The routine for the Yom Tovim has been the same for so long. Where we would daven and most of our meals were the same places year after year. This year everything was new once again. Planning in advance was not on the agenda.
We had decided where we would daven last week and decided to wait until we spent a Shabbos there before submitting our ticket request on Sunday. It was not until late Monday morning that we knew what the arrangements would be. I would be assigned a seat. They would try to assign a seat for Rachel but they were not sure if there was room. In the end she got a seat but moved around in order to be able to sit with Channah. There were sections of davening where friend's from Channah's class father had to struggle to daven while holding both of his twins on his lap.
On Sunday we had an invite for first night from our neighbours. The family was complete off the wall. I stunned the Uncle of the host by recognizing that he was from Toronto and father of some people we have a lot of respect for. He had the same off the wall personality as his sons. There was another family with Toronto connections. They took the simanim very serious. I am normally not a fan of segulahs. There was a great vort of why these ones are important that even I can live with. Channah was completely intimidated by the percoutious Israeli kids. First day lunch was just us, quiet followed by a nap. 2nd night we went to friends we decided to adopt as family for Yom Tov and they came to us 2nd day lunch. The food was really good through all of Yom Tov. Special compliments to the (#4) roast Rachel made for lunch and the pomegranate.
I am usually not a big pomegranate fan. This year we got some from our friends pomegranate tree. I was worried it would not be good because it was green instead of the red I am used to. Then I noticed in the stores that they were all green. I must say that it is the best pomegranate I have ever had. Plus there were no worried of red stains.
Shul was an experience. We really noticed how lucky we have been privileged we were to experience the abundant quantity of talent of Baalei Tefilah that Toronto has to offer. On the plus side there was no talking and almost everyone there was focused on davening. There is something to be said when the kehilah understands the meaning of the words. It was quite powerful when the kehilah sang together, which was quite often.
The first day Yom Tov the Rabbi spoke about the link between tekiah shofar and crying. The second day the Rabbi focused on the link between tefillah and crying. On second day the Baal Tokeah linked all three together. I cannot remember the last time I heard shofar where they missed a note never mind repeat the entire sets. The poor guy struggled through the first set. The Rabbi and a few others were giving him words of encouragement while cleaning the Shofars as he fought his way through. He looked completely dejected as soon as he was finished. He inspected his primary shofar and found some sort of flaw. He rushed to show it to the Rabbi. The Rabbi immediately pulled down various halachic seforim off the wall looking for an answer before the start of Mussaf. Dropping the bad Shofar helped a bit, but some of his sets were only passable at best. It was quite a change from the 40+ second Tekiah Gedolah I am used to.
The shul is one of the few (if not only) one that conducts some of their shul business in English. This meant I could actually understand the Rabbi's speach. On the first night he gave me a kind welcome to the shul. On second day before kiddush and after I had hagbah (before Mussaf)he came up to me and told me that it was a pleasure to have me at the shul. I went to all three of his shiurs before Maariv. I must admit the "what changes have you made in you life recently" speech did not hit home this year. The other two nights he covered various halachas. The shiur was interactive with some top quality participation. He took the approach where he doesn't just cover how he poskens but covers the various opinions and where they very in halacha. One of the topics today was that Ashkanezi hold you do not repeat Shmonei Esrei if you miss halmelch hamishpat but Sephardim do and the Rama says it is a good thing to do. He made it a point that because the other opinions are out there, the tefilah should not be taken seriously enough to treat it as if you did need to repeat.
Tomorrow I have my only day of Ulpan for the week. I wonder how empty the 'train' is going to be.