My chag was delightful. Almost perfect, really. I'd forgotten just how beautiful St. Louis is this time of year, and just how heimisch the community there is. As I got on the plane on Tuesday afternoon, I found myself thinking (as I always seem to do), 'Why am I going? What am I doing?' But as soon as I got off that plane, I remembered why I was going and what I was doing. I was going because that community is as much home to me as my native Chicago, and I was visiting friends who had become family during the years I spent with them.
When I got to St. Louis, I had no plans whatsoever for any of my yontif/shabbos meals. By the time my friend Chasiah and I had lit our yontif candles, we had 4 out of 6 meals taken care of. We'd planned on cooking those remaining two meals and inviting people over. Instead, we ended up accepting invitations from other families at shul, despite the fact that I'd bought enough food to feed the entire populations of both the Czech Republic and Slovakia combined. And I sadly had to turn down invitations from other families who had not known that I was coming into town, and therefore did not have an opportunity to claim me in advance.
I can't remember a Simchas Torah when I drank less and laughed more (not a single drop of bourbon...go figure!). I think I had a goofy, glowing grin on my face for the entire 25 hours. I danced so much that my legs didn't want to move the next morning...so I went to shul and danced some more. I sang until my voice was shot, and kept on singing anyway. I played with babies and kibbitzed with the sisterhood. I raided the box of taffy apples (they store the box in the same place every year...) and helped in the kitchen. I saw old friends and made new ones. Much thanks and love to Chasiah, Aaron, Corey, Sheryl, the Shafners, the Fredmans, the Nemuses, the Katz-Orlows, The Novacks, and the entire Bais Abraham community.
I wish everyone in my shul in Chicago would be able to spend a shabbos at Bais Abe. It's such a remarkable place. You have a little bit of everyone: Lubavitch rabbis, women in pants, college students who are shomer negiyah, college students who aren't fully shomer shabbos, old men whose native language is Yiddish, families with small children, you name it. But there are little to no tensions or politics. The biggest arguments seem to be about the use of the kitchen, not about who is too left-wing or who is too right-wing. Those tensions just don't seem to exist. That kind of negativity is a foreign concept. It's so beautiful to be a part of, and very difficult to leave behind. It's a shame that a shul so lovely is such a rarity.
The rest of my weekend was equally delightful. Motzei shabbos, I left Chasiah's and relocated to Tabitha's. We contemplated going out on the town and having a bit of crazy girl fun, but instead decided to stay in. We settled down with some wine, some chips and guacamole, and season 4 of Sex and the City, and stayed up talking until 4:30 in the morning. I haven't had a night like that in a very, very long time. Slumber parties are wasted on children. Sunday was late and lazy, and ended in meeting Helen and Scott for coffee before heading to the airport.
All in all, my trip was phenomenal. A perfect and much-needed break from the balagan that is my life.