A friendship that continues to fill my heart and nurture my soul

Leiba Metz shares how the rabbi’s powerful impact influenced her entire life and how he will always be a beautiful shining light.

“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.” – Victor E. Frankl

If you are fortunate enough to have someone in your life that says, “I know you, better than you know yourself,” you are blessed. If that person happens to remember the day you were born, even better; and if that person also happens to be your rabbi – it just doesn’t get better than that.

When I think back to my early childhood years, many things stand out. Growing up in a large family there were always things going on around me. The most vivid of all my childhood memories takes place on a cool and sunny fall morning, sitting on the front steps of our family home with Rabbi Bulka. I knew him well, he seemed to always be around. I was seven years old. I can still hear the sound of his sombre voice that day. Rabbi Bulka, a young father himself, had the horrendous task of explaining why my mother was never coming home. That was a sad conversation, that was a terrible time. From that terrible time, my most cherished friendship began to blossom. A friendship that continues to fill my heart and nurture my soul.

To say that Rabbi Bulka touched my life would be a massive understatement. To say that he treated me like one of his own children, and I treated him like he was my parent, would be a more accurate analogy. There was nothing that stood between us, there wasn’t anything I couldn’t share; there wasn’t anything he didn’t understand. He truly did know me better than I know myself. He will forever be that wonderful shining light in my life.

Canada’s Rabbi, the people’s Rabbi, the kind Rabbi, a radio talk show host, a husband, a father, a family man, a doctor of Logotherapy, an author, an editor, a community builder, a kindness builder. My rabbi, my friend, my teacher, my advisor, my confidant, my first opinion, my second opinion, my dear RB.

RB had his own unique way of making the world a better place, and that was always in the forefront.

When I look back over the course of my life, I am reminded that RB taught me so many important life lessons. He showered me with his wisdom and knowledge, his kind and careful outlook, his vision, and his patience. Some of my best lessons were on the long telephone calls while he was driving between Ottawa and New York.

I recall some 30 years ago I asked RB a question about a portion of the Shabbos morning service. The very next day, RB appears at our front door with a beautiful Art Scroll Siddur that contained some modern-day interpretation, as well as his handwritten notes and instructions on many pages.

That was one of the many times he would show up at our front door, never unexpected – he always called first to announce his arrival. Whether it was to bring a treat for the kids, (he supplied us with many, many bags of bazooka bubble gum); or to drop off one of his new books hot off the press, his quick visits were always warmly welcomed and cherished.

We could talk about anything and everything. When I had something to share, he was always my first call. We logged hours and hours on the phone on a regular basis, we would talk about everything, from the goings on with his amazing grandchildren, to a regular de-brief on the content heard on the Mark Levin show.

During the first COVID lockdown, those calls became daily. COVID was hard on RB, and while he had plenty to keep himself busy virtually, which was not his favourite, I could see the miles between him, and his family was starting to weigh heavy on him. Timing in life is everything, right? It sure is. During the last conversation I had with RB before he was admitted into hospital we discussed the possibility that Michael and I would get married once the lockdown was lifted.

When dear RB received the horrible diagnosis and made the decision to go to New York, among the few things he was determined to do before he left Ottawa was to officiate at our wedding. Sunday, January 10, 2021, was both the happiest and saddest day. With emotions running wild, we were married, wearing our

winter coats and masks in the garage at RB’s home. It was beautiful, emotional, and the most special and important 30 minutes of my life. For so many reasons, I didn’t want it to end.

His wisdom guided me, his compassion inspired me, his persistence made me strong, his faith made me believe, and his quick wit made me smile. In one of our final conversations, I asked RB to derive strength from the knowledge that he has had the greatest impact on my life than any other person I have known. I will love him and miss him forever.