A few months ago, I boarded and American Airlines flight to San Francisco. As I settled down in my seat it was announced that boarding was almost complete. At the last moment someone sat down in the empty seat next to me. He was dressed in the garb of an Orthodox Jew — white shirt, black pants, yarmulke and he had a long beard. His beard, unlike many other Orthodox Jews I have observed, was not white, but dark brown. Obviously, this was because he was a young man.
When we were in the air, I turned to him and said, "It’s bashart that I am sitting next to you." Bashart is a word I often use to mean fated or destined. It is one of the few words in my Yiddish vocabulary.
My seatmate turned to me with a smile and said, "Bashart is usually used to convey a mating situation and I don’t think you have that in mind."
We shared a laugh and then I told him what I did have in mind. My grandson, a graduate of the University of California, a 6’4" surfer, had joined a Yeshiva program in Israel and had become an Orthodox Jew. My family, none of whom were observant Jews, were all disturbed by this situation. When I referred to my grandson as Chris, my seatmate, who told me his name was Menachim, said he got the picture.
Menachim and I made a remarkable connection during the rest of our flight to San Francisco. We laughed, we talked, and we shared the food we had brought along. I paid attention when he prayed and he listened to my concerns. Nothing changed in the way I thought about the situation, but something change in my tolerance of it.
He e-mailed me several times to inquire about how I had enjoyed my trip and then came an e-mail "How are you with Passover, Shirley, we would be very happy to have you join our family for the Seder we are having in Brooklyn." I didn’t accept the invitation, but it warmed my heart.
A few weeks after, my grandson was visiting me in New York on his way to Israel after a visit with his parents. Menachim, his wife, Chris and I had lunch together. He came in his Orthodox garb, this time with a large black hat, which I’ve always ????????. His wife, a pretty woman, with blonde hair, which I later realized must be a wig, was fashionably dressed and I would not have identified her as Orthodox. She was interested and involved with us. Both she and Menachim had their blackberries on the table and received a number of calls. He told us he was leaving for Paris later that day.
What is my attraction to this man? He has charm, humor, warmth and is very present. He is a man of considerable energy, involved with his family, friends, synagogue and an active real estate developer in Israel, Russia and the Ukraine.
I think across the barriers of age, religion, background and world views, we genuinely like each other. But do I have a hidden agenda in involving my self in this relationship? I think so. In my fantasy, I think it’s bashart that in some way he’s going to rescue my grandson.