[This week's Haveil Havalim is here]
I just spent a wonderful Shabbos in Calgary's Jewish community, enjoying the hospitality of a great shul and the warmest of families. I've never been here before, but it made me terribly homesick.
Regular readers here know what I mean (and for those who don't know, try here, here and here for starters). My reasons for leaving the rabbinate to move to a community with a high school were real and legitimate and right, and I love what I am doing with the kollel in Toronto. I'm learning and growing, measurably. Nonetheless, two years down the road, being in Calgary intensified the emotions I have for Pawtucket and Allentown, and for the shul roles I held.
The community - Toronto is great, on many levels, but most parts of it can't compete for warmth, for camaraderie, for the "ownership" sensibility of individuals, with smaller Jewish communities. During the past two years I've spent Shabbos in Hamilton and Ottawa, and now Calgary, and in these places I've seen again what I saw in my old stomping grounds – the people who live and love, and are engaged in building, a shul. A place to recognize Gd. A place to raise kids. A place to congregate and celebrate and commiserate. A place to learn and grow.
It's funny to see people and think, as you look at them, of the people who played their roles elsewhere. To look at a gabbai and think of a gabbai in Pawtucket. To look at a person making announcements and think of a person making announcements in Allentown. Not that people are interchangeable - we bring our selves to what we do – but that these are the key roles which define Jewish community, like a baseball team has a shortstop and a hockey time has a right winger and so on. I naturally see a person playing a position and think of others I've known who have played the position on similar teams, elsewhere. It brings a powerful nostalgia.
And the shul role - It also made me homesick because I had the chance to observe a shul rabbi who knows what he's doing; the Rav of the shul here in Calgary is first-rate. I am under no illusion that I was perfect in the pulpit, but I know what perfect looks like, in terms of the academic, intellectual, teaching role, and the intertwined human, social, engagement role. I love having the chance to watch shul rabbis do it well… and, again, it brings pangs of homesickness.
There is no upshot here, no practical takeaway. Just some musings on a Motzaei Shabbos in the Canadian Rockies.