In the New Your City and Long Island area, it has become standard fare that the Rabbi goes away for part of the Summer. This is quite understandable as a typical Rabbi is quite busy during the year and he needs the slower country pace to rejuvenate, especially with a hectic Yom Noraim season quickly approaching. Our Rabbi, and I assume most others, leaves his cell number with no calling preconditions, although I would assume the call volume goes down significantly.
Those of us left in the city or suburbs have the same spiritual challenges, perhaps more in the carefree and clothes-free summer environment. On the other hand, a break from school puts many of the chinuch related questions on hold. Personally, I greatly miss not having our Rabbi around. I miss his presence, I miss his Torah and I miss his advice and influence on the Shul.
From a Shul point of view, the first noticeable difference is the lack of a drasha. Some Shuls have a replacement drasha when the Rabbi’s away, but many forego the drasha in the summer months. It’s no secret that some people are pleased without a drasha, but I think the vast majority miss the Rabbi’s divrei Torah. Without the drasha, Shul will end earlier, which is a benefit to some and a detriment to those who enjoy being surrounded by friends amidst the kedusha of the Shul.
Depending on the structure and composition of the Shul, there may be less decorum since the Rabbi’s unspoken or spoken authoritative presence is missing and people are in a more casual mood, which lends itself to talking. Most Shuls are noticably emptier due to people going away and from the fact that some people might daven in other Shuls when their Rabbi is away.
Tisha B’Av provides an interesting interlude in that the Rabbi often comes back, but the fasting and somberness of the day, prevents fully appreciating his presence. In no time, Rosh Chodesh Elul arrives and the Yeshiva connected Rebbeim will migrate back to the city, while others will make their way back in the following weeks. Then comes the Shofar and Selichos prelude to the Yomim Noraim and Succos and all the Shul excitement that brings.
The best thing about Shul being out for Summer is our hearts growing fonder when we return in full force in Elul.