In Shir HaShirim 1:7, the Jewish people ask Hashem how they are to survive in the galut among the nations. The Jewish people point out to Hashem that this is a very dangerous time for them, as it is likened to grazing the sheep in the heat of the day when the sun is too strong for them to bear.
In the eighth pasuk Hashem answers the Jewish people by giving them advice on how to survive when they don’t have a leader and don’t know where to turn. Hashem tells them: “Tze’i lach b’ikvei hatzon” – look at the footprints that your forefathers and foremothers left you and follow in their ways. Hashem points out that our fathers and mothers accepted the Torah and kept its laws, and He guarantees us that if we follow in their ways, no harm will befall us in the long galut.
How fortunate we are to have footprints to follow on our long journey. I feel very fortunate to have footprints that are still fresh and clear. My grandmother, Mrs. Irene Klass, passed away three years ago after a long and full life, Baruch Hashem. She went through very long journeys during her life, and was zocheh to leave behind very large footprints. My grandmother paved the way for us, trying to make sure that we would have a path to follow on our own long journeys. No matter where life takes us or what comes our way, we can just look at how Bubbie would have handled the situation and it all becomes clear.
This is because Bubbie lived a life of Torah. She followed Hashem’s advice to us: accept the Torah and its laws, as our forefathers did. She even composed a song about it that she would sing often: “I love Hashem, I love his Torah and its laws, if you look in it you won’t find any flaws; it’s for you, it’s for me.” Bubbie had a great appreciation for Torah and just wanted to spread it to as many people as possible. My grandfather, Rabbi Sholom Klass, zt”l, shared her passion and it was for this reason that together they created The Jewish Press. She always wanted to learn and understand what the Torah’s opinion was on any topic in her life. When I would ask her for advice, she would tell me, “Let’s ask Zaidie, he will show us where it is in the Gemara,” since she knew that the Gemara would have an answer to any situation and that my grandfather would know where to find it. She was very proud that her husband was a talmid chacham, and always deferred to him.
There are many other footprints that Bubbie left for me. I will try to mention a few of the important ones that I think all of us can learn from. Bubbie was an incredible ba’alat chesed. Many times I wondered (as did my grandfather) how she knew of all these people who needed her help. I recently heard a d’var Torah about a pasuk in Mishlei that explained this to me: in Mishlei (27:19) it says: “As in water face answers to face, so the heart of man to man.” This pasuk means that just as water reflects one’s face, so too our hearts can connect with one another as a reflection. Rav Aharon Shteinman, shlita, asked why the metaphor of water is used in this pasuk to indicate the reflection of the face. The pasuk could have used a mirror to teach this lesson. He answers that it is because in order to see your reflection in water, you have to bend. When one looks in a mirror one is standing straight and is completely focused on oneself. However, once a person has to bend, his mind is already open to seeing things differently. Once a person has to bend, he can see other people’s faces as well. My grandmother took the time to see other people’s faces, and once she did, it was her heart to the heart of the other, as it says in the pasuk. That is how she was able to do such incredible chesed.
These are big footprints to follow, especially in our lives today when most of us communicate through e-mails and texts. We are losing the art of seeing someone else’s face. Yet it is only when we see the person’s face that we can truly understand what he or she is going through and what he or she needs.