During my first visit to Toronto after we moved to Victoria, I recall being shocked by how little Canadians know about their own country: "An Island next to Vancouver where there is no bridge over?" "Is Vancouver an island?"... until I met Dr. Bryan, a regular at my cousin's Shul in Toronto. "I'm actually going to be in Vancouver for a medical conference in a few weeks” he told me. “I'd love to come over for Shabbat." "It will be my pleasure," I answered, and we planned to stay in touch.
On the Wednesday of the week Bryan was in Vancouver, he called. "So how do I get to you?" When I explained to him that in order to get here before Shabbat he will need to take the 1:00 PM ferry, which meant leaving the conference at 11:30 AM, he couldn't believe it. "You can just spend Shabbat in Vancouver... I can speak to the local Chabad Rabbi," I offered. "I promised I would come,” he said, “and I'd like to keep to my word.”
On Friday afternoon, two hours before Shabbat, I went to pick up Bryan from the Helicopter port downtown. I saw on his face a look of uncertainty, as if he wasn’t too sure why he went through such trouble.
Shabbat morning, Bryan was the tenth man of our minyan. This was our first minyan on Shabbat, held in our home, six years ago. When we took the torah out of the little ark, Bryan couldn't stop smiling.
I remembered the story of our first Shabbat minyan, since this Shabbat we will mark a special milestone. With the torah reading tomorrow, we will be completing the book of Shmot (Exodus). It will be the first time that we, at Chabad Family Shul in Victoria, will have read all the portions of the book of Shmot from the Torah. The last time that an entire book was read in Victoria in consecutive weeks was likely as far back as many decades.
It is customary to announce following the completion of each book of the Torah "Chazak, Chazak, Vnitchazek," “Be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened!". This means that we are congratulating the congregation for the achievement of the reading of the entire book - "Chazak". However, we are never satisfied with our spiritual achievement, so we add "Vnitchazek" - may we be strengthened!
Chazak, Chazak, Vnitchazek!