Part I of this series introduced the 6,000-mile driving tour that my wife, Barbara, and I took in the van driven by my brother, Avi, and our sister-in-law, Martha, to the Canadian Rockies. It detailed the challenge of obtaining kosher food on a driving tour. A month-long trip of this type can be very interesting and exciting. In the many different towns and cities we visited, we sought and found Jews with an affinity for other Jews.
The second challenge for Orthodox Jews is how and where to spend Shabbat while traveling. Thanks to both the Internet and Chabad, our four Shabbatot were the most interesting parts of the trip. We planned our trip so that each Friday, we would be in a different city with an Orthodox neighborhood. We found warm and friendly home hospitality in each community.
Our first Shabbat was observed in Minneapolis. We enjoyed the hospitality of Corrine and Dr. Marty Kletzko and of Dr. and Mrs. Thorne. We were invited on Erev Shabbat to eat with the Kletzko family and on Shabbat we joined other guests at the home of Rabbi and Mrs. Goldberger. We were impressed by the Divrei Torah discussed by the rabbi’s children during the meal, and we enjoyed our visit with our host families.
In the process of organizing the visits to the various communities, I offered to discuss our life in Israel with any interested group. In Minneapolis Rabbi Goldberger asked me to speak during Seudah HaShlishit, and there was a very lively discussion.
We had read at Minchah the story of the spies sent by Moshe to visit Israel. The word used in the Torah is “La Tour,” to tour the land. I mentioned that Moshe sent tribe leaders, similar to tours made by influential shul officers and community leaders. The Torah taught us a lesson of how careful community leaders must be to not misinterpret what they see in Israel. They should not bring back reports about Israel that begin with, “It is a great and wonderful country, but…! You can fill in the “but” that often implies that Israel is not a place where we can or need to live. When the Biblical “tourists” returned with a “but” report, the punishment was 40 years of wandering in the desert. The punishment today seems to be intermarriage, drugs and other dangers in the Diaspora.
Our second Shabbat was in Calgary, Canada. Here the Shabbat home hospitality was organized as a shul fund-raiser, and was easily requested via the Internet from the hospitality coordinator, Marina Segal. We enjoyed the hospitality of Debbie and Nelson Halpern, where we slept and ate Friday night, and Samantha and Josh Margo, who hosted us for Shabbat lunch.
An interesting comment was made by Debbie Halpern. She said that before we arrived she Googled me and, thanks to my Jewish Press articles, I was “famous.” The conversation all weekend, of course, centered around living in Israel, and the fact that having lived there for 34 years, we are living proof that it is possible for an American family to live, raise a family and prosper there. Shabbat ended after 11:00 p.m. in northern communities, which gave us lots of time to shmooze.
After spending a week in the Canadian Rockies, our third Shabbat was in Edmonton, Canada. We were warmly hosted by Rabbi Avi Dreilich and his family. Rabbi Dreilich is the rabbi of the Chabad Shul, and we were impressed by the number of former Russian Jews that attended the shul. They came, davened, listened to some Torah, and were influenced by the rabbi. His natural acceptance of Russian Jews made them feel welcome, which was impressive.
The week we attended, an elderly Jew who had never had a bar mitzvah was smiling from ear to ear as he was called up to the Torah for the first time. He was helped with the brachot,and he enjoyed the Kiddush held after davening. The Kiddush gave Rabbi Dreilich another opportunity to remind the community that an experienced mohel for adults had been invited for the following week to circumcise those who never had a bris. Several men had already signed up.
Our lunch with the Dreilich family and their other guests lasted until 6:00 p.m. and was filled with Torah, discussions about Israel and their community, and about Rabbi Dreilich’s work. After Shabbat, at 11:35 p.m., Rabbi Dreilich and his sons quickly went to work putting the finishing touches on the equipment for Sunday’s golf tournament fund-raiser.
PART III: The Fourth Shabbat In Toronto.
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