Sunday, January 8, 2012

Was I Born for Boulder?

Oh Colorado! You with your sloping valleys and winding mountain roads, your heavy snowfall and sunny days melting it all away. Your coffee shops and head shops, your dispensaries and book stores. How I love you, let me count the ways!

There's something about Colorado that has made me feel better, happier, healthier, wiser. It's like breathing has become easier and my skin doesn't feel so tight around my bones. Even in the thinnest of mountain air, while watching deer rest under pine tree branches, I feel like I'm not breathing borrowed air, stale air, boxed-up and packaged-in air.

At times, I'm almost more cognizant of my Jewish self than I was before. With that said, there's still this void, and I feel it most during Shabbos. When I first came to Colorado I took up with the rest of the crowd in my community and ended up at DAT Minyan, and I visited BMH-BJ a few times as well. At first it was comfortable, and then it wasn't. I can't explain it, but the longer I'm here the longer I long for the Orthodox community I knew back in Chicago or West Hartford. There's something about those communities and their mixed multitudes (the good kind) that made Judaism seem so much more varied, diverse, exploratory, confusing, beautiful, bright, growing.

So, at the invitation of Rabbi Goldfeder and his wife up in Boulder (if you recall, I wrote about his book recently, and if you haven't purchased it and you're married, then I insist that you procure it post-haste), I spent this past Shabbos with their family and the community. I had been invited up before but some work drama and family drama and life drama kept me from visiting, so I was elated to make the trip this time around.

I arrived within minutes of candle lighting thanks to a turn-around on the way, but I got there, zipped to my humble abode and got ready for Shabbos. I stuck around with the kids (three, beautiful, awesome, intelligent, hilarious, loving kids, by the way) and the rabbi's wife Ketriellah for the evening and got to know the family a bit, and then a big group arrived and the Shabbos table was full for the evening. The variety and diversity of people -- Israelis, former Israelis, locals and their families -- made for an interesting conversation and a great meal that was, by the way, GLUTEN FREE! Yes, everything (save the challah the rabbi made) was deliciously gluten-free. I was instantly sold on moving in. I wonder if they'll have me?

Saturday morning I woke up incredibly late and schlepped off to shul, which is sort of in half of a home that has been converted, and the sanctuary is just downright cozy. The moment I stepped out of the rabbi's house, I was greeted by a gray sky and snowy mountains in the not-so-distant distance. Can you imagine waking up every day and seeing the mountains right there?

At the shul, the mechitzah hangs curtain-style from the ceiling with beautiful silver ringlet chains, there are brightly colored carpets and artwork, comfy chairs, seforim everywhere, and even a nifty little container with all of the spices and incense used at the Temple. Very, very great atmosphere. And when I walked in, the group was waiting for a few more men for minyan for the Torah reading, so there was sort of a group-study going on, which actually, honestly, I thought was pretty amazing. Walking through the Torah and hearing feedback and comments from the group of men and women is sort of how I picture a group of Jews spending their Saturday morning.

Thinking. Talking. Asking. Exploring. All orbiting the weekly parshah.

We davened Mussaf, and then the room was cleared and everyone helped set up for kiddush, which, by the way, was pretty much all gluten-free friendly! (Did I mention I was in heaven?) We walked home to a warm meal, some reading time (and I got a neck massage from one of the Goldfeder daughters -- she's a pro at the ripe age of six, seriously), and then preparation for the third meal.

And in the midst of it all, it began snowing.

The third meal was filled with the sound of Hebrew (many Israelis were there) and children running amok in the basement. We talked about what it means to be a chosen people, among other things, and I felt like my Shabbos was complete. The sky darkened and all of the kids and guests gathered for havdallah, and then the rabbi busted out his guitar for some Shavua Tov-ing song-style.

I know I only spent about 25 hours in Boulder within the small Jewish community there, but I feel like the aura of the community, the people, the place ... there's something about it. I know so many people who would fit in so perfectly with Rabbi Goldfeder and the intelligent curiosity and belief that is ever-present there. It's something I haven't felt in a long time. And those of you who have searched near and far for a place where you fit Jewishly understand what that means, what that feeling feels like.

So I had an amazing time. I felt, for the first time in a long time, like my Shabbos meant something, like there was a tangible spark in my soul that I could walk away with and start the new week with.

Perhaps the funniest thing about it all is that the community I was in was an Aish community -- and those of you who have read me a long time know about my history with Aish. But there's something about this Aish rabbi and community that has something bigger to offer than is being expressed and understood in the greater Colorado community. (Check out the Boulder Aish Kodesh site here.)

If only I lived in Boulder, eh?

Also: If you want to see the beautiful hamsa that marks the gate for the shul, just Google Map and Street View 1805 Balsam Avenue, Boulder, Colorado!

EDIT/NOTE: So it turns out that Boulder Aish Kodesh is not tied to the large organization Aish HaTorah! Well that explains a lot.