I have often said and written, “Mi k’amcha Yisrael?” It is always said out of love and gratitude. I truly believe that we Jews are a people that are taught from birth to love another like you love yourself. It’s not enough to take care of ourselves and our family, but our neighbors and even those in other neighborhoods, and countries that we don’t even know.
It seems like a simple enough lesson really, but is it? Is it so noteworthy and amazing when someone else or a group of “someone elses” does for another? Yes. Yes, it is when we live in a world where everyone is talking about themselves and their feelings and what they want and they don’t care what is happening in their neighbors’ backyard or if they offend others by offering opinions no one asked them to share. In a society where people are rushing to the stores to hoard toilet paper, water, and literally physically fight one another in order to get those needed supplies, that aren’t really as needed as originally thought, seeing kindness of one person to another can really “give a boost to the human spirit” as a news reporter would say while introducing a “feel good story” that is just about people exhibiting human decency.
A friend of mine called me last week and said that I would not believe where she had just gone on a date. I guessed outdoor venues but was wrong. She told me that she just came from someone’s fully furnished basement. I was confused. She went to a basement on a date? Let me explain, as my friend did. And after she finished telling me, she asked that I write about this, because she couldn’t believe how kind people can be, Mi k’amcha Yisrael. My friend explained that the fellow she dated had found out through a network of friends that families offer their houses as dating venues for singles to go on dates since choices are limited due to maximum capacities, no indoor dining, no dining after 10 p.m., etc.
Apparently, a group of people came together, putting their hearts first in wanting to really help singles find their zivugim in such trying times. These are people with room in their house, or a fully furnished basement where the couple is afforded some privacy (some, not total), where a few hours can be spent getting to know each other. My friend said that the hostess was a very sweet lady who explained upon meeting my friend and her date that she had a large basement with a separate entrance (so they didn’t have to walk through the house when they left) and she wanted to help any way she can. When a friend mentioned this idea to her, she jumped at it, and so she is now offering her house to my friend and other couples. My friend said that she was told that two other families close with this woman offer their houses for dates, as well. This woman brought my friend and her date down to the basement where she prepared a fruit platter and drinks. She even put out a few board games. She told them not to hesitate if they needed anything, but when they wanted to leave, they can go out through the private entrance and to text her so she can lock up. The hostess said she was going to leave the basement door open and would go about her business in her house, as would her family, who had strict instructions not to bother them. My friend said that after the initial weirdness of the situation wore off, it ended up being a nice date. After an hour and a half, she and her date left and he drove her home.
I was riveted by her tale. Families offering their houses so couples can go out on real dates? Yes, I have a couple of thoughts on this matter (I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t), but before I say anything, let me say “OMG! Mi k’amcha Yisrael!” What other group of people would open up their houses to strangers in the middle of a pandemic when we are told to stay at home and only venture out to the grocery store and to the doctor’s office just for the sole purpose of wanting to help people find their basherts? A-mazing!
Okay, the practical part of me wants to be heard and, yes, no matter how nice and kind these people and their offers are, I would hope there is some sort of background check in order for someone to be able to offer their house and welcome single men and women inside. My friend didn’t know what the procedure was, but her date said this was the second time he had used the woman’s house, but the woman didn’t want to embarrass him, so when she opened the door, she pretended not to know either of them. Who finds these families and houses? I’m sure more would like to offer their houses, but I’d like to know who gives their stamp of approval on the families. I’d also like to know the level of cleaning the houses or rooms have gone through before hosting a couple. What these people are doing is a tremendous chesed, but I’d love to know if the room was merely dusted or if a container of Lysol wipes were used before and after each date. We tell our children don’t talk to strangers, don’t get into strange cars or homes, etc. But here we are doing everything we are warned against our whole lives while we date. I would hesitate for a moment if it was my daughter or my niece going into a home for a date. I am sure these families have only the best of intentions – but we want to be responsible and cautious. I don’t have to tell anyone that just because someone wears a yarmulke or sheitel doesn’t not mean they are 100% fine and not disturbed or a criminal. I asked my niece who is in the dating parshah about this, and she has heard of it but hasn’t yet had the opportunity to go to someone’s house on a date yet; she found the idea “cute and sweet.” My sister and I are cut from the same cloth. She wanted to know who vetted these families and houses. Of course, my niece called us both Debbie Downers, but if looking at a situation like this in practical terms makes us Debbie Downers, then you can call me Devorah.
Since speaking with my friend and my niece, I find myself saying, “Mi k’amcha Yisrael.” What other people open up their home to strangers in order to try to help a people find their basherts and begin to build their bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael? They aren’t letting a pandemic get in the way of how life should go on, and they are trying to help go on with life and to build a new one. So, I answer the question, “Mi k’amcha Yisrael?” by saying: no one – and this is just one example to prove it.
Hatzlachah to you all.