Shabbos - Madrid

Madrid Travel Blog

 › entry 5 of 17 › view all entries
My Madrid Shabbos experience requires a little back story.  Last week, I spoke to YL, a friend from Maryland whom I have not spoken to in months.  I happened to mention that I was going to Spain and YL said, "Oh I have a friend who was just there.  He had a funny exchange with the Chabad rabbi there.  When he emailed the rabbi telling him he was coming and asking for the davening times, the Chabad guy asked him how big his party was.  He replied: '8 adults, 2 children.'  The rabbi replied: 'You should be clearer in your emails.  You should have responded: 10 people: 8 adults, 2 children.'"  So we had a good laugh about that and I said I would make sure to be clear when I email the Chabad rabbi.  And true enough, I made sure to tell him that I was 1 person.

Now, on to my story.  As I said in my Friday post, the rabbi was not home.  I came again before Shabbos, and he still was not home.  That scared me, because I was supposed to be eating by him for both my Sabbos meals.  Then while I was waiting around, I some other folks clearly headed to shul and they passed right by the Chabad.  They told me to follow them and it turns out the Chabad is not the shul.  The shul is two buildings down.  Well, when I got there the security guard wouldn't let me in because I didn't have my passport.  I tried telling him that I had brought it this morning but I got the wrong building, but it was hopeless.  He didn't speak a lick of English, and besides, he wasn't paid to think.  He was paid to keep out evil people like me who didn't have their passports.  Finally, some regular quized me on why I was here (which of course was obvious), and when he liked my answers, he told the guard to let me in, who then did.  (This guy wasn't the first regular to ask me questions, but the others actually told the guard to keep keeping me out!)

When shul ended, the Chabad rabbi still hadn't shown up.  I had no idea that there even was a non-Chabad shul with a non-Chabad rabbi of it.  I waited again at the corner by the "Chabad" sign, but he never showed up.  I was convinced that he was just away for Shabbos and he totally screwed me.  I found out after Shabbos that this was not the case.  At havdalah I started chatting with this group of English-speaking girls that I had seen at shul Friday night, but whom I did not talk to then because I was frantically looking for the Chabad rabbi.  Turns out that these girls, who were from England, left from shul Friday night to go to the Chabad rabbi's house for dinner, and I was supposed to with them, but I had no idea!  It turns out that he was home for Shabbos, but the apartment next to shul that said Chabad on it was not his home.  He lives a couple blocks away.  After Shabbos I rechecked my email and the rabbi did tell me his address, which was not the same street as the shul.  It was my mistake.  But at the time, I was fuming, and I ate Shabbos dinner at my hotel with my emergency backup tortilla wraps, seething at the rabbi who in truth did nothing wrong.

In shul Shabbos morning I was determined to find a meal, knowing (mistakenly) that I could not count on the Chabad guy.  I figured those English girls probably made their own meal at their hotel and I would try to join with them.  If only I had seen them Shabbos morning, they would have corrected my mistake and I would have eaten with them, but at the rabbi's where I was supposed to be the whole time!  Alas, I did not see them in the morning.  But I did see a guy who looked really familiar, but I couldn't place him.  I figured maybe he lived in Boston and I recognized him either from Young Israel or Harvard Hillel.  So I sat next to him and his dad and began shmoozing with him during laining (bein gavra l'gavra, of course).  I asked him if he's from Boston and he said no, he's from the DC area.  "Oh," I said.  "That makes sense, I used to live there too."  Then it hit me - he's JO, YL's friend (see first paragraph above).  "You're the group of 10 people - 8 adults, 2 children!"  Well, that convinced him that I was not a total random, not one of those psycopaths who try pretend to know tourists in random European synagogues.  He told me that he told almost no one that story, so I must really know YL.  Then he invited me for lunch with his family.  He was there with his parents, in-laws, and brother and his wife (although his brother and sister-in-law had left Spain a couple days before due to a death in the family).  And he told me that one of the big art museums, the Riena Sofia, is free Saturday afternoons, and Madrid's main museum, is free every evening.  So that's what we did.  You can just walk into the museum and walk around.  Nothing more Shabbosdik than a nice stroll around a building.  For some odd reason, the museums are still makpid on giving out tickets, even when it's free.  So for the Reina Sofia, it wasn't a problem because they gave out tickets in the building.  For the Prado, on the other hand, they gave out tickets right outside the doors and then you walk in.  There was nobody checking the tickets, so I guess I could have just crumpled it up and dropped it on the ground, but instead what I did was ask the people behind me in line if they could hold my ticket until we went the five steps into the building, and I pretended to tuck in my shirt, which of course I need both hands for.  When we were safely inside the building, they gave me my ticket back, which I could now throw out.  I left the Prado when it closed at 8pm, and just made it back to shul for mincha.  So Shabbos really worked out perfectly because I wanted to go to these museums but I wasn't sure when I'd have the time.  I would never have known about the free hours had I not hung out with JO for lunch.

At havdalah I ran into the English girls, like I mentioned before, and when I heard that the Chabad rabbi was in fact in town, instead of being mad at him, I became mad at everybody else in shul who knew I was looking for him and failed to tell me where to look (I guess I told them I went to his house and couldn't find him, not knowing that the place I was looking was not his house).  Also I have to admit I am to blame as well for not reading the email carefully.  Had I gone to the rabbi's, I would have had a better Friday night, but probably not as nice a Shabbos day.  Still trying to figure out which I'd rather: the way things were supposed to go or the way things turned out.
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photo by: vulindlela