Last September I had eight precious neshamos attending my Hebrew Sunday school class. With excitement and some trepidation, I accepted a job teaching unaffiliated 7-, 8-, and 9-year-olds in a Chabad-run Hebrew school.
Many years had passed since I was last teaching regularly in a classroom and I longed to go back. After spring vacation, one of my students shared a personal experience with the class that helped me to see that the decision to teach again had been a correct one. I am reminded of that special day as I set out to begin a second year teaching at the Hebrew school.
Sunday mornings can be a difficult time to leave the house. One Sunday morning I received an early morning call from my youngest daughter who was studying in Israel. She was crying from her bed in the emergency room with severe stomach pains, yet I still managed to pick myself up after that conversation and go to my beloved class.
The children and I reached the Ani Ma’amin prayer of our morning repertoire. At the end of the prayer, I routinely ask the students to answer two questions:
The first question I ask is, “I shall not be what?”
And they shout back at me, “Afraid.”
Then I call out, “Because why?”
They enthusiastically respond, “Because Hashem is with me.”
When we were done, I decided to share with my students how my faith in Hashem had helped me cope with my daughter’s illness that morning. I told them that even though it was harder for me to be teaching right then, it was my faith that kept me going.
A student raised her hand when I was finished speaking and said, “Morah Jodi, I also thought about this prayer this week!” I urged her to continue. “I had a tick stuck in my neck. My mother couldn’t get it out and we had to go to the hospital. On the way, when I was scared, I thought about how we say, ‘Hashem is with me,’ and it really helped me feel better. The doctor had to give me a shot and then he took out the tick.” She was smiling and her eyes were glowing.
I was so very proud of her, and it was such a good lesson for her classmates to hear.
This young, innocent child gave me a powerful, warm surge of energy and strength.
It was one of her first experiences with the vital ingredient of life we call faith – where the everyday occurrences become infused with something supernatural in scope.
She felt Hashem’s protection during a time of need. She had gained something valuable from her attendance to Hebrew school, and she was on her way.
My daughter, like our student, cried to Hashem in her pain that morning, and though she suffered, she came out of the experience all the stronger for it. As I have told my students, Hashem is like a loving gardener. He knows exactly where and when we need the adjustments. He might need to cut us back and cut us down at times because He knows that is the best way to make us grow better.
The new school year is upon us. I hope my students and I will be able to create many more memorable moments together.