What an opportunity for 15 and 16-year-old girls! Learn the mitzvot that pertain to women and win an all-expenses paid trip to summer camp for 10 days, including the roundtrip flight from Israel to San Diego, California and back.
Our daughter Shira quickly signed up.
In fact, she was so excited, that once a week, Shira would travel over two hours in each direction to Mrs. Mike, spend the evening at her house and return well after midnight, then awake the following morning before seven a.m. for another day at Ilit, the excellent Jerusalem seminary she attends.
Mrs. Mike became something of an epiphany in our house. “I have Mrs. Mike tonight,” “I’m going to Mrs. Mike…” “Mrs. Mike…”
Who was Mrs. Mike?
A twenty-something teacher, Mrs. Mike previously taught at Ilit. In memory of her father and younger sister, who had both recently passed away, she dedicated herself to creating a program (totally independent of the seminary) for 15 and 16-year-old girls. In the merit of her beloved family members, these young women learned all the mitzvot that pertain to females. Mrs. Mike researched and prepared lessons. She taught the group from the verses in the Torah, the Commentaries, Sefer haChinuch, the Chofetz Chaim’s Sefer HaMitzvot and others.
Our daughter would tell us glowing stories about how Mrs. Mike made the pesukim come alive, tricks she taught them to memorize and recall the mitzvot, how each mitzvah perfectly fit women… It was as much Mrs. Mike as it was the material they were learning. Somehow, everything just clicked.
As sweet as the trip sounded, the girls didn’t learn for the prize. Mrs. Mike’s affinity to connect with each one of her talmidot, her inimitable teaching style and the masterful way she presented the mitzvot - the eleven girls drank her every word, they really learned l’shma… and became a tight-knit group of friends as well.
There was one catch, though. Mrs. Mike never dreamed she’d have eleven students coming to her house every week for a year, learning the mitzvot, memorizing them and being tested on them. She hoped to find four or five interested girls – in fact, she began because one person was willing to sponsor airplane tickets and camp for five girls. Overwhelmed with eleven, she spent the year attempting to raise funding for the extra tickets.
We, like all the parents, hoped Mrs. Mike would find sponsors for all the girls. In our eyes, Mrs. Mike is a hero, a role model for our daughter and the rest of her group. No, she didn’t walk on the moon or tightrope her way across the Grand Canyon, but, in an unassuming way, she did what she could to help Klal Yisrael, elevate the neshamot of her loved ones and positively affect the lives of those she could reach.
A modest woman, she valiantly tried to secure funding… but being an excellent educator and molder of seminary students and a talented fundraiser are two distinct creatures. As the year continued, her success in teaching was equaled by her inability to find a way to take more than five of the girls. It wasn’t Mrs. Mike’s fault, and no one was blaming her. She traveled to America, she was constantly contacting possible donors and making every effort to find the funds necessary… but she wasn’t blessed with success.
Nevertheless, her troops continued to digest the weekly lessons, confident that somehow they’d all be able to attend the camp.
Sadly, in June, she had no choice but to explain to the girls that she was forced to pick five – and only five – because she couldn’t finance more than five flights.
Missing the class for the first time all year, Shira was with us the night of the drawing, attending a family wedding. Towards the end of the simcha, Shira called a friend to find out the results. With a smile, she told us, “I didn’t win.” She took it well, very well. My disdain for lotteries (and my acumen for losing – now inherited by our daughter) grew even stronger.
Without missing a beat, Shira continued to attend Mrs. Mike’s class for the next few weeks as the school year was winding to an end. She remained as dedicated as ever. I was amazed at how well she took the disappointment and what a good soldier she was, marching onward as if nothing happened.
She even asked me to help her prepare a presentation she would be giving the mothers in English – Mrs. Mike assigned each girl a particular mitzvah to speak about.
A few weeks after the drawing, I was home, when Shira zipped past, in typical teenager style, head cocked to the phone, when I overheard her saying, “You need my passport number? O.K. Yes, I’m very excited. Thank you very, very much…”
After she hung up, I said “Shira, what was that?”
Was one of the girls unable to fly? Was Shira taking someone’s place? I was hesitant to express happiness… I didn’t want to hear Shira won while another girl would sit home disappointed – we knew that feeling all too well.
Shira responded, “Mrs. Mike called. She decided that if we fly Chanukah time instead of during the summer, tickets are much cheaper and all the girls can go… so she postponed the trip until Chanukah.”
That’s Mrs. Mike; she just couldn’t leave any of her students disappointed. I thought about the presentation I was preparing for Shira. It opened with a welcoming joke, a fascinating bit of Kabbalah, questions from Rishomin, a beautiful answer tying everything together… but maybe I’ll just shelve it and have Shira read this piece that you’re reading now –Mrs. Mike’s topic for her to speak about was v’ahavta l’re-echa kamocha – “love thy friend as thyself.”
For those interested in partnering; Mrs. Mike’s program is a U.S. tax deductible nonprofit and is authorized to give tax receipts. Checks should be made out to Ahavas Torah. In Israel, they can be mailed to Birkat Avraham 18/9, Ramat Shlomo, Jerusalem, Israel 97436 C/O Mrs.Tzirel Mike. In the U.S., checks can be mailed to 3226 Fallstaff Rd. Baltimore, MD 21215 C/O Mrs. Esther Samuel. Anyone with questions about joining next year’s course or creating a group in their own community can contact Mrs. Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org