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A Boston Shabbat

"Who wants to go for a walk to see the lights?"

My niece and nephew and I were all enthusiastic about the opportunity, despite the unseasonable cold. So after we pushed back from our Shabbat dinner table, we bundled up in coats and hats and scarves and went for a postprandial stroll.

The lights in question are on a large house on the Arborway in Jamaica Plain. As this Boston Globe story reports, it sports more than 250,000 bulbs. In San Antonio, where my sister and I grew up, it's not that uncommon to see houses bedecked with a mighty lot of Christmas lights. (And of course there are always the lights on the Riverwalk.) I'm not used to seeing these kinds of light displays here in New England, though...and apparently neither is anybody else; this past erev Shabbat, there were several cars pulled-over in front of the Luberto house, and a sidewalk full of onlookers snapping pictures!

And then we walked home and studied Torah by the fire. I had a good conversation with my niece -- who will become bat mitzvah in June -- about modern midrash, and about midrashic opportunities in the portion from which she'll be reading.

The next morning we went to Bnai Or, the Renewal congregation in Boston. I enjoyed introducing my sister and niece to a kind of davening that differs from what they're used to. (I think they especially enjoyed the enlivening effect of having a good hand-drummer present.) It was a kind of first for me, too -- my first Renewal service in a community where almost everyone present was part of that community. Renewal worship feels different when it's the minhag hamakom, the custom of the place in question, instead of just being something we dip into (as on retreat at Elat Chayyim) and then all scatter home from. Hopefully at some point soon I'll have the time and space to write more about that.

It was a sweet visit, if (as always) too short. I'm still entertained by having spent our Shabbat evening admiring the neighborhood's most remarkable Christmas lights. Diaspora, sweet diaspora...

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