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Brooklyn needs Luzern

Friday, 29 July, 2011 - 2:04 am

Have you ever been asked to complete a Minyan? If you live in a small community such as ours, this can happen often, since there aren’t always enough participants for a minyan or sometimes exactly ten. There are some places, where this almost never happens, where there are always enough people. Interestinly, I was recently called to be the tenth guy for a minyan, not in a small community, but in one of the largest Jewish communities in the world.

At my last visit in the big city of New York, I landed on a Monday evening and spend the night in my brothers apartment. The next morning I got up early in order to have a joint study session with an old friend of mine from Yeshiva days before the morning prayers. As I was leaving the building at six thirty in the morning, heading towards the big Chabad synagogue of Crown Heights, I hear a call from the other side of the street:” Good morning, can you come here for a minute?” I walk toward the man, who was wearing his Tallit and Tefillin, and he asks me to please come and complete the minyan in his Shul: “you are number ten, you must come in…” I think to myself,  in the city with one of the largest Jewish populations in the world, there are hundreds of thousands of Jews living only here in Brooklyn, they need me to come from Luzern, for a visit of not even two and half days, to complete a minyan,?!

I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I go in or not? The man really tried to push me and convinced me by saying, surely someone else will come soon and you will be able to go on your way. I gave in and went inside.

It was a small Shul and I thought to have probably never visited it before. We were exactly ten men, the Chazzan started the prayers and I kept on eying the door to see if someone would come to take my place, so I can continue on my way. Finally the door opens and a man walks in.

I was about to leave when the Rabbi came over to me quickly… no, no don’t leave, he tells me. Then he whispers: “The man who just walked in is a great guy, but he isn’t Jewish… he came here to fix something.”

So I will have to skip the joint studying with my Yeshiva friend this morning…

My mind starts to wander and I think of all those people in Central Switzerland whom I have asked in the past to come and complete the minyan. They usually react nicer than the way I did, when I was needed.

I look around the little Shul, the furniture, slowly it starting to look a bit familiar to me... 

Suddenly something comes up in my memory. Not a dramatic memory, but a very pleasant one.

Exactly 14 years ago, my sister who lives in Argentina today, got engaged in New York. My parents had to leave to go back to Israel a day later, so they were desperately looking for a place where they could hold a modest engagement party that night.

In Chassidic circles it is customary to make the engagement party, which is called “vort”, as soon as possible after the actual engagement. So sometimes it can be very difficult to find a place which is available on such short notice.

Then someone suggested a small Shul on the outskirts of the neighborhood, which might still be available. I was then 17 years old, and I went together with my father to the Gabbai of the Shul, who told us that even though it was too late to book the shul, he will still help us to organize everything for the party. I still remember how happy and thankful we were to have found a place.

Here I am, exactly fourteen years later, in the same week, I find myself in that same Shul. This time it is me, who is helping them out, by being the tenth man for the minyan!

Rivky and the children join me in wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Chaim


Comments on: Brooklyn needs Luzern

Ron wrote...

Love this story Rabbi.
Haha i was laughing while remembering you asking me to be number 10.

We might be a small community but a great one with one great rabbi!!
Shabbat Shalom!

Meir wrote...

Great story and reflection. Please keep it coming!