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Locked out of Shul!

LOCKED-OUT-OF-HOME-HOUSTON.jpgWe had just celebrated a month of holidays, which can definitely be called “busy season” for rabbis. Between writing sermons, raising funds, inspiring worshipers, blowing shofar, building sukkot, visiting the ill and housebound, and hosting yom tov meals, there’s nary a minute to breathe. And then the first Shabbat after Simchat Torah we had a huge bat mitzvah celebration.

So I decided to take a Shabbat off.

This may sound like a simple feat, but the arrangements that need to be made make it anything but. I have to ensure there is an assistant rabbi—someone who can give a decent sermon, read from the Torah, and lead the services. I have to call around and make sure there will be a minyan for all services, and I need to order the kiddush and check that it has been delivered.  

I asked my brother, a newly graduated rabbi, to fill in for me, and got to work on the rest of the preparations. I made sure our weekly newsletter and stories were printed for the congregation. I ordered the kiddush and ensured it was delivered. I sent out the times for services. I ran through every detail of the 25 hours to ensure that Shabbat would proceed smoothly in my absence, and then I set off for the weekend.

Just as I was settling in, minutes before candle lighting, my phone rings with an unfamiliar number. I hesitated. Should I pick up or should I ignore it?

It was my brother. “We have a massive problem!” he said.

“Oh no. Don’t tell me…” I groaned.

“When I tried to unlock the shul,” he explained, “the key snapped off. Half is in the lock, half is in my hand, and we can’t get in!”

Are you kidding me, I thought to myself. What on earth am I supposed to do now? There’s no other way to get in! There will be no services!

I began making a series of frantic calls to any locksmith I had in my phone, and any congregants I could think of who might be connected to a locksmith. But time was not on my side. As the 18 minutes ticked by, I came to the sinking realization that even if I found someone now, they would not have enough time to get there and fix the lock before Shabbat.

And that is when I realized that you can prepare and prepare and prepare, you can do everything in your power to ensure that things run smoothly, but ultimately it’s not up to us. We think we are in charge. We think we are the ones making decisions, making money, making plans…but when it comes down to it, there is G-d Almighty who is in charge of the world. He decides; not us. He plans; not us.

So I took a deep breath and let the One Who is truly in charge of the world continue to control it. I turned off my phone for Shabbat and disconnected from the world. What a gift He has given us! No internet, no phone, no Wifi, no stocks, no problems. Just us and G-d and Shabbat. Every week. No distractions.

As for what happened with the shul…one of our congregants managed to use the half key that was still inserted to break the lock and let everyone in. When they left that night, they had to leave the shul open, and when our cleaner arrived the following morning and saw the broken lock she hired her own locksmith, which meant everyone was locked out again the following morning until she arrived with the new key. At the end of the day, all is well! Shul ran in my absence, albeit with some hiccups, and I came back rejuvenated and ready to jump back into rabbi mode.  

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