Shabbat. The young lady and her son, also staying at Edna’s, announced they planned to go to Bethlehem for Christmas Eve. Donna and I said we had already been several days ago and recounted our adventure.
Friday morning, Christmas Eve day, Edna came to us and said she needed more money to arrange for a special Shabbat dinner. We had done well busking and given her most of it. She said she needed more, so we went out and played our favorite pitch which brought in many tips. We were happy that we made so much and brought it back to Edna, but she became upset, saying she needed more!
“But Edna,” we began, “This is all we have! We made good money on the street and gave it all to you.”
But You Are Rich!
“No!” She was becoming even more irritated. “You have a lot of money but refuse to give it to me!”
“We only have what we make on the street playing music, and we have given it all to you,” Donna explained.
“Liars! You have lots of money! You are just like my sister who lives in America! All Americans are rich, but they don’t want to help me or share!” Her voice raised even more angrily, “You are Americans and you are rich, but you won’t help me buy food for Shabbat!”
This continued this way, becoming more intense by the minute, increasing to a fever pitch until…
Edna suddenly became very relaxed and smiled. Donna and I looked at each other, confused until Edna lit the two candles and began singing the songs to welcome the angels for Shabbat. It was as if she had just flipped a switch, or perhaps we had shifted from one dimension into another where her anger never existed.
There can be no arguments or conflict during Shabbat, only peace and tranquillity. She blessed the wine, and we all sat together as if everything was wonderful. Edna was laughing and telling happy stories. We slowly began to relax as we ate the wonderfully delicious food prepared before Shabbat began.
Later that evening, the young lady and her son returned noticeably distraught from their trip to Bethlehem. She was in tears. Bethlehem was not the religious experience she had hoped for. It was more like a wild office party with loud, drunk people parading through the streets of this holy town. Not at all what any of us expected. Wiping her tears, she hurried to her room with her child, and they went to bed.
Rest and Relaxation
Edna insisted that we could not “light a fire or extinguish a fire” during Shabbat, we were lucky the light in our room was off. These are two of the 39 categories of melakhah, commonly translated as “work” and forbidden during Shabbat according to Jewish law. This meant we could sleep in the dark that night. It’s an incredibly interesting practice and ritual that I encourage you to familiarize yourself with. Here’s a Wiki link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shabbat
As is encouraged during Shabbat, we slept in the next morning. It is suggested that one resist any form of work. Reading, and especially scripture, are particularly encouraged. When we left our room, we found Edna reading the Torah. It seemed the stress of yesterday afternoon had completely left her as she greeted us with a big smile and offered us some bread and cheese. “Please, only use this knife for the cheese and this other for meat, and be careful that they never touch each other,” she said cheerily.
After a light breakfast, we soaked up the warm morning sun as we sat in the garden of plastic bags. I played guitar, going over my newly composed song about this garden. Donna read a book. What a peaceful day. We all enjoyed a light late afternoon meal with Challah, a special braided bread eaten on ceremonial occasions such as Shabbat. It was a lovely and peaceful day.
The Third Star
As the evening arrived, we went into the house, and the very moment the third star appeared in the sky, Shabbat was over. Edna turned toward us like in some bizarre Doctor Jeckle and Mister Hyde movie. All the smiles had left her face which was now contorted as she screamed, “OUT! LEAVE! GO! GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!”
Donna and I were shocked, though looking back, I’m unsure why, but we laughed.
We had just been kicked out of a house in Jerusalem on Christmas Day
“Go, pack, and get out! There is someone else out there waiting for you!”
We did exactly that. As we packed, we asked ourselves what we were going to do. What do you do when you have no money in your pocket and don’t know where you will sleep? We knew there was really only one thing to do. We would play music at our favorite pitch on Ben Yehuda Street at the ice cream shop across from the ATM. It didn’t take long before we were out the door and walking around the corner to the bus stop.
During Shabbat, there is no traffic. Nothing moves. Several other people were down at the bus stop waiting for the first bus that ran after Shabbat. After a short wait, a bus pulled up, opened and closed its doors, and drove off. All the waiting people were surprised, saying things like, “What the heck was that?” Donna and I looked at each other and said, “Well, I guess we’re just not supposed to be there yet.” We settled back and waited for the next one.
Next: Ben Yehuda and a Magician’s Son