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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘journey’

A Variety Of Blends

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

When I became the mom of a blended family more that fifteen years ago, I imagined that there were only two possible options: either we blended or we didn’t, and blending was the definitive goal.  It was my theory that the best blends were the ones that were seamless; so integrated that you were not able to detect where one family unit originally ended and the other began.  I am almost embarrassed to admit it, but for some reason it brought me great pleasure when people would look at my daughter and assume she was my husband’s biological child.  There was a sense of completeness when we were out and about with our four children, two from his first marriage and two from mine, and I would often fantasize that this is the way it always had been and always would be; we were meant to be a cohesive group. I think back with joy to when our four younger “shared” or “connector” children were added to our blend and acquaintances would comment on how similar they looked to their older half siblings. Funny as that might seem I was convinced that these were signs from above that we were doing something right!

Now that I am older and more experienced at this “blended family” thing, I have come to realize that there are actually some perfectly full-fledged “blended” families that are not that blended at all, and they seem to be just fine.

When I look at my friends who are also step-moms I do not notice any concern over the fact that they see their stepchildren as just that: stepchildren, rather than embracing them as their own. It doesn’t seem to irk them that their stepchildren call them by their first names rather than Mom or some version thereof. They claim not to lose sleep over what their step kids are up to. You can plainly see that they love these children; they just choose to leave the worrying to the “real mom and dad.” In fact I recently asked an acquaintance, whom I knew has several older stepchildren and just became a grandmother, if her new grandson was her first grandchild. Her response gave me much to think about and was the catalyst that got my mind working on this article. She answered that her new grandson was her first, but that her husband had two young grandchildren. What struck me is that this couple had actually been married over twenty years and she still thought of her husband’s children from his previous marriage as his and not hers.

Honestly, when I think about it, there might just be something positive in adopting this kind of attitude. These women are perfectly good stepmothers; they are caring, compassionate, warm women. I certainly do not consider myself a better stepmother simply because my stepchildren call me “Mommy” or that when I am asked how many children I have I automatically respond eight instead of just counting the six that I gave birth to.

Self-evaluation is often a complicated and emotional journey and I sometimes wonder why creating this “normal” family unit was so important to me.  Why did I need that validation of the strong role I played in my stepchildren’s lives? Why did I need to be recognized?

Over the years, time and experiences has changed us – and our needs have changed as well.  I believe that at the beginning of our relationship, my stepchildren and I all needed to feel that closeness that comes with being acknowledged as parent and child. We were all wounded from the process of divorce and the challenges of blending. Making that commitment to each other, letting the world know that we were indeed a “real family” was in a sense making a statement that our bond was valid and long term. It was reassuring and stabilizing at a time when we needed to feel that stability.

The Golden Slippers

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

The long awaited wedding of her son was the highlight of Faiga’s (all names used here are fictitious) life. A widow, she had never given up hope that she would one day walk her son down the aisle to his chuppah. With a mixture of fear over the long flight ahead and joy at the upcoming simcha, she boarded the plane. She had never undertaken such a long journey, but nothing could have held her back.

When she arrived in Israel, she barely had time to settle in when it was time to go to the wedding. She dressed in her new outfit and started to put on the new pair of shoes she had bought for the occasion. Something was wrong. Her feet had swollen up during the flight and she could not get her feet inside the shoes. There was no time to shop for a larger pair, and so she place her feet into the shoes as best as she could, with her heels pressing down on the back of the shoes, rather than inside, where they belonged. It was very uncomfortable.

Faiga limped painfully along as she slowly walked her son down the aisle. After what felt like an eternity, she went up the three steps to the chuppah. The thought of standing next to her son through-out the wedding ceremony while constantly feeling discomfort, rather than just enjoying the moment, convinced her to do something to alleviate the situation. As unobtrusively as possible, she slipped her feet out of their tight confine.

A man, waiting for the chuppah to begin, noticed the chatan’s mother was standing barefoot under the chuppah. He quickly called over to his wife, Ruchie. The hotel where the wedding took place was also used as a temporary home for new Russian immigrants. The man suggested that his wife hurry to the lobby and try to find someone who could loan her a pair of large shoes or slippers for Faiga to wear under the chuppah.

The wife, herself an olah of many years from Russia, ran to the lobby.

She went from one person to the next, explaining the situation, but me with no success. Finally, one woman told her to wait, she would be right back.

The woman returned and gave Ruchie a bag with several pairs of slippers to choose from. One pair caught her eye. They looked large enough to accommodate a pair of swollen feet, and they were gold, and so could pass for wedding shoes.

After the chuppah was over, Ruchie took the slippers, planning to return them to their owner. The woman said, “But what will the chatan’s mother wear on her feet to dance?” She told Ruchie to give the slippers back to Faiga for the rest of the wedding. Ruchie took the woman’s phone number so she would be able to return it the next day.

The wedding was wonderful. Faiga danced and enjoyed the special evening. The next day, Ruchie picked up the slippers, prepared to return them to their owner. When she called to ask if the woman was available to receive them, she got a pleasant surprise.

“Let the lady keep the slippers. They fit her and she needs to wear something.”

The story does not end here. Ruchie was so impressed with the old Russian woman, that she decided to befriend her. She began calling her up every week. One day, about four years into their friendship, the woman called Ruchie with a strange request.

“I am making my gefilte fish today. I would like you to come over and write down the recipe.”

The two friends sat talking as Ruchie helped the old woman chop the vegetables and grind the fish. Ruchie carefully copied down the recipe, not understanding why this was so important to the woman. Two weeks later, Ruchie got a call from the old woman’s relative. The old woman had passed away. She knew her end was near, and she wanted to leave something of herself to Ruchie, who had become so important to her. She left her recipe for gefilte fish.

A pair of swollen feet, a pair of golden slippers and a recipe for gefilte fish-Hashem works in mysterious ways, indeed.

May we all be zocheh to see yad Hashem in all we experience in our lives.

The Road Trip

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

We’re on one of those really long family road trips. The kind that parenting experts advise will imprint fond memories on your children’s psyche. (How’s that for guilt?) And the kind on which you never leave home without a bottle of Tylenol and your favorite cup of strongly caffeinated, black coffee.

 

             So, as we’re driving, and watching the scenic countryside, I try to forget that my cramped legs desperately need a stretch. Instead I reframe and feel super-proud of my parenting skills in providing my children with emotional equilibrium as well as life-long family memories.

 

I’m sure they’ll never forget the never-ending quests for sugary snacks, the onslaught of super charged comments like: “are we here yet?” “I’m soooo bored!” and “why ARE we going?!” Not to mention the endless squabbles.

 

I know I sure won’t.

 

It’s getting darker outside. It’s a summer rainstorm-huge claps of thunder and frightening streaks of lightening and a flood of heavy rain.

 

As the noise from the passenger seats of our van gets (it must be even-fonder-family-memories being formed), I’m starting to have my doubts about whether we really are on the right track. (Not a good idea to share with stressed-out-in-the-driver’s-seat-husband.) But the doubts have crept into my consciousness and won’t go away. Have we missed our exit? Taken a wrong turn? (An even worse suggestion to offer to now-even-more-stressed-out-husband.) And my worst personal fear-are we almost out of gas?

 

It’s been an awfully long time since I spotted the last sign offering any direction. And the darker it becomes, the harder I strain to see ahead.

 

And then, when the despair is almost reaching a fever pitch, I see it. Just another couple of hundred feet–a rest stop.

 

Finally.

 

Time to stop. Time for a stretch. Time to regroup, refocus and remind everyone why we’re on this journey, with one another, to begin with. Time to store up on fresh, cold drinks, new sweets, fuel for the car, and high-powered energy for those driving it.

 

Time also to get directions. To re-evaluate and make sure that we’re on the best route.

 

I heave a sigh of relief. Intuitively, I know that once we get back on the road, everyone will be far more calm and sure of where they are heading.

 

Our lives, too, are one long journey. Along the way, we each have our personal missions that we’re here to accomplish–some big and all-encompassing; others, smaller, but nevertheless just as important in the overall picture.

 

Unlike our long car trip, our life’s journey isn’t about the destination, but the paths taken throughout. But still, as we pass through the various intersections of our lives, sometimes, through it all, life’s tediousness bogs us down. The nuances along the way may cramp our style, make us thirsty, irritated or even give us a throbbing headache. Sometimes, we even forget our destination or why we’re here. There are moments when the journey can seem pointless, monotonous or hopelessly frustrating.

 

And then, we sight it. Off in the distance, a few days ahead on our desktop calendars, is our rest stop – our holidays, or moadim, specially set times, interspersed throughout our year.

These set special days are our opportunities to reload, to fill up on spiritual nourishment (not to mention the oh-so-fattening-and-oh-so-sugary-culinary delicacies that we’ll be oh-so-sorry-to-have-eaten-later ), direction and reconnection. Time to become reinvigorated, to refocus on our journey, why we’re here, where we’re heading and to evaluate if we’re taking the best possible route.

 

So, enjoy the drive. Don’t miss out on the glorious beauty of the scenery (or the kids). And take real good advantage of those rest stops all along the way.

The Road Trip

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

We’re on one of those really long family road trips. The kind that parenting experts advise will imprint fond memories on your children’s psyche. (How’s that for guilt?) And the kind on which you never leave home without a bottle of Tylenol and your favorite cup of strongly caffeinated, black coffee.

 

             So, as we’re driving, and watching the scenic countryside, I try to forget that my cramped legs desperately need a stretch. Instead I reframe and feel super-proud of my parenting skills in providing my children with emotional equilibrium as well as life-long family memories.

 

I’m sure they’ll never forget the never-ending quests for sugary snacks, the onslaught of super charged comments like: “are we here yet?” “I’m soooo bored!” and “why ARE we going?!” Not to mention the endless squabbles.

 

I know I sure won’t.

 

It’s getting darker outside. It’s a summer rainstorm-huge claps of thunder and frightening streaks of lightening and a flood of heavy rain.

 

As the noise from the passenger seats of our van gets (it must be even-fonder-family-memories being formed), I’m starting to have my doubts about whether we really are on the right track. (Not a good idea to share with stressed-out-in-the-driver’s-seat-husband.) But the doubts have crept into my consciousness and won’t go away. Have we missed our exit? Taken a wrong turn? (An even worse suggestion to offer to now-even-more-stressed-out-husband.) And my worst personal fear-are we almost out of gas?

 

It’s been an awfully long time since I spotted the last sign offering any direction. And the darker it becomes, the harder I strain to see ahead.

 

And then, when the despair is almost reaching a fever pitch, I see it. Just another couple of hundred feet–a rest stop.

 

Finally.

 

Time to stop. Time for a stretch. Time to regroup, refocus and remind everyone why we’re on this journey, with one another, to begin with. Time to store up on fresh, cold drinks, new sweets, fuel for the car, and high-powered energy for those driving it.

 

Time also to get directions. To re-evaluate and make sure that we’re on the best route.

 

I heave a sigh of relief. Intuitively, I know that once we get back on the road, everyone will be far more calm and sure of where they are heading.


 


Our lives, too, are one long journey. Along the way, we each have our personal missions that we’re here to accomplish–some big and all-encompassing; others, smaller, but nevertheless just as important in the overall picture.

 

Unlike our long car trip, our life’s journey isn’t about the destination, but the paths taken throughout. But still, as we pass through the various intersections of our lives, sometimes, through it all, life’s tediousness bogs us down. The nuances along the way may cramp our style, make us thirsty, irritated or even give us a throbbing headache. Sometimes, we even forget our destination or why we’re here. There are moments when the journey can seem pointless, monotonous or hopelessly frustrating.

 

And then, we sight it. Off in the distance, a few days ahead on our desktop calendars, is our rest stop – our holidays, or moadim, specially set times, interspersed throughout our year.


These set special days are our opportunities to reload, to fill up on spiritual nourishment (not to mention the oh-so-fattening-and-oh-so-sugary-culinary delicacies that we’ll be oh-so-sorry-to-have-eaten-later ), direction and reconnection. Time to become reinvigorated, to refocus on our journey, why we’re here, where we’re heading and to evaluate if we’re taking the best possible route.

 

So, enjoy the drive. Don’t miss out on the glorious beauty of the scenery (or the kids). And take real good advantage of those rest stops all along the way.

Short Circuit

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

My husband of 40 years is always ready to help people. He is also very kind to his family and is always eager to embark on a family outing. However, he has one stipulation. He would rather not drive long distances at night, as he has had challenging experiences driving in the dark in fog, rain and other inclement weather.

I, on the other hand, have always felt that we should leave at night so as not to waste the day by traveling.

Last year, I convinced him to leave for the mountains late on a Saturday night so that we could enjoy a full day of activities on Sunday. He was not comfortable with this suggestion, but agreed nonetheless.

After we traversed the Washington Bridge, I commented that the trip was going smoothly. Suddenly, the headlights began to dim. Since there are no lights on the Palisades Parkway, we were in a dangerous situation. We didn’t know what to do. We started making a mental list of all the people we knew in Monsey who might put us up for the night. Through all this, my husband, much to his credit, remained calm and did not make me feel guilty for convincing him to leave at night.

What he said was, “Did you remember to say Tefillas Haderech?” I had forgotten to say it, so I quickly took the prayer book out of the glove compartment and began to recite it aloud by the light of a small penlight.

No sooner had I finished saying the prayer than the lights in our car began to work again.

We were not sure if we should continue on our journey, so we proceeded with caution to the next gas station. The attendant there offered to assess the problem. He did not find anything wrong with the car. We proceeded to the mountains without a hitch.

This was surely a “Light-bulb moment.”

The dimming of the lights in our car was a reminder from Hashem that if we wanted a safe journey, it didn’t matter if we traveled during the day or at night – as long as we journeyed with Him!

The ‘Older and Improved’ Me

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

If you look at an ad or a commercial, more often than not the hype will be about the “new and improved” version of a product. The emphasis is on the fact that it’s “newer” and thus better than the “earlier” version.

Maybe that works for products, but as far as I’m concerned, if I had to promote myself, “older and improved” would be the selling point.

You read right – older and improved. With a birthday coming up three days before Purim, I will be a year older, and in my eyes that is a good thing. Many of my generation view an approaching birthday with the same enthusiasm as they do an upcoming root canal. Birthdays – and the increase in their years of life is a reality they reluctantly view as an annual occurrence they have no choice but to get through – like Tisha B’av. Just as in the case of the fast day, the morning after a birthday brings a ripple of relief that they don’t have to deal with this unwelcome herald of aging for another year.

I beg to differ. I am delighted that with the arrival of my birthday I get a year older. Older is good – because with age comes the wisdom of experience; the smarts that come from having “been there and done that” – or not.

In other words, I relish getting older because I feel I get less stupid. I gain more clarity, more sechel and the price is cheap – a few wrinkles, a slower metabolism, walking rather than running to catch the bus – a real bargain when you weigh the pros and cons.

I would not trade places with my younger, naïve, gullible self for any price – not even for the beauty, energy and vitality that is the domain of the young. I’m so much more comfortable in my “old” (more mature) skin, than I ever was in my “old” (read young) skin because introspection bestows life-enhancing insight. I know who I am and with that no longer elusive knowledge, there is sweet self-acceptance and approval.

When I was young, I let others tell me who I was. I let the opinions of significant – and insignificant others, whose journey intersected with mine, influence my opinion of myself. I allowed both friend and foe – sometimes they were the same entity, to define who I was. I listened to them. I believed them. My younger self did not know that the only opinion I should have heeded and taken to heart was my own. But I didn’t have the confidence that is the byproduct of experience.

I was too trusting of others and not trusting enough of myself. Those days are long gone and will never hold sway over me again.

While there were some positive voices, there were many that were unrelentingly negative. At some point I would have welcomed “parve” opinions – at least they did not hamstring my spirit and make me question my worthiness – but those too were rare. It took a very long time before I realized that many of those who were so critical were themselves so saturated with self-directed negativity that it seeped from their pores. With time I understood that they projected their own overwhelming feelings of inadequacy onto me – not because they were malicious or wanted to hurt me, but because that is all they knew to give. Someone who, for example, has only tasted pepper, does not comprehend sugar and thus cannot offer it.

With age comes an enhanced ability to reflect, analyze and assess. This introspection can lead to understanding and eye-opening answers to the long ingrained “whys” that gnaw at your soul. With many questions resolved, the “emotional potholes” that tripped you can be repaired and you can move forward on the journey you were detoured from.

With the passing of time, those in your younger years who in your naïve eyes were giants, actually shrink, get smaller, and shrivel; and eventually a light bulb goes off in your head and you realize that they were flawed and human, like yourself.

This amazing awareness leads to forgiveness, the emotional catheter that allows life-threatening resentment, bitterness and regret to drain out of you. It also inoculates you from further hurt; it is a shield that deflects any unwarranted, unjustified negativity, blocking crippling self-doubt from infecting you.

I have learned to avoid those who are have been or are or will be “toxic” to my well being. I may understand why they are the way they are, so there is no anger. But I will not let them undermine the “new” and improved me. I’m too old for that.

Happy birthday to me.

A Young Woman’s Story

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

In response to my recent articles describing the odysseys of secular Jews who found their way home, I received much e-mail. One is the story of a young woman whose journey is typical of the angst with which assimilated Jews often struggle. But what is obvious in this woman’s journey is Hashem’s Providence. We need only open our eyes to discern it.

“I grew up in a typical American Jewish family in a New York suburb and “had a bas mitzvah” when I was 13. I recited some prayers, and then had a party with a DJ and non-kosher food. My parents sent my brother and me to Hebrew school for a while.

Sometimes we lit Shabbat candles, but then went on with our weekly activities. Passover was one of my favorite holidays, along with Halloween and New Year’s Eve.

However, my parents always stressed the importance of marrying Jewish. My parents didn’t come from observant backgrounds, so they could not give us what they had never experienced. Most probably the last “religious” people in my family were my great-great grandparents. With all that, I am grateful to my parents for raising us with a lot of love and caring. Years later, that love allowed me to discover Torah.

Fast forward to my teenage years. When I was 10, my parents divorced and about five years later, my mother relocated to Florida. That proved to be a culture shock because I had never seen a town with so many wealthy people. I was very turned off by the materialistic lifestyle there and I didn’t want to stay. So, at 16, I moved back North, and shared an apartment with my best friend.

I was kind of a wild teenager, but still focused, keeping a full-time job while going to school. I liked dating different boys, none of them Jewish, and going to clubs on the weekend.

After high school, my father also moved to Florida, and I began attending college, so that I could get a teaching degree. I had heard that there was a great need for public school teachers in NYC.

After graduation, I found a job at a daycare center and adopted two pet dogs for company. Around then, I began praying every day. Every evening, when I walked the dogs, I would say in my head, “Thank you G-d for my family, friends, health, job, apartment, my dogs, etc.” I also prayed that G-d guide me in the right direction to serve Him and to do His will.

I had a serious boyfriend who was an African-American Muslim. I liked him because he was kind, honest, generous, and especially because he valued family a lot. I had thought about marriage, and knew that I wanted to raise my kids Jewish. At that time, I was working with a public adoption agency because I wanted to adopt/foster children.

My boyfriend told me that his two nieces were in foster care and he was trying to adopt them. I told him that I would like to join him. From then on we were kind of unofficially engaged to be married. As we visited with the children, and the legal process began, we told the caseworkers we were engaged. I began thinking about the children. I had started to light Shabbat candles, but the more I thought about marrying my boyfriend, the more I realized that you can’t have a home with husband and wife going in different directions.

I also realized that I couldn’t raise Muslim girls if I had a Jewish home. Nevertheless, I took the popular view that if two people love each other, everything can work out. Only later did I realize that getting along and loving one another is not enough. You have to be following “The Same Book” and be on the same page.

Around then, my father was given a copy of your book, Life is a Test. He mailed it to me, and I read it. I decided that since Hineni was not too far from my apartment I should go to a Torah class and check it out. When I came to the class one Thursday night, you, Rebbetzin, happened to be away, but your daughter- in-law, Rebbetzin Yaffa Jungreis was speaking. I had not known many observant women before, but I liked how Yaffa seemed very down-to-earth and humble.

After class, I spoke to her and found her very sweet and understanding. She invited me for Shabbat, and I ended up going. I took the subway, and wore a T-shirt, and Chinese slipper shoes, the kind that most people wouldn’t wear out of the house. Yaffa was very warm and welcoming and said nothing about my clothes, which I felt embarrassed about after arriving there.

I told her about my situation, and how I still had strong feelings for my “boyfriend.” I saw her family, and thought to myself how beautiful a Torah family is. That was mid-summer. Shortly afterwards, Yaffa gave me a Siddur as a birthday gift. It was an invaluable gift, from which I have been davening since then.

At the end of that summer, I was fortunate enough to go on a Birthright Israel trip. I almost didn’t go because I wanted to get ready for the foster kids, but my mother said that I better go now, before I had responsibilities. I signed up for the all women’s group, because I wanted to learn from the religious young women. Almost all the other groups were co-ed and not religious.

The other girls were younger, about 18 or 19, and I noticed how pure and wholesome they seemed. They were not worried about boy problems like I had been at that age. They were waiting until marriage, and until then, enjoying their friends, school, etc.

I prayed to G-d to send me a sign of what to do, because I still had strong feelings for my “boyfriend,” even though I knew it wasn’t right. And G-d did send a sign. One night in Israel, I had a dream that if I stayed with my boyfriend, something bad would happen to my precious dogs! That was enough of a sign for me. I decided then and there that it was over.

When I returned home I went to a few more Hineni classes. I noticed that there were free copies of The Jewish Press there, and began reading. I saw an ad for a free Chumash with a new subscription. “Wow, good deal, I could use the newspaper and the Chumash.”

Soon the school year began, with the two girls living with me, and my new Chumash and The Jewish Press coming in the mail. I started trying to keep Shabbos more and more, and looked forward to reading the parshah each week. I also began to daven regularly from the siddur Rebbetzin Yaffa gave me.

I gradually made my kitchen and “my clothes” kosher. I got rid of my pants and T-shirts, and, through The Jewish Press, read more books on Judaism.

Soon afterward, I met an Ethiopian young man who had come to the U.S. to study in Yeshiva. We dated a month or two before we became engaged. We were married in June, after the school year ended, and the girls went to live with their uncle, my ex-boyfriend.

I had some health issues and the doctor said it would be difficult for me to get pregnant, but miraculously, when I got married and started keeping the laws of Taharas HaMishpachah, I had a full recovery, and later that year, we found out that Baruch Hashem, I was expecting! We moved to a wonderful Orthodox community in Brooklyn.

We had lived there for only about a week when, Baruch Hashem, I gave birth to a beautiful little baby on Shemini Atzeret. And that’s my story, the moral of which is, “We need only take one step toward Hashem and Hashem will take one thousand steps toward us.”

Postscript: My dear friend…. May I add a little postscript to your story? You may not know the amazing circumstances through which your father obtained my book, and our readers surely do not.

I was on a speaking tour of Florida and by the time I reached the synagogue to which your father came, I had lost my voice and couldn’t speak. Nevertheless, the rabbi asked that I put in an appearance so as not to disappoint the crowd. In lieu of my speech, your father was given a copy of my book, which he sent to you. And then, the night you visited Hineni, I was speaking elsewhere, but my daughter-in-law, Rebbetzin Yaffa was there and invited you for Shabbos.

Were all these events coincidences? Think about it…. I lost my voice – as a result, your father obtained a copy of my book, which he proceeded to send to you. The night you came to Hineni was one of those rare occasions when I was speaking elsewhere. As a result, you met my daughter-in-law Yaffa who invited you for Shabbos…and you saw a beautiful Torah family.

I could go through every part of your letter and point to Hashem’s Guiding Hand. We need only connect the dots to see it, or as you yourself so beautifully expressed it, “We need only take one step toward Hashem and Hashem will take a thousand steps toward us.”

A Living Megillah (Part Three)

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

As I indicated in my last column, there are a thousand-and-one inspirational stories that I could share with you, testifying to the pintele Yid embedded for all eternity in every Jewish heart. It might be a book, speech, Shabbos experience, a hug, kind word, or a blessing from a bubby, zeidy, rabbi or Torah teacher. In an instant, that pintele Yid can come to life, make a journey that spans thousands of years and reconnect the soul to Sinai – and thus, every day, Yiddishe neshamos are reborn.

This miracle of Jewish survival has been demonstrated time and again. But not everyone realizes that it’s not only the young, but that every Jew is capable of making this journey. The pintele Yid was given to us at Sinai and is as vigorous and vital in middle years and old age as it is in youth.

I make a point of saying this because in our youth-oriented society, many of us believe that is only the youth have the energy to make that leap of faith. So let me share with you the miracle of the pintele Yid igniting the sparks in the hearts of those who have reached their middle years.

The Professor and the Student

It was Thursday night and I was teaching my usual Torah class at the Hineni Heritage Center in Manhattan. One of the remarkable things about these classes is that in one room, people of all ages and backgrounds can be found. They all share the magical power of Torah that speaks to every heart and evokes a responsive chord in all neshamos.

Chaya, one of the lovely young students who attends my class comes from an observant, Yeshivish family, is the graduate of a very fine girls seminary. At present, she is studying in a local university for an advanced degree. When Chaya enrolled in her course, she had no idea as to the religious affiliation of her professor – neither her name nor her appearance gave Chaya any indication of her teacher’s faith.

Then, one day, she noticed a little Torah among the charms on her necklace, and that was enough for Chaya to initiate discussion. Discovering that her professor was, indeed Jewish, but totally secular, Chaya invited her to visit my Torah class. “Come meet the Rebbetzin, and she will give you a blessing,” she urged.

So one Thursday night, Chaya showed up with her professor.

“Rebbetzin, could you meet with us after the class?” she asked.

“Absolutely, it will be my honor,” I assured her.

When Chaya and Dr. Paula Lester made themselves comfortable in my office, it was easy sailing. I didn’t have to do much convincing – the parshah did it all. That is one of the reasons I like to meet people after my class.

The reason I do this is simple. Early on in my outreach work, I discovered the magic that Torah generates in even the most alienated, secular heart – a magic that cannot be duplicated in any other forum. G-d’s wisdom speaks to every person and strikes a responsive chord in every soul, and ignites the pintele Yid buried in its crevices.

I am proud to share with you that, since that evening, Dr. Lester has not missed a Torah class, has kashered her home and become Shomer Shabbos.

Why do I make mention of all this? So that yeshiva students who attend universities may learn from Chaya – and more – so that all of us who are committed to Torah may follow her example. Wherever life takes us, whenever we come in contact with our secular brethren, be it in the halls of a university, at work, or even in chance encounters, let us never forget our higher calling. Hashem has given us life for a purpose – so that we might live by His Word and share that Word with all our brethren.

To be sure, as a student, Chaya could have felt intimidated at the thought of approaching her professor, but when it comes to disseminating Torah, we should never feel inadequate; we should never feel hesitant about inviting a fellow Jew to a Torah class or for a Shabbos. As long as that invitation is extended graciously, with kindness and without a holier-than-thou judgmental attitude, it will work.

I have discovered that people appreciate such caring invitations even, if initially, they may be reluctant to accept them. The main thing is not to give up.

Should you decide, after reading this article, to bring your friends, acquaintances, relatives, fellow students, professors, or bosses, to our Hineni classes, either on a Thursday (232 West End Avenue, 8:30 p.m.) or Tuesday (125 East 85 St. 7:30 p.m.) I will be very happy to speak to them one-on-one following our Torah study. There is a whole world out there waiting to be awakened – we need only invite them.

Today, Dr. Peninah Lester is continuing to share that which she discovered when she first came to Hineni. She proudly speaks of her journey to Torah and happily shares her experiences with others. We are living in exciting times. Jewish hearts are ready to be sparked and inspired. Ours is a generation that the prophet Amos described, “Hineh yamim ba’ im – Behold, days shall come upon you, [and I shall send a hunger into the land, not a hunger for bread nor a thirst for water, but a hunger for the word of G-d.]”

Yes, people are hungering for nourishment for their souls. Our materialistic, hedonistic culture has left them empty, depressed, anxious and troubled. We need only reach out to them, and we can change the world.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/a-living-megillah-part-three-2/2010/01/13/

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