Shared Spirit: Unbudgeted Repairs
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Shared Spirit: Unbudgeted Repairs

What's a family's liability when that glass dining room table shatters during a visit to Lakewood?

Rachel Stein

Toco Hills resident Rachel Stein writes about spirituality and, working with readers, tries to help community members deal with dilemmas.

The old beis madrash building at the Lakewood yeshiva
The old beis madrash building at the Lakewood yeshiva

Lakewood, N.J., here we come!

I was so excited to get away with the family that even the daunting task of packing didn’t dampen my enthusiasm. A change of scenery and pace, 10 glorious days of no cooking, an opportunity to spend time with some of our married children and grandchildren — what could be better?

So we filled out the requisite forms for the program, stamped the envelope and reserved our places.

Every year, the Lakewood yeshiva has its Yarchei Kallah. Starting the Sunday after Tisha B’Av, families converge from all over the States and Canada to participate in this enriching 10-day program.

Men are in their element as they immerse themselves in Talmudic study mornings, afternoons and evenings with study partners suited to their levels. Varied programming is provided for women, including thought-provoking classes, exercise and swimming, with day camp and babysitting available for children.

As frosting on the cake, three gourmet meals are provided every day. Participants stay in the homes of kind-hearted families who opt to donate their homes for the program while they vacation out of town.

Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? What could possibly go wrong?

My family and I entered the Silversteins’ apartment, and I immediately noticed the large glass dining room table. They must not have older kids, I figured, noting the stroller and shaking my head at their ignorance.

Who in their right mind would want a glass table? Good thing my kids are past toddler age and we won’t really be eating here, I mused, as we toted our suitcases down the hall.

Everyone staked out their rooms and began unpacking, and our oldest son, Shalom, took a seat at the table and began playing on his phone.

On one of my treks through the living/dining room, I saw Shalom get up. His pant leg got caught underneath his chair, and in trying to extricate himself, he leaned on the table. My breath caught as I watched the nightmarish scene unfold.

The entire table, a huge slab of glass, tilted on its side and poured onto the floor. Slivers and shards of glass flew in every direction, covering the entire room.

I just stood there, frozen. In mere moments, we managed to destroy this family’s dining room table. Just imagine what we could accomplish in 10 days.

“Everyone out!” I ordered. “Go get lunch. Now! I’ll clean up.”

Shalom and one older daughter stayed to help, while my husband shepherded the others toward the yeshiva dining room. I lost track of how many trips we made to the garbage room, panting as we hauled full garbage cans of glass.

“I’m beginning to see the floor,” I moaned at one point, wiping the sweat off my brow as I bent, swept and prepared to trek down the hall yet again. Thankfully, none of the neighbors opened a door; one prayer was answered.

While we cleaned, the million-dollar question tumbled in my mind. How does a guest inform her host about such a mishap? I imagined the conversation, my heart hammering.

“Um, hi, it’s the family who’s staying in your apartment. Yes, thank you so much for having us. We’ve made ourselves at home (you have no idea how much), and we’re very comfortable (especially now that our accommodations are more spacious). I, uh, wanted to discuss something with you. Do you remember the glass table you had in your dining room?”

With my breath coming in ragged gasps, I dialed the number, though my fingers trembled so hard I wondered whether I hit the right buttons. Praying fervently, I shared the story with Mrs. Silverstein and offered to pay for a new table.

“You know,” she said, “I meant to leave a note on the table. It was actually already a little broken, but in our rush to get out, I forgot. We’ve gotten used to the situation and know to be careful. We’ll get back to you about the cost. Thank you for letting us know.”

My blood pressure de-escalated a smidgeon, but I worried about the extra expense we would incur. How much would it be? Replacing a table of that size would probably run in the thousand-dollar range, not exactly in the budget for this vacation.

In addition, are we really liable? As Mrs. Silverstein said, the table was already broken, and she had been remiss in not informing us. Do we owe the Silversteins a new table or not?

Respond to by Monday, July 31, to have your suggestions printed in the next column.

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