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September 17, 2014 / 22 Elul, 5774
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Zohara

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Zohara was born in Morocco. With her husband, she raised a large family. A busy woman, she always seemed to find time to help others in need.

Her daughter, Aliza, told me of the many sleepless nights her mother spent nursing babies. That is not unusual in itself, were it not for the fact that many of the babies she nursed were not her own.

Zohara lived in a cohesive but poor community of Moroccan Jews. She let it be known that if there were any mother who could not nurse her child, she was prepared to help that mother. In addition to feeding her own babies, she would always be available – day or night – to feed other babies as well.

Zohara was not just involved in this great chesed work. Though not wealthy, she managed to help those less fortunate – with food and other needs.

Twenty years ago, Zohara’s holy neshamah was returned to Shamayim. Her daughter, Aliza, rightfully refers to her mother as a tzaddeikit. After her mother’s petirah, Aliza decided she wanted to find a way to honor her mother’s memory in a way that would reflect the selfless life she had led.

And so with my daughter, Shani, I waited to meet Aliza. This was a day I longed for. I was shopping for a wedding gown for my youngest child.

There are many ways to shop for a bridal gown. One can purchase or rent one. Another option is going to some of the many gemachim that carry gowns free of charge or for a reasonable price. The gemachim provide the bride with the possibility of finding a gown without paying the huge expense of a new one. (The word gemach is an acronym for gemilat chesed, an act of loving-kindness.)

My daughter and I decided to first try our luck with a gemach. We were told of one run by a woman named Aliza. She had a variety of gowns on display in a Jerusalem seminary for young women. The seminary generously supplied the space for this purpose.

Aliza took us into a small room, full of wedding gowns. She discussed the type of gowns that might appeal to Shani, transforming my daughter into a bride before my eyes.

Aliza does not charge any fees for the gowns she displays. She does it for the pure joy it brings her, and in the knowledge that it brings an aliyah to her mother’s neshamah. She suggests that anyone who borrows a gown from her should consider making a small donation to help her update her supplies. There is no obligation or pressure to do this.

After trying on many different styles, Shani found a gown she liked. But she still wanted to check out other places before making her final decision. Aliza told Shani not to feel uncomfortable about it. She told her she took pleasure in meeting a new kallah, and in fact presented my daughter with a lovely gift for her new home before we left.

I asked Aliza what made her decide to open her gemach.

She pointed to the sign on the door. This gemach was named Zohara, after her mother. The word Zohara means light, brilliance, splendor. The name not only describes her mother’s character, but also the image of a bride on her wedding day.

Aliza, like her mother, is a special woman. In addition to her gemach for wedding gowns, she also runs a gemach that helps disadvantaged families with their daily needs. Aliza’s name is also very appropriate, as she brings joy to others.

May she continue to do chesed.

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