From Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul

A Surprise in Jerusalem

Let all who are hungry come and eat.

Passover Seder Liturgy

Some dear friends of mine live in Jerusalem with more than twelve of their children. Their quaint home is reminiscent of a cave, and often when I enter it, the nursery rhyme, “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, who had so many children, she didn’t know what to do,” sings its way through my mind. Not that my friend Emuna is old or that she doesn’t or can’t manage her delightful children. In fact, their home is quieter and more serene with ten or twelve children than many people’s homes with one or two. It’s just that their cave-home is quite small and they live by meager means.

Another friend, Ayla, was in Jerusalem when Emuna had delivered her tenth child. It was a boy. In the spirit of friendship and community, friends had offered to prepare festive food for the Brit Milah, the circumcision ceremony that according to Jewish law is scheduled for the eighth day after a boy is born. Emuna asked Ayla to do her a favor and pick up a prepared dish of food from one of her friends nearby. Emuna gave Ayla directions to the friend’s apartment a few blocks away and Ayla was happy to be able to help out.

Ayla walked over to the apartment and knocked on the door. She told the woman who greeted her that she was here to pick up some food for the Brit Milah. The woman smiled and invited Ayla into her home, invited her to sit, then brought out some food for Ayla while she waited. The woman was most gracious as she served some delicious cake and tea. Next, she went into her refrigerator and pulled out a casserole; she then took a coffee cake out of the oven. She said she had made the cake for Shabbat, for the Sabbath meal, but now she wanted it to be part of the baby’s celebration. She packaged up the food and escorted Ayla to the door. As Ayla was leaving, the woman said, “So tell me, whose Brit Milah is it? Which family?”

Momentarily stunned, Ayla almost dropped the shopping bag she was holding, full of food. Then she realized— she must have gone to the wrong apartment. What a mistake! Embarrassed, she began to explain to the woman what had happened and held out the shopping bag to return the food.

The woman would have none of it. She shook her head, smiled and said, “Take it—and enjoy the Brit Milah!

And then Ayla realized it didn’t matter. There was no such thing as the “wrong” apartment. After all, this was Jerusalem.

Rebecca Heisler

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