E veryone knows a Sheva’le. A simple soul who doesn’t have the trappings us “normal folks” do.

Life leaves these people in a time warp and their simplicity is often sad, but beautiful, too.

My old neighbor Sheva’le is in her forties, wears a sheitel, and has all the vivaciousness of an 11-year-old. Years before our family moved onto her street, she’d been married for a short while, but these last two decades she’s lived in her mother’s house. It’s a chesed really, because her mother is long widowed and the house would be knocking with emptiness. Instead Sheva’le’s sweet voice fills the home, lilting and too-young.

We used to laugh when she sang. We’d mimic her squeaky tone and roll our eyes exaggeratedly heavenward like she does. But now, after marrying and moving away from the street and the neighborhood, when I do chance to visit her mother, my now elderly neighbor, on a Shabbos afternoon, I’m struck by how much I can learn from Sheva’le. I know we laughed then, because we didn’t — couldn’t — get it.

“A tea?” Sheva’le suggests (begs?), when I first visit after months of being away.

I accept, thinking I’m altruistic for giving her the pleasure of fussing over me. And does she fuss: honey, lemon, “How much sugar, dear?”

I hear her pour the water and stir. Between the sloshes is the faint mumbling of words, “Please, Hashem, help us all, me and Rivka…”

My cup holds whispers and wishes and I want to hug this dear soul, for the pure faith of hers that I imbibe as I raise the proffered teacup to my lips. It is lemony, soft, a tea out of heaven. I’m warmed by the amber liquid, by Sheva’le’s tefillos, and I drink to the last dredges of the cup. A marvelous, warm feeling remains in the tea’s journey from throat to heart. I’m loath to eat or drink anything else when I come home; I want the feeling to last.

That evening, I’m calm, mellowed. My husband wants to know what was so good about the tea, if he can make it, too.

“It’s called ‘Tender Care with a Hint of Lemon,’ Sheva’le’s specialty,” I say. Later I find out from another neighbor that Sheva’le spends most of Shabbos saying Tehillim. Of course her teas are special. That tea had a whole Shabbos-worth of tefillos inside it.

What she lacks in IQ she more than makes up for in sincerity, in untainted belief. One recent Shabbos at my parents, some of us headed out after the meal. We got into outdoor gear, relishing a refreshing walk in the balmy eve. But we opened the door to find the rain coming down thick and fast. We groaned. Loudly. The neighboring door squeaked open, and Sheva’le beamed like the moon that we couldn’t see for the clouds of rain.

“Rain on Friday night, siman brachah,” she admonished the groaners.

And her eyes were bright, like she really could feel the brachah that rain brings. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 539)