There were 38 place settings and 38 chairs arranged in the Beyman dining room that Shabbos. Most of the guests had arrived before Shabbos and were schmoozing in either the living room or family room. Still more flooded in with Avrohom when he walked in the door from shul. The house was crowded, but flush with excitement. It was definitely one of the busier weeks.
Deena had always been careful to get an accurate headcount when planning for each Shabbos…but once everyone has sat down at the table, there were still eight people standing. While Avrohom and Deena quickly opened an additional folding table, the guests crowded around to assist setting it. One of the regular guests, who knew where the folding chairs were stored, ran to grab the few more.
Now they were ready for Kiddush. There were 46 people, a record. One of the newcomers was an African American ger named Tony, who was especially moved by the camaraderie and atmosphere. Towards the end of the meal, he asked Avrohom if he could say a few words.
Avrohom nodded; Tony stood up. The room, buzzing a moment before, was suddenly quiet. All the guests are always intrigued by the geirim and their winding, passionate roads to Judaism. Tony’s voice quickly filled the room. Shabbos, to him, meant so much, it had changed his life, and as he was experiencing this particular Shabbos, his thoughts has crystallized in his head. He expressed an emotional appreciation of Shabbos that was raw and genuine, and some guests even began to tear.
There was a frum boy at the Beyman table that night. No, you wouldn’t have known he was frum had you seen him, but yet he was. And he was one of those with tears.
“I haven’t kept Shabbos since I became bar mitzvah,” he said. “First, it was secretly in my room. But then, more and more until I left. But now I am going to keep Shabbos again.”
How to Open a Home
To the upcoming wedding of their youngest son, Elisha, and his kallah, Sara Rivka, taking place this Monday, July 23, in Monsey, the Beyman family have sent an open invitation to all singles, who will be able to meet numerous shadchanim and network at the simchah. But what kind of people open a chasunah to all the singles of klal Yisrael that wish to attend? The story of the hachnasas orchim of the Beymans goes back many years, and it begins not in a simchah hall but around their own Shabbos table.
Eight years ago, after their two daughters were married, their oldest son was learning in Eretz Yisrael, and only the youngest, Elisha, was at home, the Beymans thought it would be a good idea to start inviting Shabbos guests. They signed up to be a host on Shabbat.com, but they didn’t receive any requests.
“We have to be proactive and invite people,” Avrohom told his wife Deena, “Most people are shy.” So, Deena would begin inviting people through the site.
“Deena would invite 150 people each week, but only three or four would respond. We realized that people that might have signed up a long time ago might not be checking their messages. So, instead, we focused on inviting people who recently signed up and we were much more matzliach.”
For the first couple of months of their new initiative, the Beymans would have a handful of Shabbos guests each week. But then, one week, one of the girls asked if she could bring friends.
“Esther brought 20 people that week. Since then, we’ve had usually between 20 and 35 people at our table for every Shabbos and Yom Tov meal.”
The guests sleep over at the Beyman home. There are now 16 extra beds; they’ve added beds over time. The girls sleep upstairs on the second floor (with the family) and the boys are downstairs in the basement. If there’s an overflow, some guests sleep on the couch or at neighbors.
“Are you ever worried about who is coming into your home?” I ask. “You don’t know them.”
“There are isolated times when it’s not always wonderful, but 95 percent of people are good people. Most often, it’s beautiful and we’ve met unbelievable people. They’re good folks. All types of Jews are welcome, from not-frum-yet to chasidishe and everything in between.”
After Kiddush, and after Avrohom bentches his son, the guests line up for a brachah and Avrohom gives the men and boys a hug. Even though they are grown, they are still starving for love. “Oh, I love those hugs,” said one guest. That comment was so rewarding to the Beymans. Many of their guests don’t have affection and family, and they receive their dose on Friday nights.
Some guests are regulars, and some come once in awhile. And though most are singles, there are a few couples and families; one man who is divorced comes with five children and camps out in a tent in the Beyman backyard. Sometimes people will show up during Shabbos; the Beymans will come downstairs on Shabbos morning and find people who weren’t there the night before. The Beyman home has come to be a place where people feel safe and they’re welcome to come and go.
And, for many of their guests, the experience of Shabbos has changed their lives.