Fan the Flame
What do our girls need the most?
Shaindy Kleinman has been teaching and mentoring girls for over four decades. She currently teaches life skills and chinuch in several Boro Park high schools.
They need to know who they are! Not the typical self-esteem psychobabble that frequently generates egocentricity, but who they really are: a chelek Eloka mima’al. Hashem implanted a piece of Himself in each of us and gave us a mission that’s exquisite and individual.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that our mission is to redeem the spiritual sparks that fill the physical world by living a life of mitzvos. Only I can redeem my sparks; only you can redeem yours. Our girls need to hear this from every teacher, in every grade, again and again and again.
These authentic Torah values give all our girls, even those who feel unworthy socially or academically, what we most badly want to give them: the sense of security and purpose they need to live happy, meaningful lives at every age, no matter what they go through.
We live in a competitive society, and this filters through to the school system. Too many girls — and women — feel they aren’t good enough. If our girls internalize that Hashem invested Himself in them, and that they’re unique, they can go on to use their beautiful talents, capabilities, and knowledge, to transform Hashem’s world in the specific way that only they can.
A Pasuk I Live By
שויתי ה׳ לנגדי תמיד
As I get older and find it harder to get out of the house, I experience many moments of loneliness. I’ve learned that no person can be with me all the time. But Hashem? He is tzilcha al yad yeminecha, like a shadow right near me. I’ve realized that va’al roshi Shechinas Keil, the Shechinah on my head, isn’t a concept — it’s reality. Hashem is with me.
Sarah Leah Malamud (my grandmother!), 80, Boro Park, NY
I once read an explanation that שויתי is similar to שוה — equal. When HaKadosh Baruch Hu is before my eyes, everything — big challenges, tough situations, hard-to-deal-with relationships — all become flat and equal before His enormous greatness. When I lock into that message and feel it in my bones, every challenge gets put into perspective for what it is: a challenge the Omnipotent One put into my life to help me grow.
Raizy Josephson, 27, Lakewood, NJ
We think of beavers as pesky creatures that stop flowing waters by building dams. However, the beaver plays an important role in the ecosystem. It’s in the still ponds their dams create that baby salmon are able to grow, protected from powerful currents. (Beavers don’t eat fish.) When you eat your fillets l’kavod Shabbos, thank Hashem for beavers!
Build Upon the Shekel
The Jewish year has ups and downs, flatter expanses and intense exhilarating climbs. One of these ascents is the Purim-Pesach season. Preceding and following Purim are two special Shabbosim.
While the Mishnah gives us pragmatic reasons for the special readings of Shekalim, Zachor, Parah, and HaChodesh, on a deeper level, these readings lift us, preparing us to enter first Purim and then Pesach.
With Shekalim, the season opens. What is the base, the very first step of the mountain?
Each person gives one half-shekel. Perhaps I’m very rich and can give millions of coins. Perhaps I’m poor and feel I can give nothing at all. But everyone gives the same amount.
Shekalim teaches that we’re all equal in Hashem’s eyes. While there are no two people on the same spiritual level, Hashem sees beyond the rung upon which we stand to our essence: We are His children. And a child is a child, whether he is a lofty tzaddik or a struggling soul.
We can climb high this Purim-Pesach season, secure in the knowledge that Hashem loves me unconditionally.
Afterthought: Hashem showed Moshe a coin of fire to tell him that at our essence, we are always aflame with love for Hashem.
A Heavenly Hug
After combing the market for over a year, we finally found a house. To ensure that we were serious buyers, the sellers only agreed to a mortgage contingency contract; if we couldn’t come up with a mortgage in three months, our down payment of $100K would be theirs.
It was a difficult, complex process to prove to the bank that we had the means to repay the loan. The final date, October 15, loomed closer and closer, with no closing in sight.
I told no one what we were going through because “Blessing is only found in that which is hidden.” So I was going through this anxious roller-coaster period and couldn’t avail myself of any “peer therapy.”
But I did have a solace, a rock in the sea of turmoil: my learning seder. Two friends and I had decided to do something l’illui nishmas our friend Hindy Spira who’d been killed in a horrific accident as a 26-year-old single girl — to learn Living Emunah every day. The emunah messages kept reminding me to breathe, calm down — I would be okay. No matter what happened, Hashem was holding my hand.
It was the evening of October 14, and the bank hadn’t yet let us know if we’d get the mortgage. I made sure to stay near the phone at all times. Just then, one of my chavrusas called. “Chany, I had a strange dream. We were standing by your simchah, but I couldn’t figure out what kind of simchah it was. There was no new baby or wedding, but everybody was telling you mazel tov. And there was Hindy, shaking your hand and enthusiastically wishing you mazel tov.”
I was shocked. I was doing something for my friend’s neshamah, but besides for the ruchniyus and emotional benefits I got, Hashem was telling me that my zechusim were in place, and the closing would go through any minute.
Sure enough, soon afterward the phone rang with the news that the final details had been ironed out, and the bank was ready to close! The relief of finally owning a house in which I could raise a family was overshadowed only by the joy I felt receiving that hug from Hashem telling me, “I know how hard you are trying. I’m taking care of you. Every small good deed is acknowledged.”
May this story serve l’illui nishmas Hindel bas Reb Yitzchak
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 681)
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