Herzliya, Israel

My in-laws are coming to visit us for Shabbat. To be honest, I must admit that I’m trying to match my Russian sister-in-law’s endearing habit of ambushing Shabbat guests with outrageous quantities of food. Two weeks ago, for her son Eliron’s tenth birthday, she prepared from scratch a feast that would make even the most ambitious cook sweat. She did purchase the birthday cake, thank G-d. Eliron’s father wept openly when he stood, wineglass in hand, to toast his son. And being a family of gentle, sensitive types, we all cried with him. On the TV screen behind our nephew’s head, an Arik Einstein video of the song “Oof Guzal” played like some corny modern oracle: “Fly, little bird . . .” My husband and I calculated that Eliron had eight more years until compulsory service in the army. “Elironchik,” we told him, “study hard, b’seder? You’ll skip the army, live with family in the United States, and attend university.” With doe eyes and an almost undetectable tremor in his voice, Eliron described the punishments for evading army service.

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