In Which I Rush For the Shana

Posted on 5th October 2014

Up early in the morning I caught a cab to the airport. I was a little rushed but thanks to my newly acquired Star Alliance Gold Status, I sped quickly through security and onto the lounge. After an orange juice and the morning paper, I was well refreshed for my flight into Chicago. The flight itself was uneventful and I landed safely at O’Hare airport within two and a half hours of leaving. Getting in at a little after nine, I texted Rocky Neumann (a youth counselor of mine from Hineni when I was in grade four) and asked her for directions as to how to get to her.

At first the instruction was to catch the train and then a bus to her place. Dutifully I hopped on and started on my way. A few minutes into the ride I received another text that things weren’t quite running to schedule and that I should head into the city and meet her at Wellington Station. On arriving there I was redirected yet again! This time to Michigan Avenue. Though I had visited Chicago before it was far more beautiful in the autumn than in the dead of winter. Walking through the streets, gazing at the architecture I ambled along till I reached the road when I called Rocky for more instructions. As it turned out she was running so late that I now needed to navigate a system of underground tunnels to find my own way via express train to the University of Chicago. When I arrived, Rocky was no longer able to meet me, having had to enter an important meeting. With my knapsack on my back, I wandered around till I found the Hillel and then texted Tova, another good friend in Chicago. She immediately offered to take me to her apartment for me to relax. I walked there for a few minutes and met her outside, when she realized that she’d locked us both out and that her roommate was out too and thus couldn’t unlock the door for us.

After a minute or two of pondering, we decided to do the shopping for the chag (festival) and so we walked together to Hyde Park Produce and wheeled back eighty dollars of food in a shopping trolley, enough to feed a good number. After finally getting into the apartment we now found ourselves with not enough time to relax so it was off for more errands; to pick up some challah and then to another supermarket for regular groceries. By the time we were at the checkout counter, I realized I was running late to meet back up with Rocky. Hurriedly I raced back to meet her on the corner and both of us stressed an me fairly exhausted, we caught the bus back up to Lakeview in the north of Chicago.

It was now a race against the sun, we had to make it to the shul (synagogue) in time to pick up tickets for services over the next two days. I was a little uncomfortable with the idea of a synagogue charging people to attend, however it was apparently the norm across the United States. Everything here is so commercialized, even religion! It was at this time that I also started to realize quite how sick and exhausted I was. After acquiring the tickets and a little more shopping, we finally arrived at Rocky’s studio apartment, where I would be staying over the next four nights. Pretty quickly I collapsed on the couch, only to be woken a few hours later, told that it was time to get dressed and was quickly rushed out.

We barely made it to shul on time. Tonight was at Chabad Gold Coast (which amusingly is also a major Chabad in Australia) and the service was conducted by the Rabbi’s son who had one of the most beautiful untrained voices I’d ever heard. A tenor with a naturally pure tone, his songs lifted up the mood in the room. While the Rabbi’s sermon went for quite some time, it was well natured and we were kindly invited back to their place for the meal. The meal itself was highly enjoyable, with people from around the world and of all different ages crammed in. A particular highlight was the Rebbetzin’s  (Rabbi’s Wife’s) challah, that was fresh and homemade. The ambiance was warm, much like the people we were with and after the meal we were invited back for another on Friday night. We graciously accepted having had such a nice evening amongst very open people.

The walk home took around forty-five minutes, but it all seemed too fast for me as I was enjoying the time with Rocky. We had years worth to catch up on and being so far away from home, we had a lot to share. When we made it back neither of us had any more stamina to stay awake, so in short order we were both asleep.

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