Part One: The Fine Art of Hachnasas Orchim
Our itinerary was mapped out down to the last detail. We would be driving across virtually all of North America, from our own home in Western Canada to our relatives’ homes on the east coast of the United States. Needless to say, we had carefully chosen a number of select sites to visit along the way: some historical, others natural wonders, and still others – ahem – sports related. In short, something for everyone.
We had even booked motel rooms for the entire trip. Well, all but the most important one of all: our Shabbos accommodations.
As a borderline CDO (OCD alphabetized) sufferer, I really wanted to have every last thread tied up securely before we hit the road. However, in what can only be attributed to a moment of weakness and/or temporary insanity, I somehow let my laid-back husband convince me to temporarily put our Shabbos plans on hold.
“It makes much more sense to wait until we get closer, and contact the local rabbi,” he assured me. “He’ll know which motels are best situated in proximity to the frum neighborhood, where to buy food with a reliable hechsher, and everything else we’ll need to know.”
I have to admit that I was still more than mildly skeptical, but what other choice did I have? Besides, what could possibly go wrong? What indeed?
So, we took leave of our home in the land of the maple leaf, and presumably, concurrently took leave of our senses. What were we thinking?
But now I am beginning to get ahead of myself, as usual.
We had a lovely trip, spending quality time together, traversing much of the continent and drinking in the beautiful scenery, without a care in the world. As the saying goes, “Ignorance is bliss….”
However, eventually erev Shabbos arrived, and with it a sobering wake-up call. We followed the proposed protocol to the letter, finding a local phone directory, scouring its pages for a frum shul listing, and phoning the rabbi. Shockingly, he even answered the phone on our first attempt. So far so good.
The rav greeted my husband warmly, welcoming us to the community, and playing a brief round of Jewish Geography.
My husband then proceeded to solicit the information we requested.
There was a protracted pause on the other end of the line. Finally, the rabbi found his voice.
“Ordinarily, I would be able to recommend more than one nice motel in walking distance to the shul and the frum kehillah,” he began. “As it happens, though, this is the one weekend of the entire year that a popular Art Fair comes to town. There is not a single hotel or motel room available for miles!”
We stood there, dumb-founded and open-mouthed, trying to digest this bombshell. The rabbi recovered before we did.
“Don’t worry,” he assured us. “Give me an hour or so, and then call me back.”
We did our best not to dwell on the fact that Shabbos was mere hours away, and we had neither a roof over our heads nor take-out food with which to greet her. It looked like we would be taking the directives of Pirkei Avos quite literally: “Pas bemelach tochal… al ha’aretz tishan….”
Even my perpetually optimistic husband was having some misgivings at this point. In the end result, however, he would undoubtedly prefer to sleep in the street and subsist on rainwater than have to listen to my chorus of “I told you so!”
While we were still incredulously lamenting our fate, the local rav, henceforth to be referred to as “the malach of Minneapolis,” was frantically trying to organize accommodations and meals for our Shabbos stay. And, with no small degree of siyata dishmaya, he succeeded with flying colors.