By Esther Rubin
The invitation was appealing, beckoning us to attend the Dirshu Shabbos Kinnus Olam HaTorah–a Shabbos that promised to rejuvenate my husband and me, physically and spiritually. Yet I was hesitant. Having somewhat of a shy personality, I could not imagine finding common ground with the other women who would attend. It did not even occur to me that I would find myself among sisters in arms, among women who were living similar lives to mine, busy lives with nary a moment to spare, but lives that were fulfilled by one unifying factor–that all of our husbands were lomdei Dirshu!
Now, I am sitting here reliving the Shabbos, wanting to grasp the inspiration and hold on to it forever!
“Ki heim chayeinu–Torah is our life! Torah keeps us alive!” That was the heartfelt message that resonated from the heart and soul of a woman who lives with a husband whose every second of life is another second of Torah; whose husband is imprisoned by a body that no longer functions other than the muscles of his eyes through which he learns and conveys his love of learning; whose husband can derive no possible pleasure from this world, his physical body being kept alive with life support, feeding tubes and constant medical care, and yet whose life still had meaning and who still had reason to want to live!
Nine years ago, Rav Avrohom Dovid Weisz was diagnosed with the dreaded illness known as ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), a disease that slowly robs a person of all bodily functions, imprisoning the brain in a body that won’t obey it. The heart continues to beat, the eyes to see, the ears to hear, the mind to comprehend, but the rest of the body slowly shuts down. The stricken person is left with only his eyes to communicate. When the Weiszes heard the diagnosis, they were devastated, but they were determined.
“We chose life–‘Ki heim chayeinu.’” Mrs. Weisz exclaimed, “Can this be more crystal clear than in our situation? ‘U’vahem nehgeh yomam va’laylah and in them [Torah] we toil day and night,’ we were in the dark, the darkness of illness, yet we still had the Torah, the mainstay of our existence–reason enough to want to live!”
Indeed, over the course of these nine years, Rav Weisz and his wife have fought for his right to live, fought like lions for his right to do the one thing that he holds most dear–to learn Torah! Despite everything, despite all of the medical doomsayers, his life has been revived, time and again. And each time, they joyously praise Hashem for granting him additional time on this world to learn.
Mrs. Rachel Weisz’s uplifting words to the women after the Friday-night seudah at the Dirshu Shabbos Kinnus Olam HaTorah electrified the entire audience, leaving not a dry eye among the crowd. Even more than the emotions that were running high was the feeling that indeed, Torah is life, Torah is our life. The feeling came across loud and clear: The Torah of our husbands who are maximizing their time by learning, whose Torah learning we are supporting, their Torah is our Torah, it is our crowning glory.
“Sheli v’shelachem shelah!” “At one point,” Mrs. Elbaz, a working wife and mother whose husband devotes every spare moment of his time to his learning with Dirshu, explained, “I just felt that I couldn’t continue. It had been a very difficult day. I came home from work exhausted, my colicky baby had not let me put her down. . . . I sat down and said, ‘I just can’t.’ My husband promptly closed his Gemara and with a deep sadness in his eyes, but a surety in his movements, he replied, ‘OK. I will stop.’ As I watched, he then began turning pages in his Gemara, one page, another page, another. . . . He then grasped the entire pile of pages and paraphrased the words of Rabbi Akiva, “Sheli v’shelachem shelah–These pages of Gemara that I have learnt until now are yours!”
“That was a turning point. I insisted that he continued learning with Dirshu and yes, although life has gotten increasingly busy I have never turned back. The greatest reward that I feel is when he comes home in a celebratory mood, exclaiming, ‘Mazal Tov! I finished another perek!’ When I congratulate him, he looks me in the eye and congratulates me–on having finished another perek!”
Chizuk for the Neshamah; relaxation for the Guf. The Dirshu Shabbos Kinnus Olam HaTorah offered a rare opportunity for the wives of Dirshu members, many of whom are busy wives and mothers with very limited time for either physical or spiritual rejuvenation, the opportunity to enjoy a Shabbos with all the physical amenities for a peaceful, relaxing Shabbos combined with a potpourri of speakers who offered chizuk for the neshamah.
Peanut-butter sandwiches and tests. Rebbetzin Dina Fink captivated the audience with her message of how pivotal a woman’s role is in preserving the treasure of Yiddishkeit for her family. Her personal examples, and the divrei Torah to elucidate her point, brought home the fact that, although it is much easier to feel spiritually connected to Torah and Yiddishkeit by engaging in spiritual pursuits, caring for a house and children and encouraging husbands and sons to learn Torah are no less spiritual pursuits. She referred to Rav Dessler’s explanation of the words in Eishes Chayil, “Vatischak l’yom acharon–and she will laugh at the last day.” Rav Dessler explains that laughter generally comes after a surprise. What surprise is this referring to? When the end of days comes and the wife will see the reward she earned for every peanut-butter sandwich, she will burst into laughter!
Throughout the Dirshu Shabbos Kinnus Olam HaTorah, there were countless opportunities for the wives of all the lomdei Dirshu to share with each other the many stories of how they partner with their husbands to enable them to learn; of the joys and the difficulties of trying to raise their “peanut-butter sandwiches” from the mundane realm to the spiritual realm. The knowledge that there are so many other women out there who share their goals, difficulties, and aspirations was enough of a spiritual booster shot to help them forge ahead.
Accepting our nisyonos and elevating ourselves. Mrs. Chani Feldbrand explored the topic of how nisyonos are a springboard for growth and how each person’s nisayon is tailor-made for that person. “Isn’t it beautiful to think that HaKadosh Boruch Hu looks at each person as an individual and creates the specific package that she needs to grow?”
She continued by explaining that what exactly the ten nisyonos of Avrohom Avinu were is a subject of debate. The Rambam does not count Ur Kasdim and recognizing Hashem among the nisyonos. Rav Yitzchok Kirzhner, zt”l, clarifies that if the person being tested understands what is being demanded from him, it is not considered a nisayon! Avrohom Avinu recognized that everything else was hevel havalim. Therefore recognizing Hashem could not constitute a nisayon!”
We all have nisyonos, but if we remember that they are a matanah from Hashem and if we try to understand the message Hashem is sending us, it will elevate us and our families to a higher, spiritual plateau.
A foolproof method: Bring Hashem with you wherever you go. In addition to the many inspiring speeches by Mrs. Chani Juravel, Rebbetzin Dina Fink, and Mrs. Chani Feldbrand throughout the Shabbos, there was a wonderful chinuch panel on motzoei Shabbos chaired by these star mechanchos. The questions, taken from the audience, covered such topics as sibling rivalry, controlling one’s anger, relationships, and helping our children maintain tzniyus standards.
Mrs. Chani Juravel told a story of a friend of hers whom she always admired as being both tzniyusdig and appropriately dressed. “When I asked her how she managed to successfully find the perfect clothing for herself and her daughters, she laughed and divulged her secret: ‘When we enter the car on our way to the store, we each take out our Sifrei Tehillim and daven–“Hashem, we want to dress in a way pleasing to You; please help us find the right clothes at the right prices!” This method has never failed us!’”
Mrs. Juravel concluded, “Bring HaKadosh Boruch Hu with you wherever you are, whatever you are doing!” she urged. “That method can never fail!” v