by Steve HyattGavel 2

Recently, I noticed an official-looking letter addressed to me from the Marion County Court House. To my chagrin it summoned me to appear for jury duty. The subpoena indicated that this was going to be a serious case, and if selected, I would be out for 2-3 weeks.

Arriving in court, I found 400 other "candidates" in the room. I exhaled a sigh of relief, figuring I had a better chance of getting on 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire' than getting selected for this jury. Two days later I found out this was not to be.

Of the 400 potential jury members, I had the good fortune to be the twelfth and final one selected. The judge, a serious and intimidating woman, looked down at us from the bench and informed us that we'd begin each day "PROMPTLY" at 8:30 am, break for lunch "PROMPTLY" at noon, start "PROMPTLY" again at 1:15 pm and adjourn for the day, you guessed it, "PROMPTLY" at 5 pm.

Visions of showing up late and being held in contempt of court flowed through my mind. But I regard jury duty as a serious responsibility, so I rearranged my schedule to make all the judge's deadlines. The trial began at 8:30 a.m. on a Tuesday. True to her word, the judge ran her courtroom by the clock. Each day for the first three days we were in at 8:30 a.m. and out at 5:00 p.m.

As I walked out of the courthouse Thursday night, a little voice inside me asked, "What about Shabbos?"

"What about Shabbos?" I thought. My wife Linda would light the Shabbos candles, I'd make Kiddush, say Motzi over the two Challas, have a wonderful dinner, enjoy a little l'chaim as alwa ys. Suddenly I panicked. I realized that if we adjourned on Friday 5:00 pm, I wouldn't be home before the start of Shabbos.

I never thought about Shabbos. I was so caught up in the excitement of the trial that I hadn't considered what time we'd get done on Friday. My pulse began to race! I knew what I should do, but I couldn't muster the courage to do it. The little voice kept telling me, "Go talk to the judge, she'll understand."

Understand?! Hey, there are more Elk in Oregon than Jews. A New York judge might understand. A Los Angeles judge might understand. But in Salem, Oregon, no way was a judge going to understand Shabbos!

Before I continue I have to tell you that of all the lessons I've learned, and all the holidays I've celebrated since discovering Chabad, I've grown to love Shabbos the most. I love everything about it. The traditions, the smells, the kugel, the l'chaim, the davening, the Fabrenging, the rest and relaxation. I love Shabbos!

I walked into the courtroom Friday morning with a heavy heart. I knew what I should do, but was afraid of the severe-looking judge with the tight bun sitting behind the bench. I just couldn't muster the courage.

I kept thinking how Rabbi Vogel encouraged me to tell my boss in Delaware that I had to take a few days off for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Pesach, Shavuos, Simchas Torah and Succos. The first year it was hard to approach my boss, but as my confidence grew and time passed it became easier, or as we say in Delaware, it was "A piece of Kugel!" But this situation seemed more intimidating.

As the day progressed I listened intently to the testimony but I tortured myself during the recesses. The voice kept telling me to go see the judge, but I was too embarrassed. Finally about 2:30 the judge ordered a 15 minute recess. The jury filed off to our little room for coffee and small talk. After a few minutes the judge's bailiff came into the room and asked if she could get us anything.

I rose from my chair and asked her to see if the judge would consider a request. Nervously, I asked her to tell the judge that I was Jewish and Shabbos, the Jewish Sabbath, starts at sundown and I was wondering if she could let us go an hour early so I could get home before sundown.

The bailiff eyed me with confusion. "Shoebus?" she said. "No Shabbos, the Jewish Sabbath," I said. She told me she'd ask, but didn't think the judge would let us out early because she always sticks to schedule.

The minutes clicked by until the bailiff came back and told us the judge was ready to reconvene. We went back to the jury box and sat down. The judge looked at the jury and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we will continue for another seventy five minutes and then 'Promptly' adjourn for the day at 4:00 pm." She said one of our jury members has to get home by sundown for religious reasons. She went on to tell us that the individual in question should remind her next week too, in case she forgot.

The next seventy five minutes were filled with objections, posturing and lengthy discussions between the two attorneys and the judge. When the clock struck four the judge promptly stopped the proceedings, told us to report back on Monday "Promptly" at 8:30 a.m. and dismissed us.

As I walked by the judge's bench she looked down, smiled and whispered, "Good Shabbos, Mr. Hyatt."

Good Shabbos indeed! The kugel was mighty tasty that night!

As a creature of habit, I hate change. I live a very orderly life. When I leave for work I repeat the same routine each and every day. I kiss my wife Linda goodbye, pet Louie the wonder dog, get in the car, turn on the same jazz radio station, back out of the driveway and go to work. Coming home, I stop at the mailbox in my complex to get the mail.



I was teaching my Sunday School class about Shabbat: lighting the candles, making kiddush over wine, saying "Hamotzi" over the challa, singing Shabbat songs and more. We made crafts: a kiddush cup, candle holders, a challah cover, and a Shabbat song book.

My thoughts grew deep, for in my own home we did not observe Shabbat. Friday night was just like any other night, kids running in and out and a quick take-out dinner.

I decided I was going to turn our mundane Friday night into a Shabbat experience. I knew that this would take some coordinating, so I started early in the week. I discussed the idea with my husband. He was sold when I offered to make him chicken soup, just like his mother makes. My two teenagers needed more convincing; a family Shabbat dinner was not their ideal Friday night activity. So I resorted to bribery.

My son, age 16, loves mashed potatoes and driving. So I promised to cook up mashed potatoes and let him use my car on Saturday night. I told my daughter, age 14, that for a special occasion she could borrow my sweater with the pearls, the one that had been off limits to her. This was a bit extreme, even for me, but I wanted everyone involved. I am not a woman of leisure; I work full-time, plus I teach on Sundays. I didn't have days to shop and cook an extravagant Shabbat meal, so I kept my menu simple: chicken soup, roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and zucchini. Oh, and with a little help from Duncan Hines, chocolate chip cookies for dessert. I also bought ready-to-make challa from the supermarket freezer section. All I had to do was thaw and bake. Everything was simple, yet I felt something special in the planning and cooking for Shabbat. I was looking forward to Shabbat every day of the week.

Finally, the big night arrived. I had polished up my Bubby's silver candlesticks, usually only seen on special holidays, and I looked at my Jewish calendar to make sure we were beginning Shabbat at the proper time.

Then, I did something very special. I asked my daughter to join me, and together we lit the Shabbat candles. I think she, too, felt something special as we recited the blessing together. And right behind us stood my husband and my son answering "Amen" to our blessing.

We gathered round our kitchen table, now transformed into a Shabbat table, and my son recited the kiddush from his siddur. He used the kiddush cup he got for his Bar Mitzva. We each had a taste of wine did the traditional hand washing and then my husband said the hamotzi on the challa.

A certain calmness came over my family. Usually, our dinners were hurried. In fact, these days, we didn't even always eat together; with late nights at the office, basketball games, and school projects. But tonight, my loved ones were sitting down to a true family dinner — a Shabbat dinner. The meal was delicious, if I do say so myself. But even better than the food was the conversation.

My family was sitting around one table, talking (not arguing) to each other about what happened during the week: work, school, world events, sports...anything and everything. Although I was an active participant, in some ways I felt like an onlooker observing a transformation from the mundane to something special — from week-night to Shabbat.

After dinner we retired to the family room, but we didn't turn on the "tube." Instead, my husband said, "Anyone up for a board game?" I was shocked, but pleased. I couldn't remember the last time we sat down to a game together. Usually, our quality time was popcorn and a video. But let me tell you, we had more fun playing that game than I can remember in ages.

What had I been doing all these years? Teaching my students about something I could only imagine, yet never really experienced? I wasn't crying over the past, just looking to the future. It is now three months since our first Shabbat meal — three months filled with weekly Shabbat dinners in my home.

I no longer need to use bribery to get my children to participate. I knew how far we had come when my daughter asked me, "Mom, can I bring a friend over to share Shabbat with us?" "Of course!" I answered.

No matter how hectic our week is, no matter how little time we spend together as a family, we now always have Shabbat to look forward to, to catch up with one another and ourselves, to forget the business of and spend quality time with G‑d and family.

by Shaun Zeitlin


Dad came out and saw a group of Chasidic boys walking by carrying lulavs and etrogs. He was shocked to see not only white people in that neighborhood but ten young bearded men with black hats and coats! Dad asked them if they were lost or needed help, but they explained they were on their way to an old shul to help make a minyan.

The boys were Lubavitch students from Israel, but two spoke English. They thanked Dad for his concern, said they were happy to meet him, and told him they would stop in again. They did just that, and returned every week on Friday afternoons to put on Tefilin with Dad. Known as Phylacteries, Tefillin are the black little boxes that we tie on our head and arm to focus our heart and mind on G‑d. But Dad hadn't done this Mitzvah since his Bar Mitzvah, and these young men were happy to help him make the connection again.

Even the non-Jewish workers enjoyed these visits. Once when I called on a Friday, one of the non-Jewish mechanics quipped: "I am sorry, but Mr. Zeitlin is all tied up" referring to his wearing the Tefilin. They also put up a mezuzah on his store and brought jelly doughnuts for Chanukah and Shalach Manot on Purim.

Dad started to look forward to their visits and respected them. It was nice to see Dad in the living room on Shabbos afternoon reading the weekly L'chaim publication cover to cover. One of the boys left to a Yeshiva in Peru, but the other boy continued to visit.

Dad developed a strong connection to the Tefilin. He told Mom that he wanted a new pair of Tefilin for Fathers Day, and that's what he got. Each morning before work Dad puts them on and recites the blessing and the Shema from the card they gave him. Even when he is travelling, Dad won't leave his Tefilin behind.

One Wednesday in the summer the Lubavitch boys came in to put on Tefilin, since they were going upstate for Shabbos. The next Friday the boys did not come, and Dad got nervous. Calling to find out what happened, he learned that the boys were in a car that got into a terrible accident.

Three of the four boys were killed and one barely survived. The boy who survived was the boy he had befriended, so Dad took my brother and me to visit him in the hospital.

We drove up to Nyack hospital in Rockland County, NY. The young man was lying in bed with his mother at his bedside. He was very pale and looked very thin. His mother told us he was in extreme pain and just had his spleen and some ribs removed in an effort to save his life. He smiled faintly when he saw my father and they began talking. His three best friends had been killed, and he was very depressed from his traumatic experience. Dad tried to cheer him up, and during their visit, asked if him if he already put on Tefillin.

His mother said he was still too weak, and had not been up to putting on Tefilin since the accident. Dad spoke to the boy and encouraged him to put on the Tefilin. He agreed, and told him where to look for his Tefilin bag in his suitcase.

The scene was now reversed: Dad was putting Tefilin on a yeshiva boy! It was amazing to watch Dad, with dedication and love, help the young man hooked up to tubes and machines put on his tefilin.

For the next month Dad called every day to talk to the young man, ask how he was doing, and also checked if he wore his Tefilin that day.

Miraculously, the boy recovered, was rehabilitated, and returned to Israel were he is now married. Dad still speaks to him every so often, and of course, they always check up on each other's Tefilin progress.

Some people get caught up in a bad vicious cycle. I'm glad Dad got caught up in a good Mitzvah cycle.

tefillinDad lives on Long Island, but owns and runs an auto body shop in a rough Brooklyn neighborhood, where he is probably the only Jewish person around. One day a co-worker came in to tell him that his cousins were walking by. Who could it be?

Going Up!

Bellhop 2 An old farm woman decided to check out the glamour of city life.

She went into town, checked into a fancy hotel and paid for the best room.

A bellhop appeared and whisked her to an elevator toward her room.

Looking around, the woman screamed at the bellhop: "You city slickers! I paid precious money to come here. I expect a nice carpeted and furnished room. How dare you bring me here!?

"Patience, my lady," answered the bellhop. "We're just on the elevator.

Going up!"

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We sometimes complain about our situation, not realizing it is temporary.

"This world is like a vestibule to the world-to-come. Prepare yourself in the vestibule before you enter the Palace." (Avot 4;16)