| Diary Serial |

Sara’s Story: Chapter 13    

The median age of the other attendees was probably about 40, I decided. But no matter. I wanted to come back



first class in Jewish thought was electric.

“These things happened: ‘Because you did not serve Hashem with happiness.’ ”

The lecturer’s voice was soft and gentle as he quoted the words of the Torah, but his words were utterly powerful. Never before had I been so blown away by a class.

“Take me with you again,” I told my brother Yosef after the class had ended and I’d finished shyly surveying the other participants. The median age of the other attendees was probably about 40, I decided. But no matter. I wanted to come back.

“Are you sure?” Yosef asked me. “I’m sure you noticed that you were the youngest person in the room.”

I waved his dismissal away. “It doesn’t matter. I want to come back. Will you let me?”

My brother looked at me carefully. “Fine,” he said. “Next week, same time. Be ready.”

I was ready the next week. Half an hour earlier than the appointed time, I was already dressed in my long sleeve shirt and long skirt. Interestingly, it was because so many Iranian girls chose to wear pants after school hours that I had been rejected from the Jewish school of my choice. My peers’ preferences notwithstanding, however, I knew that going to a religious class necessitated a certain dress code, and I was happy to oblige. “It’s good of you to bring your sister along,” Rabbi Telzner, the lecturer, told my brother after the class. He then turned to me. “How about you? How did you find the lesson?”

“Fascinating,” I said. The word hardly seemed to do justice to the class. I’d been seeking happiness for so long, and with these classes it looked like I would finally find it.

I attended Tanya classes in the Chabad House in Stamford Hill, London, for six months. Every class opened up new wellsprings of knowledge, revealing a world of joyous ideas that I’d never known existed.

Never known could exist.

The Chabad House was a half-hour ride from my home in Barnet. The commute, in my brother’s car, was somewhat long, but the huge swimming pool in the building rounded out the experience. Tuesdays, between 5 to 9 p.m., became the day that I gave both my body and soul exactly what they needed.

But after six months I began to wonder if there might be a different class closer to home.

“Do you think there might be classes on Judaism here, in Barnet?” I asked Yosef.

“I’ll look into it,” Yosef said. A few days later he told me about a man named Rabbi Freilich who gave classes in Judaism for beginners. “His name means happiness in Yiddish so it sounds like this can work. I want to come with you. We might even find some people at these classes who are younger than 50.”

I laughed at Yosef’s words, even though I really didn’t mind being the youngest attendee at the Chabad House.

Our first class at Rabbi Freilich’s shiur was a captivating and enthralling experience. There were people from all walks of life there, and they ranged in age from 20 to 60. At age 16, though, I was still the youngest there. But I loved the classes. I loved soaking up the new ideas and learning about subjects that added so much meaning to my life. The classes were for beginners and started with the alef-beis, but we very quickly moved up to more complicated subjects.

“It’s heartwarming to see your commitment to Yiddishkeit,” Rabbi Freilich told me after class one day. “What do you think about connecting with a girl who can help you with the actual halachos in a more one-to-one setting?”

“Which girl?” I asked.

“Mishi Rosen,” Rabbi Freilich said. “She’s a young woman studying to be a teacher. She’s actually completing an internship in your school.”

I knew who Mishi Rosen was, both because she too attended some of Rabbi Freilich’s classes and because of her teacher training in my school. My cheeks flushed with excitement. “Sure,” I said.

Rabbi Freilich set the partnership in motion. Every day during recess I would meet with Mishi in an empty room in school and learn halachah together with her.

Life was starting to look up, but it meant that I would need to make some significant changes in my life. How would my family react?

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 915)

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