Hot on the heels of the fabulous Bobover hasidic wedding I went to last month, I had the opportunity to attend, along with my beloved S.G., a bar mitzvah last weekend at the holy Congregation Chasedei Bobov in the Bathurst and Wilson area of The Heart of the Old World, in Toronto.
It had been many years since I attended services at Congregation Chasedei Bobov (aka the Bobover shul) and was looking forward to going back. Located at the north-east corner of Bathurst Street and Carmichael Avenue, the building has undergone significant renovations in the last year or so.
When I arrived there at about 9:30 am, the large shul was already almost full. I was worried I would not be able to sit down when a young man came up to me, smiling and friendly, and offered to find me a seat. Before I knew it, I was at a table near the back and settling in nicely.
There were many familiar faces in the congregation. Several people came up and greeted me with hearty handshakes. It’s really easy to feel at home almost immediately when you are with Bobovers. They’re so warm and genuine, I find.
The bar mitzvah boy did marvelously well, of course, and the family and entire congregation was rightly proud of him.
After services, everyone was invited to a kiddush that was held in the smaller (original) shul which doubled that morning as a reception hall. When I was at Bobov eight or nine years ago, the smaller room was the main (and only) sanctuary. It had a large opening in the ceiling from which those in the women’s section on the second floor could look down.
Once again, there did not seem to be an empty seat and, once again, a Bobover hasid came up to me, greeted me warmly with a firm handshake and a hearty “Good Shabbes!” and found me a seat at one of the tables. At the kiddush, I scanned the large crowd and could pick out more familiar faces, many of whom came up to me to say hello. Shouts of “Good Shabbes!” and “Mazel tov!” rang throughout the hall.
There was lots of food and drink. I had an opportunity to meet new people and reconnect with many old familiar faces.
Eventually, SG and I made our way out of the shul and then walked about a kilometre further north to the home of the bar mitzvah boy. We had been kindly invited by the parents to join them for lunch. I was indeed fortunate in sitting with the bar mitzvah boy, his father and grandfather and other close family members and loved ones. We celebrated for most of the afternoon. It was a remarkable spirit-filled experience.
SG and I walked back down Bathurst Street to the shul I usually attend, Congregation Bais Dov Yosef (aka R’ Bartfeld’s shul, aka the Strudel King)… about a kilometre south of the Bobover shul. SG went home for a well-deserved rest while I stayed at shul for afternoon prayers, shalosh seudos and evening services.
It was a magnificent Shabbes made even more special by the intensity, fervour and Ahavas Yisroel (love of one’s fellow Jew) of the Bobover Hasidim. Virtually everyone I met there encouraged me to come by more often… and that once every eight years was not nearly enough!
I will definitely take them up on their kind offer. Shabbes there is an awesome experience and one which I will want to enjoy again and again this year.