By Larry Gordon

Rabbi Zev Katz of Chabad leads Mitzvah Tank on Lincoln Road

Miami Beach, Florida—“Summertime, and the living is easy” is an old refrain to an even older song from a bygone era. This is our intersession, if we had one or needed one. Then there is the argument that no one needs five or ten days off from school in the middle of the New York winter, especially if you are only ten years old.

But we are not going to debate that here and now, as the discussion is usually a circular one that never reaches a definitive conclusion. In other words, it is what it is and that is as conclusive as we are going to get.

My best guess as to why we tend to gravitate in the direction of Miami Beach, Florida, at least once per year, is because my parents did it before us. They blazed a trail that, whether we like it or not, we have no choice but to follow. The other reason is that it is warm down here and cold in New York at this time of year, but that is probably secondary.

Actually, we are not in Miami Beach this year but spending most of our time in Surfside which is one of the zip codes located between Miami Beach and North Miami, Aventura, and so on. It’s the last few days of Kaddish for my mom, so I’m positioned diagonally across the street from The Shul of Bal Harbour, which is located down the block from where we are staying and across the street from the Surfside post office.

So we are basically traversing the borders between Miami Beach, Surfside, and Bal Harbour.

Shabbos was delightful and enjoyable. The shul is a crossroads of sorts for snowbirds and people passing through town—like us—along with a sprinkling of folks who make this part of the U.S. their all-year-round home.

A new feature of Orthodox Jewish life down here is that several restaurants on Horace Harding Avenue are open on Friday night for pre-paid patrons to have their Shabbos seudah. So we went to one of those restaurants—Kosh—which was filled to capacity with just a few inches separating the tables.

The next day, Shabbos, at The Shul, the place was full. It then filled up even more once people streamed into the social hall from the satellite minyanim that are located in different parts of this sprawling edifice.

The kiddush was sponsored by a Far Rockaway-Five Towns notable personality who prefers to remain anonymous. I asked him a few times in the course of this week if I can identify him here but he has steadfastly refused. But if you really want to know and you ask me about it I might whisper his name in your ear.

The rush into the kiddush room was a near stampede, a combination of a long service and a lot of people who did not have breakfast. Fortunately, the kiddush sponsor invited us to sit at his table, which was served by one of the shul personnel, so at the end of the day we partook of a wonderful Shabbos luncheon with some excellent and interesting company and tasty cuisine as well.

On Sunday, we strolled and shopped our way down the long avenue lined with upscale shopping, mostly non-kosher eateries, and a wide array of Sunday-only merchants who set up shop under umbrellas, canopies, or non-walled tents to protect against either the sun or the rain as the case may be.

The weather was superb, and it was difficult not to notice the inordinate representation of frum people perusing the shops and enjoying the southern warm weather, change of scenery, and the chance to escape New York for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

I also couldn’t help but observe the elderly couples ambling their way down Lincoln Road looking at some of the vintage items that might have been new in the years of their youth, decades ago. The sight reminded me in a sense of the scene of students spending late nights on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem.

And this is the parallel. When kids are tucked away for a year or two to ostensibly study in Israel, regardless of what they are doing on any given day or night, their parents back home cannot help but gush about how wonderful their child is doing 5,700 miles away from home. The further away he or she is from home, it seems that the better their child is doing.

And this thought occurred to me when I observed some very elderly people moseying down Collins Avenue or the shopping district on 41st Street. Their children back home cannot say enough about how well their parents are doing down in Miami Beach, whether they are here voluntarily or not. From the distance they are here and they are loving it. Whether it is true or not really doesn’t matter.

Last Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday. Minchah was davened on time in shul but Ma’ariv was moved up to just moments past shekiah so that people could get back to their apartments or hotel rooms in time for the kickoff at about 6:30 p.m. local time.

As you can see here, I ran into Rabbi Zev Katz, the Chabad emissary, on Lincoln Road, standing outside his handsomely decorated mitzvah tank/mobile shul parked on the street.

I stepped inside the motorized shul where Rabbi Katz urges Jewish passersby to come inside and put on tefillin if they have not yet done so on that day. He is an animated young man who at about 3:00 p.m. told us that he had put tefillin on 22 men so far that day and was aiming to reach 35.

He says he is a native of Miami Beach and that he has a shul near Lincoln Road in addition to his cute little shul bus that he pops in and out of all day long. We play a little Chabad Jewish geography, he tells me he knows many of my cousins, and I in turn tell him that I know at least five people named Zev Katz.

We spent some time down here with friends who can’t decide where they want to spend the winter as they keep flying back and forth between New York and Miami just about every other week. We also spent some time with our almost one-year-old mechutanim, Orly and Jeff Stern, who are always a great joy to be with.

All in all, it was a nice getaway, and that is what we all need if you can possibly swing it or arrange your schedule in that fashion. An escape, a winter interlude, a reminder of what last summer felt like and what spring, when it comes around once again in the next few weeks, will feel like.

And no, it does not have to be frigid in New York in order to enjoy the 80-degree daily temperature here. Though on Sunday, a friend from New York mentioned in passing that it was like 15 degrees on Friday night when he went to shul. And no, I didn’t say that on Friday night here it was 70 degrees. I thought it, but I did not say a word.

Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at editor@5tjt.com.

 

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