16 April 2012

Shabbos out-of-town

This post is for the New Yorkers.

Once, when I was living in a large and bustling Jewish community, I explained to a Shabbos host that I did not intend to stay forever. The conversation moved on to where I was living and what I was doing, and we were both a bit shocked by what a wonderful life I had.
"Why do you want to leave, then?" he asked.
"I miss having a kehilla," I said -- and he agreed that there was no answer to that one.

Here is what a Shabbos is like in a small kehilla (community) where everyone knows everyone else.
My toddler and I arrived in shul; all the women immediately pounced on us, and the little girls took turns clamoring for the privilege of distracting the toddler. The one-man "Announcement Committee" announced after services that we were in town.

It was a Shabbos aufruf, on which everyone throws candy at the groom-to-be. His bride - who is not supposed to see him all this week - was also in shul, to everyone's amusement (as we carefully hid her), because she had to hear Parshas Zachor.

After davening we went to someone's house for the seudah; and then we went to a Shabbos kallah -- where all the women and girls of the community sat in a circle, together with the bride (wearing a plastic tiara) -- and passed round a bag of toys; each woman or girl had to draw out a toy and make a pun on it to give the bride advice, and then there was singing &c.

The teenage girls repaired to their weekly hangout at the house of one of the Torah scholars of the community; a couple of women went back to shul for Mincha, which is followed by a communal shalosh seudos meal (in the ezras nashim, or in the courtyard if the weather is nice), Maariv, and Havdala; and then after Shabbos two of us walked to someone's house to call home for rides, because we live a bit far out - one of us lives three miles through a forest from shul, but that's nothing on the teenagers who walk nine miles from home every Shabbos.

I am not sure how to convey the sense of familial warmth that pervades a small Torah community. If you have never experienced it, it is worth checking out.

(like through Shabbat.com)

(This post comes late because I proofread it while still out-of-town, and set it aside, thinking, "Well, duh, Shabbos everywhere is like that." But I am posting anyway just in case it is not.)

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