Hi, readers! As I’m now up to my seventh article (and feel like I’ve practically written a book by now), I think it’s time I let you in on my writing habits. I typically write an article every other week, which, for normal people, is ample time to think of a topic and write, all before it’s due. Right? Wrong.

My Tuesdays typically go as follows: wake up, remember that I have an article due, panic, daven that I find something to write about, go to class, ask all of MMY for topic ideas, spend my breaks writing something completely random that absolutely no one suggested, and then, finally submitting my article at approximately 11:53 p.m. (4:53 EST). Some like to say I cut it close. I say I work well under pressure. “Potato, potahto.”

Because of this sequence, I was taken by surprise when an article idea popped into my head on Shabbos morning, an entire 10 days early. As I went about my day, more details flew into place. I would write about my weekend adventures, the people I met and places visited. I knew the lesson I wanted to bring out and how I was going to do it. Sounded too good to be true. And, in a completely unsurprising turn of events, it was.

As I was standing at the Tachanah Merkazit light-rail stop in a I-had-the-best-Shabbos-ever-and-can’t-believe-I-have-school-tomorrow daze, I noticed the person I like to refer to as the HaKotel half of this newspaper column (crossover episode!). We exchanged greetings, and the conversation quickly segued into a discussion about our articles. I asked what he had written lately, and he responded that his most recent write-up centered around his experiences in Chevron on Parashat Chayei Sarah. Cool! Only, this posed a big issue for me because I had actually just gotten off a bus from Chevron … a.k.a., the muse of my upcoming “unique” article. How unique is it if my yeshiva equivalent just wrote about it two weeks prior? I deflated.

I planned on scratching the whole Chevron column idea. After all, I had just submitted an article. By the time the next deadline rolls around, I figured, Chevron will be a distant memory. But that’s not exactly how things happened, because on Monday night, if you’re following, I got an apologetic text message asking if I could write a last-minute article to fill in for my counterpart who is currently sick. I chuckled at the thought that Monday night could ever be considered last minute and then agreed, taking it as a sign that I should revive the Chevron article idea and not be fazed by its lack of distinctiveness.

As I pondered which aspect of my eye-opening experience I should focus on here, I realized that the most impactful part of Shabbos was how standard and not unique some parts of it were. Of course, I did the top-10 must-see-in-Hebron things. Slept in Beit Hadassah. Shacharit at Me’arat HaMachpeilah. Afternoon shpatzir to kever Yishai and Rut. While all of those experiences were really cool, in typical Talmidah Y fashion, the moments that touched me were those that could happen with almost anyone, anywhere in the world.

On Friday evening, as we were singing the zemerMah Yedidus,” I was struck by an overwhelming sense of unity; despite the fact that I live a wildly different life and speak a completely different language than my hosts, we still sang the same tune. We were able to sing in unison, connecting to the beauty of Shabbos, despite all of our differences. There was only one moment over the course of the song that I missed a beat, and that one nuance frames my Shabbos in a remarkable way.

In the fourth verse, “Hirhurim mutarim u’l’shadeich ha’banot,” it’s pretty common practice for teenage girls to scream the second half (post-sem girls typically chuckle awkwardly during that part…). As I braced myself for a little cheer or moment of recognition, everyone else continued singing, ignoring the shtick; instead, they focused on the next line, “v’tinok l’lamdo sefer.” All as one, my host family raised their voices and proudly proclaimed the word “sefer,” emphasizing the beauty associated with the gift of talmud Torah. And then the song went on, as if that beautiful moment never happened. Except it did, and the normalcy of it struck me.

While it was incredible to experience the “token” Chevron places, the quiet, ordinary moments were the ones that really spoke to me. My Shabbos was unique, but that wasn’t the point. I could have had the exact same Chevron experience as “HaKotel” did on Shabbos Chayei Sarah, but it still would be worth an article. Because my perspective crafts the lenses through which I view, learn, and absorb. And I look for the small things.

So, as I wrap up yet another “cutting it close” entry at 11:45 p.m., I’m grateful for the opportunity I was given to reflect on the seemingly mundane details of my Chevron experience. While my Shabbos was not necessarily as new for the 5TJT as I initially thought it would be, I’m grateful that my week-early article served as a way to recognize the beauty hidden in the standard parts of my adventure. Because it’s not always the craziest crowds or loudest people that make an impact. There’s beauty in the empty spaces. If you just look.


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