AdministratorJune 5, 2021 at 8:39 pm
@fayge-y has asked me to post this for her since she won’t have internet for a few days. Her piece was published in the Nach Yomi newsletter of the OU. Really beautiful, inspiring piece!!!!
LETTER FROM A TORAT IMECHA PARTICIPANT:
From Fayge Y., Torat Imecha Nach Yomi learner
I am so happy to be part of the Nach Yomi sorority, from day 1 of this cycle. But I am having a hard time now. Sefer Tehillim is the most difficult sefer I’ve encountered. Don’t get me wrong, the end of Melachim Beis was traumatic and a close second, I do have a soul, but Tehillim…it’s hard.
Because at this time last year, I was about a third of the way to another siyum with my partner in Torah, a holy woman. Actually, a Holy Woman, member of a Detroit Partners division for mature women. These women had gone on a Partners mission to the Holy Land and in order to imprint the experience, the “Holy Women who’d traveled to the Holy Land” were assigned a mitzvah project and paired with a mentor.
My partner Diane (Bracha Chaya bas – spoiler alert – Yitzchak) knew exactly what kind of mitzvah she wanted to explore: a mitzvah that expressed gratitude, because gratitude was the leitmotif of her life.
And so we made a brachos party. Over the course of a year, we learned The Laws of B’rachos by Rabbi Binyomin Forst, and I learned a lot about my new friend. Diane was a nurse educator, more educator as she passed retirement age. She raised her children as a single mother and was so proud of the people they’d become as they overcame various challenges, and grateful – of course – for the relationships they formed that had so enriched her life.
She was not just reliable but steadfast. She wouldn’t miss her Sunday kaddish minyan for anything. Schvester Selma Mayer, the legendary founder of Shaarei Tzedek’s School of Nursing, had this epigram by Rabidranath Tagore on her wall:
I slept and dreamt
that life was joy.
I awoke and saw
that life was duty.
I acted and behold
duty was joy.
Diane had a gemarakup. As we learned the laws of brachos, I was almost relieved that she wasn’t comfortable reading small print because she would have tackled all the English footnotes. Since she didn’t, we were able to make our brachos party at the end of a year. Shout out to Partners Detroit for putting on a lavish spread that we enjoyed after Diane gave her overview of the laws of brachos.
From there, we learned Rabbi Dr. A. J. Twerski’s Life’s Blessings and Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss’s Power Bentching. And then, in a moment of inspiration, a Partners’ educator suggested Tehillim.
Diane’s parents gave her the gift of a Jewish education sufficient for her to read Hebrew, and a local bookstore proprietor steered her to Feldheim’s Tehillim with Rashi’s Commentary, the Oliner Edition. So, besides being introduced to Tehillim, she learned about textual analysis and when to ask questions.
We round out our study with Rabbi Avraham Chaim Feuer’s ArtScroll Tehillim, and commentary by Rav Shamshon Rephael Hirsch, and topped off each chapter with a story, courtesy of Rabbi Yechiel Spero’s The Touch of Tehillim, and essays by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin and Rabbi Raphael Butler.
Diane had a lot of life experience. She was creative, confident, and refreshingly humble. The educators she encountered were all at least young enough to be…younger siblings but she would learn from anyone. Someone we encountered in our studies was a guest speaker at a function and utterly gobsmacked by the rock star treatment Diane offered him.
Curious about life, Diane wanted to learn more about King David. When the most reliable biography I could find turned out to be out of print I suggested Diane learn the book of Samuel. She knew how to navigate a Stone Chumash, surely she could navigate the ArtScroll Shmuel.
Before the appearance of the vicious tumor that claimed her life, Diane was spending an hour a day studying Shmuel. She relished cross-referencing the historical episodes with the Tehillim we’d completed thus far.
Shortly after we completed perek 63, the tumor made its appearance. And that was when Diane truly walked the walk. As King David says in chapter 30, “Chaim birtzono,” life is on His terms. How long would she have to wear the helmet zapping her brain with electricity? “The rest of my life,” she answered matter of factly.
Tehillim ends with the words, “Every neshama – soul -will praise G-d.” A classic homiletical interpretation says, every neshima – breath – will praise G-d. As long as Diane was breathing, she connected. She couldn’t focus on words, but she would joyfully look at the pictures of ArtScroll’s newly released illustrated Tehillim. And she would lovingly gaze at a painting of her revered and beloved King David hanging in her living room.
Tehillim begins with the words “Ashrei ha’ish.” praiseworthy is the man. These words are repeated throughout Tehillim in a number of situations. Rav Hirsch translated “ashrei” as forward standing. Even if your life is compromised, and some might view you as the proverbial shivrei luchos, those broken first Tablets that rest in the Ark yet are still to be honored for the Torah they represent, you can move forward.
Isaiah 11, a description of the Messianic era, is one of the most idyllic chapters in the entire Prophets. Rabbi Shalom Rosner, in his Nach Yomi exposition on this chapter, urges us to turn to this chapter when we’re down, to “read about what we dream about.”
Yes, Isaiah 11 is the stuff of dreams. But we dream fullest when we recognize that the past and the present contribute to and inform the glorious future. And with G-d’s help, come that future, we will understand how necessary every step, every experience was.
Until then, Diane, I see you everywhere. I see you in the words of the Tehillim cycle of Nach Yomi. I think of you when I say my daily Tehillim. And those precious times when I’m blessed to make new discoveries in King David’s words. I want to share it all with you.
I think about the siyum I’d envisioned coinciding with your 80th birthday in a few years. Instead, it will be a great zechus to be making a different siyum, this year, G-d willing, with the women of Torat Imecha. Thank you to the magnificent educators, and thank you all for sharing this journey with me. I look forward to learning more Torah with you.
MemberJune 8, 2021 at 1:31 am
First off, I’m not sure where the “Fayga” came from but I guess that’s the kind of bizyonos we have to put up with.
I want to tell people a bit about how and when I wrote this. Remember the most recent Masterpiece Zoom, when we were told, OK, write for an hour, check in if you want? I just sat and wrote and wrote. I had notes to start from, a talk I gave to the Holy Women that week, but it was really just a half page or so outline. I did some tweaking. Some sentences needed to be reworked, some ideas incorporated or deleted. And I haven’t reread it since hitting send; I’m sure if I would have I would have rewritten some more.
I just commented on another thread that writing can be very helpful in processing things. This was incredibly cathartic for me. BH it’s been very well-received.
MemberJune 11, 2021 at 8:56 pm
Mazel Tov @fayge-y !
Can I ask you how you knew about the OUs magazine and that they are accepting submissions? I’m not so familiar with it, but I’m just wondering.
MemberJune 14, 2021 at 12:46 am
How did I know…First someone from Soferet gave me contact info for someone who works with Jewish Action. Which is quarterly and might not have worked timing-wise. When I didn’t here from her I also sent an email to the Shabbat Shalom newsletter contact.
Then I sent an email to the wonderful women of Nach Yomi, whose emails I had because I’m on the email list and have signed up for programs in the past. This time, I attached the essay and it was snatched up right away. (And when the contact from Jewish Action did get back to me a few weeks later, she said that they were exactly who she would have suggested contacting.
MemberJune 14, 2021 at 12:58 am
Wow!! Sounds like you had to follow up a few times, but you persevered.
Thanks for sharing!